Summer 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Two Poems
   Michael Salcman

Language Condemned

Decades later, they hang in the air
like prisoners in a condemned platoon:
uniforms, bureaucrats, chimneys
and railroad tracks, once simple
and innocent words, now suspicious
functionaries of language, distressed
by the company they kept, none merely
a gray presence in our syntax,
like cigarette smoke, fog, a dry martini,
but black as shadows, smudged letters cut
from the diaries of the dispossessed.
Twisted by their necks, they walk
on our tongues with a club foot
or torn ankle, hobble in the mouth
like beggars, tainted forever by their residence
in the valley of death where even the humblest
sound must continue to pay a dowry.

Millenium Fever

He won't come—
surely they know this.
Not all the Jews have been gathered,
the sun has plenty of fuel,
the antichrist died in a bunker
more than sixty years ago.

If He doesn't come, what will they do?
If there's no end of days,
no heavenly trumpet, no flames
(because Einstein won't allow it),
no resurrection of the dust,
no ascent into heaven,
no golden candelabrum,
will they wait another millennium
for the rapture?
Will they turn Muslim or Buddhist,
hide in a mountain cave to pray
or out in the open
drinking Kool-aid in the jungle?

He won't come,
but if he does
let it be somewhere else far away,
a planet we've never heard from,
where people are less intense
and don't know as many answers—
A place where they don't see difference
as an offense to heaven.

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