Summer 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Two Poems
   Kara Condito


It came down to a black knob on the drawer
of a nightstand in a chain hotel. It came down
to wonder. It was a time of contemplating

wire hangers and the distant whistles
of trains hauling flammable chemicals
through the underground tunnels. Outside,

construction workers laid the mindless
bricks of a high rise. The workers were
thinking of baseball. And the skyscrapers

refused to spackle themselves. Accountants
covered their faces with red ink and dividends
turned in to petroglyphs. We loved the runes

and the rime that hung on the empty racks
at department stores. We loved the caves,
the way they refused light even when we

entered them, and the word hibernation.
We sought the counsel of sinkholes:
does the heart pump debt as it pumps blood?

Has the universe come down to a drawer
in a chain hotel? A pilfered copy
of the Gideon's Bible? Yes, we started those, tooó

the gypsum interrogations. We were not
prepared for the braying of a mule as heavy
as the Statue of Liberty, but we would listen

to anything, to the brutal counsel of an ass
calling us a bunch of colossal asses.

Everything is Permitted Here
  After Camus

I can say, for example, that Don Juan stalks the night
like a legion of pure urge; that he slips into the princessís
chamber, wild and vile with the dumb rhythm of her breath,
which reminds him of an ermine he shot close range
one morning, how it trembled and inched towards him,
surrendering to spare its white fur. Anyone can kill that kind
of vanity. Outside, Seville sways like a bed of seaweed,
suspended in the emotive pleasure of an actor on opening night,
while, in the front row, a girl in a pink pea coat frowns
and the man three seats down remembers his sister,
who wore the same coat in 1957, when ankle socks
were in fashion. The word sister undresses in the shed
behind his fatherís John Deere. Sister marries, moves upstate,
becomes a dumpy housewife trimming coupons in the grey
glow of talk shows. He doesnít visit much. Besides,
for seventy cents a day and the cure-all grace of Jesus Christ,
he can feed an orphan in the slums of Calcutta, where
thereís mercury in the water and the distended bellies
of street children remind him of the time he walked in
on his parentsí clumsy coitus months before his sisterís birthó
the sad map of stretch marks across his motherís breasts.
How he saw it then, the brute spasm of birth, the head
crowning in a miasmic pool. There is no noble love but that
which recognizes itself to be short-lived
, he tells himself
on the subway home and the girl in the pea coat notices
him in the aisle, smiling in a way that reminds her
of the sign: If you see something say something.
But, what if something has no name?

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