35

Pre-invasion Jitters

 

by Jéanpaul Ferro

 

You used to listen to our every word, dance with us

on the television like we were all drunk when we hadn’t

even had a drink,

 

but now you’ve ceded back us into non-existence,

you know better than us: You know everything!

 

down the dark road we all stumble, all of us peer-to-peer now,

all of our brief encounters afraid and incomplete;

 

up to the little bright brook along the blue path that

goes through those trees riding up there, leading down

to my little bright red house that I took my mortgage out on;

 

every day I sit there watching all of the signs, traces

of footsteps in the dew left by the rain, but I am always

walking away by myself now—or at least it always feels

like this is the case;

 

I feel something, maybe it is hope or a flood or

something chemical that can burn in a beautiful

unanchored dream that can make everything whole

again—my own horrible storm that won’t go away;

 

maybe a few words that can ring true, a magical bell

to un-ring everything you ever said that was a lie,

 

every day this inelegance that we have to read in the

newspaper—it didn’t get there by itself, because you

are the one who said it;

 

exit your ghost—those lips that we never loved;

bring in someone else that is up for the job; leave us, please,

because we don’t love you; cue applause—fade to black.

 


 

Experience Is Not The Best Teacher

 

We heard The Chipmunk Song floating through

the air as the mushroom clouds rose up over the

ocean;

 

you looked at me with X-ray eyes; both of us

standing there on the red carpet in another time,

people we don’t know standing all around us: the

world’s best words as they all disappear—

 

sempre

domani

dolce

 

for ten seconds, dusk and dawn wrestled in the sky,

twelve blue rivers gone; you and I kissing on the bed

like the legend has it;

 

tied down and tortured, the sun exploding slowly,

all these slogans appearing in the sky, one by one

for every person who has ever lived / gone missing:

 

My Life Is My Message

 

Love Thy Neighbor

 

The Soul Is And Has No Where To Go

 

All We Ask Is To Be Let Alone

 

I Am Responsible Only To God And History

 

Silence Is The Ultimate Weapon Of Power

 

A Lie Told Often Enough Becomes Truth

 

Fighting Is A Part Of Our Religion

 

This Won’t Hurt

 

Goodbye

 


 

 

Books I Lied About Reading

 

There is this little bar in downtown Providence

where all the patrons stay out super-late;

 

all the girls wear silver dresses with spaghetti

straps, and they all have long tanned legs,

 

everyone drinks Stolichnaya and listens to

the stardust of Swedish pop songs,

 

you hate me, and I hate you, and the person

over there hates both of us equally—

 

our own universal principle of little vs. big

countries,

 

and we waste every night like this—like our

everyday life is being dictated to us by these

beautiful rogue blogs;

 

in the morning we find that we have all gone

and killed each other, and there is nobody to

go to our little, jaunty bar at night,

 

our insignificant and little bar that we had loved

so very much every night of our pathetic, little lives—

 

like we had even mattered.

 


 

 

The Stupidest Angel

 

God’s press conference was heard in all two-hundred

and twenty-six world languages,

 

Now everyone in every blue window knew exactly what

was on his mind and how he was going to do it—get rid of

us all;

 

24-hour news coverage will do that for you,

especially if you are God.

 

 

Down at the world team meeting we all shook hands,

laughed as we held our drinks up to our mouths out of

fear, smiling at all the pretty Japanese waitresses who

were only there to serve us,

 

each and every person dreaming of one day earlier when

we were all too arrogant to ever prepare for this moment

of complete human banality \ CORPORATION

 


 

 

Gone

 

 

Another night in ruins,

all the ghosts going up and down the Spanish Steps,

a bomb goes off in Trafalgar Square, a bigger bomb goes off

somewhere else;

 

there is a blue sunset with five suns setting in the sky,

the Indian Ocean on fire, all those red starfishes washing

up on shore to hear us scream;

 

there is a Dominican girl in a blue dress whose husband

plays guitar,

 

He is burning on fire at her feet,

her mother, father, brother, ten cousins, and six sets of uncles

and aunts have disappeared,

 

their empty clothes go jumping about,

a smile on a mouth going one way, a little memory

on a shard of mirror going another,

 

notes in the air looking for a stone to land on,

looking for something that might last forever,

maybe a window, maybe a day, maybe a night,

a bed where we used to lie, a lovely song,

a redwood growing toward the sky;

 

instead, there is a pile of coffin nails,

a ripened man lying over there, the dark seeds of

of our blackest sight:

 

blue jeans, Donald Trump’s hair,

jazz on the Mississippi, a credit card

buying martinis in Key West,

 

the ashen lines of the corn fields in September,

 

but it is all gone now.

 


 

Safe and Sound

 

 

I walk these New York City streets,

the rain chasing everyone in but the ghosts,

Dylan gone, Warhol dead, the twin towers

all the way under ground;

 

in some other moment I’m with you again,

in the witchcraft of the night you are all around me,

 

I am splitting you open to taste all of you,

I hear your voice reciting all poems by Galway Kinnell,

our needs the exact temperature of the human soul,

 

oh, how you loved that I was in Communist Party,

but you never knew how the Communists shot my

grandfather in the back while in North Africa;

 

I can’t say why you left; you never explained anything

that you did;

 

it was like our lust for one another was murdering

our very souls, like love itself could kill you if you weren’t

careful enough;

 

I know all sixty-eight positions of your mind,

I know where you hide and what is in your porcelain eyes;

 

you always knew how to unfold me, unbutton me down

to what you wanted and needed like a Siamese twin,

complex as you took all of it—everything that you wanted,

wingspread, all of our dreams politely hard, ours souls

tattooed on each other’s sadness: all that goes away;

 

Sometimes I was your father and you were my mother,

other days we led each other through the garden cemeteries,

headlines of war, horror, despair, but we never broke down;

 

now there is beauty in the darkness of this city,

headlights driving fast right by me; you—somewhere

out there where I cannot save you; the only war within myself:

amnesia and the odd, beautiful colors of death that awaits me

down in the alley while I stand there staring so admiringly:

 

like I was looking at your hands on the first day that we met,

our souls screaming; our words … not making a sound.

 


A 6-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Jéanpaul Ferro’s work has appeared in Contemporary American Voices, Columbia Review, Connecticut Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Long Island Quarterly, Bryant Literary Review, Portland Monthly, The Providence Journal, Arts & Understanding Magazine, Barrelhouse Magazine, Oregon Literary Review, Cortland Review, Hawaii Review, and others. His work has been featured on NPR’s This I Believe series, WBAR radio in NYC, and The Plaza’s Masterpiece series. He is the author of All The Good Promises (1994, Plowman Press), The Driver (1994, Thunder Mountain Press), and Becoming X (2008, BlazeVox Books). He is also a 2-time Best of the Net nominee. He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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