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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
When our daughter feeds she cups her mother’s breast like a football.
Like a football because that’s all I know to say when I see her hand
around the breast’s swollen end. I’d like to burn my language away
from male things, would like to say later when I’m holding her, see
this ball, forget this ball. You don’t need to throw a thing,
don’t need to learn the perfect spiral grip, how the index finger should rest
far back, how to throw overhand in a 12-to-6 clock face angle, snap down
with so much action in the elbow the wind in your ear cracks. But I’m made
of meat and leather. I’ve been beaten by my brothers into the grass,
have looked downfield at the blitz of red leaves only to be sandwiched
between brutes. A few face plants, dog shit on your chin and the stuff
of ball fields sticks. Now I’m doing the Heisman pose in the mirror,
baby girl tucked under my arm, my right leg suspended like blue
Shiva Nata-raja, the god who kills and makes the world. I have less
than a season to hold this dance still before my arm grows too short to hold
my daughter, before her legs twitch out of this mirror, before she dances
her own sweet destruction.
The shadow of the valley
is a placeholder for the valley,
a reminder that a body stands
between those stands of bleachers,
or this stand of trees or the neighborhood
watchers standing around watching
birds fly back and forth from their nests
to the gardens in every Westwood
neighborhood, all the while casting shadows
that somehow don’t look like birds
but like people wondering
what’s going on, like Marvin Gaye
in his song “What’s Going On”
from his album of the same name.
On the cover he’s wearing
a red wool hat, an image my friend
used in something he wrote and then
later read in front of an audience
in Iowa to get them to participate.
When I say, “Red wool hat,” he said,
you say, “Marvin Gaye.” “Red wool hat,”
he said. “Marvin Gaye,” we said,
“got murdered by his father in 1984
under somewhat confusing
circumstances,” but there was a gun
involved and an argument, so
how confusing is it? It isn’t
like we don’t know what happens
when people pull triggers
at people, even in broad daylight
listening to The Clash singing
“Somebody Got Murdered”
which was a song on their triple album set
Sandinista. The Sandinistas
were Socialists rebels who came
to power in Nicaragua in 1979
by overthrowing Anastasio
Samoza Debayle, a dictator
friendly to the United States.
The United States has been friendly
with lots of dictators. Anastasio
Samoza Debayle was only one of them.
Saddam Hussein was another.
Dictators usually meet horrible ends.
Many videos on the Internet attest to this
Recently the immediate events preceding
the death of Libyan dictator
Muammar Gaddhafi were captured
on a cell phone video camera.
He has blood running down his face
and can be heard to say, “Do you not know
the difference between right and wrong?”
Later he was ended with a gun
or maybe many of them. No one really knows.
Sometimes dictators are ended with guns,
but often, as was the case with Gaddhafi,
they are beaten first, or dragged
through the streets. I would not like to be
dragged through the streets or beaten
by a mob or ended with a gun. I would not
like to be ended at all, as I bet
you also would not like to be ended,
though we both know that some day
will be the last one we get,
and this often causes some confusion
and trepidation and fear, because
nobody knows what death is,
but it’s pretty certain
that on that day we will be utterly alone,
even if there are people who we love
right beside us. They will not go with us.
If we’re lucky they will sing us
an old, favorite song, or open a
so we can listen to the birds.