Monday, March 15, 2010


Dear Bleaders,

Here is a poem for you, chosen by my inner Brutus, on the ides of March.  Et tu?  Yes, me too.

Trotsky’s Hand


It’s like dreaming of someone
too much while you’re away
at war; then you come home
to his fingered hat or her

faltering hem-line and it’s
What the hell was I fighting

for? Just another example
of how biography works.
Your character has got
to have a narrative arc,

some drawbacks,
something irredeemably awful,

along with his or her strong
points, to be believable.
Yet we all recoil in disbelief
when anything of the sort cuts

a form into our real lives,
the life of the author. Don’t

despair! It’s just the demands
of narrative! Leda, after all,
probably never even thought
to fear anything like that.

Then one day, there it is,
the century actually over

and most of its artifacts
still entirely inexplicable.
This is no walk in the park
with spinach, Swee’pea,

I’ve got no idea where to go
for extra strength.

I guess that’s what
they’re selling.
It’s an incidental
that it cleans your laundry,

scrubs your teeth. What is of note
is that it is a source of extra

strength. Extra strength! Thank
God! That’s what we’re going
to need in case they all switch back:
the swan, the prince, the salt.

Even if you weren’t ever accosted
by a feathery god,

you take some heavy losses early on,
and that will leave feathers everywhere
for the rest of your life; as if
you were wearing an eiderdown coat;

you just walk around and molt.
As for the man in the tiara,

that’s a transformation
you never want to go through
twice, but do, coaxing every
so often your sad, damp, frog

back into his palace. Don’t
you like your scepter? Won’t

you wear your robes?
Lastly, salt. Well, who doesn’t
turn towards the sepia for a second
look; into the carousel-music

and the tortured plaster horses
of the past? But this sympathy

does not imply that I want
Madame Lot back here
knitting itchy sweaters.
Let’s just try to calm down.


When Stalin took power
he had Trotsky erased
from the photographs.
Sometimes, you can still see

a floating hand. Left behind.
So disembodied as to be

almost meaningless. We try
to ignore it, floating there
in history. We get to work.
There is something to be said for that.

You can’t really expect me
to roll around naked in a garden

letting Trotsky’s severed hand
float around my body,
knowing my body better
than any lover, his soft,

soft-focused, probing hand.
Yet, how can we do anything

serious with that thing hovering
overhead? A woman working
at a table in the park swats
away the tickling hand

of Trotsky, and intones
as if to all of history:

Not now. Trotsky’s hand,
abashed, moves on
to pick some flowers.
So much is gone that

what is left is inexplicable
without memory, and memory

is painful and very difficult
to explain. Which isn’t
to say I mind Trotsky’s hand

snapping its fingers
and flapping itself like a bird

above my desk or would rather
have him back, extant,
yammering about world socialism
and complaining about

the samovar: Is this thing cold again?
So, is this more of a lament

than a complaint? Sure.

But it is always there. This
burden of history is not a bird
but a hand, its wrist a tiny cloud.

It’s very quiet. It fills the quiet sky.


This poem is from my first poetry book, The Next Ancient World.
Something about the total cloud cover over Brooklyn this opalescent afternoon called out to me to show it to you.  Not just for the thing in itself, but to re raise the question of what poetry can do that all else can't.  A certain explicit everything, scientific care with artistic scope.  That's what Edger Allen was doing up the oak.



1 comment:

martin marriott said...


At first i liked enough, sure, the space-wandering, meadow-nice aimless of it, dropping names like Queen Elizabeth dropped lace tissues. But then came Trotsky's hand. and I was a fish on a true hook and line.

re:on-going tissues
cos we get on with our lives
"nice bread?"
"are you hiring?"
"shall we weep together?"

but underneath -- no, not underneath -- it is there as you say, these things

Trotsky's Hand

that may not be spoken of, with 'best friend' or 'lover', but but, in our secret lives

which is the ACTUAL LIFE of the world

our secret knowledge about humanity

our DNA hearts

what we know doesn't go away, no matter what is on the radio of our lives

yes, as you say.

as you say in the poem.

all Trotsky represents.

i went to his house in Mexico City last year.


I'll be returning to look at more.