All the photographs are lies, in
in them she looks normal, like other
Her eyes are compelling as doe's
and she did not know this, and the
worst of it is
she looks alive.
I keep telling her to come back sometime!
Come back! I wonder where
she is gone,
maybe to find my father?
Watching death, as light abandons
seeing the cavern of the dropped
the shadowed throat,
hearing the wheeze and gurgle,
we are like Moses, allowed to behold
from a cleft in the rock,
the face and hands soft, horrible,
the mystery diminished
not one grain.
Then the jaw tightened and after
a while it fell
almost clacking, and the nurse nodded,
and there was
her baffled silence
after the noisiness of us all singing
the touching of skin
when I stroked her forehead goodbye,
and patted through the nightgown
her belly and breasts.
O I loved her and this
was her response.
My mother is dead two weeks
We were holding her hands and singing
when she let go. Very little
almost to the end, correcting
a week before
and we burned her and flew to Arizona
and the tanks roamed Ramallah and
I feel as if anything I have to say
has to be shaved down. I want my
language to be like the desert.
I want my words and phrases to be like
ocatillo, yucca, saguaro. Prickly,
thorny. Able to collect moisture
enough to survive extended drought.
The air I breathe is materially tropical,
arid in the spirit. These are
dry times, vicious, dry,
in which one cannot even hypothetically
construct an appealing future
for one's species. Born to violence
that steers the intelligence.
The air I breathe you breathe.
Just now, a molecule breathed by
might have entered your lungs.
Where is Shelley when we need him.
"An old, mad, blind, despised and
Nobles, the dregs of their dull
he begins a sonnet after the Haymarket
riots in which
British soldiers shot their fellow
Where is William Blake, is he burning
bright as the tiger in some
grassy meadow of paradise
does he beat a drum and shout "Holy
is the Lord God alighty," or, on
"Exuberance is beauty," and where
is Walt Whitman
and where is Ginsberg, genius of
I beg my mother come back sometime.
The root system of the saguaro
spreads shallowly underground as
the cactus is high.
That of the ocatillo plunges.
The tanks roll, the missiles fly.
Greedy teeth smile at the microphone.
They know where the oil is,
and is hate worse?
I beg you awesome ones be with us
and blow through us please as if
we were trumpets
and saxaphones. Beat on our
and let us be drums. Artillery
will always outshout us, testosterone
are more thrilling than anything,
brilliance between opposite poles
at the speed of hate, we do this
to you because
you did it to us first. Thrilling!
The bus explodes,
the shelled house collapses over
and the screaming family, the tanks
roll, the missiles fly
and perhaps the faster one dies,
But it does explain something.
I too look at the images
Of cruel death in the newspaper and
on the screen.
They taste good, I like them.
You like them. They are their own
best advertisement. We like
to shudder at them. We like to blame.
We bravely deplore. We enjoy
a bit of fury.
The nearer we get to death, the
we feel alive.
War, that great stimulant,
let us drink to it.
Let us join our friends, Israel
Our friends who have been seduced
Friday night getting smashed in America
Ignorant violence that stuns the
Dear animal inside us whom in other
we cherish, is it you?
I think this impulse to destroy
this need for an enemy
has actually nothing to do with
it is simply a human characteristic
it has climbed the corporate ladder
of the dna
it is on the board of directors
Whitman and Blake inside us, celebrants
of war equally with peace, is it
Descendants of Homer? Is it
our stars? Is it our cold reason?
Do we deserve what Marie calls the
quilt of guilt?
A joke in the Soviet Union went like
Under capitalism man is a
wolf to man.
Under Communism it's just the opposite.
And there was that other one, about
We pretend to work, and they pretend
to pay us.
Very funny, but because of low morale
The Russians have become ineffective
like the Italians and the French.
Long live the Italian and French
Long live the citizens of Prague
whose twelfth century buildings
because a Czech will fight to the
drop of ink! The trouble with
is that her morale is still too
She needs to be a bit more depressed
before she starts behaving better.
The trouble with America
is she is a big bully
and a big coward,
also that she has no conscience,
not enough cynics, they are all
Now let someone discreetly put on
The Stones or The Doors or better
Jimi doing the Star Spangled Banner
like a cry of absolutely
pained rage, a train jumping the
I like this party. You know
what else we need?
We need a few anti-American jokes.
What are we afraid of?
Where are the comedians
when we need them?
Tucked in their cages
like tame monkeys.
Where are the accountants?
Who will save us
from the mudslide of dollars?
Now that my mother is dead a month
it is difficult to say the kaddish
it is difficult to praise god
it is spring so I open my window
I lie awake in my cave, my well
writhing like a bat,
though the blinds stay down
soft air seeps in, a few cars
swish along the street
then from the next house
where gloomy faded shingles fall
and sheets hang in the windows
I hear the man's chronic unstoppable
a poor man's cough, and the wife's
coaxing their dog.
Gypsy. Stop it. Come here.
Good girl, good girl.
I might work on
making music of that.
© by Alicia Ostriker