Bio Note: I write poems, fiction, and newspaper copy for The Boston Globe. My novel Suosso's Lane treats the Plymouth, Mass. origins of the Sacco-Vanzetti case that began exactly 100 years ago. The poems below are from my recent poem-a-day project, which has swiftly (though not surprisingly) turned into "a journal of the pandemic." I've had poems on this theme recently in New Verse.News, and Writers Resist.
Trump Watches 'Turandot' on Late Night TV
A shadow of fear hangs over this land It is a land of murder! they cry out—the people, the mob Of mutilations! torments! Lovers are drawn and quartered People, the ordinary ones who live on the streets, gather outside the temples, read the news on the billboards, are nervous, fearful, they cower amid presentiments of catastrophe Even the bureaucrats are fed up, frightened, and desperate to go home, lock their office doors behind them, and turn off the spigot of blood that runs through the capital, the city of the "Principessa of Death!" [Shudders of fear, sung loudly] He's bored. What else is on? He calls for Conway, or whichever of his stooges hangs outside his door to demand that publicly funded TV screen only biops of famous white males who succeed and triumph without a single dime of their father's money. Everything they touch turns to money! But, holy moly, who are all these people, look at them! Dirty, ragged clothes, crowds of them—they make me sick... He needs to laugh. Gimme a show with laughs! Or at least help him find the porno channel Now what's that?—That is a "princess"? Looks like Pelosi's evil twin! A plague city, that's what this is, with the Chinese sickness! An evil sickness—fear, horror—infects the soul of the city. Three questions and one death. What's this? They're all hanging around waiting for a handout? And that old fart led around by the fat chick—? What is this place? Fat City? The old guy looks like he has the plague already. Jeezus, twenty minutes in and they're all still posing for animal crackers? City of Death, paralysis, moral cowardice. Strike the gong, stranger, and sound your own death knell! What kind of fancy-ass death is this? Three questions—then one death! What an advertisement for the Executioner! Yet the Principessa's life-chilling spell is undermined by the peasant girl The one with the house-dress schmatta "a slave"? Not even black, what kinda place is this? leading the refugee ruler fleeing an unstable empire, a coup d'etat, driven from the throne by a CIA plot— You're tellin' me! You can't trust those guys! Take a note to Secretary what's-his-name! Who's the goddam press secretary this week? And she sings—God, do they go on, same thing over and over! Do they think we're deaf?— of her devotion to a pathetic old man, Antigone leading blind Oedipus to Colonnus but in actuality stealing the hearts of the multitudes Shutup! shutup! shutup! by her selfless compassion What's she on about? And then the hairy dude—who's he for heaven's sake?— pours out his heart back to her What's everybody yelling about? Don't these foreigners know how to behave? Rises, laboriously, from couch. Bends. Searches among the puddle of remotes and other devices on the coffee table, most of them coated in black plastic. For crying out loud! If any country deserves a scourge of nature, a plague! A microbiotic fiend... It's this one.
An ordinary Saturday of the soul, old places seen anew, refracted in the spirit tongue of some new seeing Salt air, aura of the sea where my mother wished to be Old houses, worn edges betokening my father's thoughtful scrapes March gray, wind off water life in those beckoning flourishes of color Raw edges on troubled days only the birds have softened
In A Younger Day
I was with the daughter when she learned that her mother, that extraordinary woman, had died, alone, at home, in the city One thing I recall, from the little she told me afterwards was the reply she made to a counselor's question. "What was the most ordinary thing about your mother?" I couldn't think of a single ordinary about my mother. And, perhaps an instance of that theme, on another occasion, some of us remembering what we used to have for dinner. "My mother didn't make dinner." Later, what she said, as we traveled about, road gypsies that summer, staying in other people's houses, or sleeping in a tent in Nova Scotia, or in the back of a friend's VW bus, and—that once—in an abandoned dump truck that has stayed with me is her timely lament, when one or another of her friends prepared to retreat homeward, for R'n'R, after this or that disappointment or mere waste of time, "I wish I had parents!" I counted the singles in my wallet, hoping for enough to take the LIRR back to mine.
©2020 Robert Knox
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