Peter says if you’re going to talk about suffering
you have to mention pleasure too.
Like the way, on the day of the parade, on Forbes Avenue,
one hundred parking tickets flutter
under the windshield wipers of one hundred parked cars.
The accordion band will be along soon,
and the famous Flying Pittsburgettes,
and it’s summer and the sun is shining on the inevitable flags—
Something weird to admire this week on TV:
the handsome face of the white supremacist on trial.
How he looks right back at the lawyers, day after day
—never objecting, never making an apology.
I look at his calm, untroubled face
and think, That motherfucker is going to die white and right,
disappointing everyone like me
who thinks that punishment should be a kind of education.
My attitude is like what God says in the Bible:
Love your brother, or be destroyed.
Then Moses or somebody says back to God,
If I love you,
will you destroy my enemies?
and God says—this is in translation—, No Problemo.
Here, everyone is talking about the price of freedom,
and about how we as a people are united in our down payment.
about how we will fight to the very bottom of our bank account.
And the sky is so blue it looks like it may last forever
and the skinny tuba player goes oompahpah
and everybody cheers.
In the big store window of the travel agency downtown,
a ten-foot sign says, WE WILL NEVER FORGET.
The letters have been cut with scissors out of blue construction paper
and pasted carefully to the sign by someone’s hand.
What I want to know is, who will issue the ticket
for improper use of the collective pronoun?
What I want to know is, who will find and punish the maker
of these impossible promises?
From WHAT NARCISSISM MEANS TO ME (Graywolf Press, 2003)