After the room with thick
tension and ink-drops
onto new vows,
they stepped into the elevator.
It didn’t count if the papers
weren’t through the system yet.
I dreamt of flying
over cities, through mountains’
pointed, icy caps.
I dreamt of kissing
death by the cold, stony mouth
As a bribe, I said.
I dreamt of being
Nothing more than a house-cat
Nothing more than self.
I dreamt of losing
anything that meant something—
well before the fall.
I dreamt of feeling
too much good, so then
I flew far away.
I dreamt of arching
my feet in pure ecstasy
because: the divine.
I dreamt of letting
my eyes burn electric red
with angels’ fury.
I dreamt of long tongues
curling to the roof, lighting
shadows devil’s hue.
In the beginning, there was the body.
We cut it into marketable pieces
and placed price tags along the soft parts.
The inside of the elbow was fifty cents,
and the arch of the foot was sixty.
The space between the fingers was seventy,
because you could hold onto it the best.
The valleys between knuckles were ten cents each,
and the wrists were fifteen.
The veins running beneath the skin were free,
because we couldn’t see them,
and because they were green instead of red.
The inner-ear was free, too,
because nobody wanted to hear, anyways.
We took out the muscles one by one,
and separated them into cardboard boxes.
We would ship them to the highest bidder.
Usually, they went for a dollar each,
except for the heart.
That was free, too.
Talking to Americans is usually extremely uphill work. We are afraid to reveal ourselves because we trust ourselves so little. American attitudes are appalling, but so are the attitudes of most of the people of the world. What is stultifying here is that our attitude is presented as the person; one is expected to justify the attitude in order to reassure the person—whom, alas, one has yet to meet, who is light-years away, in some dreadful, private labyrinth. And in this labyrinth the person is desperately trying NOT to ﬁnd out what he REALLY thinks. Therefore, the truth cannot be told, even about one’s attitudes: we live by lies.
And not only, for example, about race—whatever, by this time, in this country, or, indeed, in the world, this word may mean—but also about our very natures. The lie has permeated to our most private moments, and the most secret chambers of our hearts. Nothing more sinister can happen, in any society, to any people. And when it happens, it means that the people are caught in a kind of vacuum between their present and their past—the romanticized, that is, the maligned past, and the denied and dishonored present. It is a crisis of identity. And in such a crisis, at such a pressure, it becomes absolutely indispensable to discover, or invent—the two words, here, are synonymous—the stranger, the barbarian, who is responsible for our confusion and our pain. Once he is driven out—destroyed—then we can be at peace: those questions will be gone. Of course, those questions never go, but it has always seemed much easier to murder than to change. And this is really the choice with which we are confronted now.”
Oh Almighty God, Who has given us this Earth, and has appointed Man to have domination over it, Who has commanded us to make straight the Highways, to lift up the Valleys, and to make the Mountains low, we ask Thy blessing. Bless these, our Nation’s Roadbuilders, and their Friends. (1956)