National Geographic

I don’t want to remember names. Names stink of money, grease,
baby vomit and new clothes. Some stink of righteousness, and
patriotism, others of sour deodorant and sweat.
Better to think of heaven: the rolling clouds, the light like needles
sticking into everything,
all the beasts so peaceful and tame.

But don’t think it’s safe walking when the sign says WALK.
Don’t think you’ll get by on rent and food.
Because just when you think you got it, just when the dice
tap in line, all hell starts shooting up inside your old anatomy.
Organs collapse, skin starts to loosen, and burn spots
from a gagging liver begin to sprout everywhere—teeth
fall, hair turns to chalk, everything is rocking on ice, shifting
on plates, and landsliding down a crotch.
Your heart’s beating itself to death.

See that dog? It’s a devil dog. It hates you.
It wants to scour your leg with cancer, tear up your ligaments.
It wants to ignite arthritis in your spine.
And don’t put your finger out, don’t dare put your finger out,
because the pigeons are eating meat now,
because the baby calf, fed on milk and kept tender in total darkness,
is buying a gun. Inside books the trees are screaming revenge.

Something’s happened to the world for sure. Sparrows flop
off trees, choking on diesel fumes, squirrels
stagger around like drunks, from pesticides, from children’s candy.
Rats, not landlords, are the true bosses here.
They wrestle the plate from your hands.
They shoot like bullets from one end of the city to another.
And don’t jerk them around. Smash one
and tomorrow you got eight brothers, ready to settle accounts.
And no amount of talking’s gonna set you loose.
They got the logic of prison lawyers.
They got Shakespearean voices.
They’ll live to see the last morning in your eyes die.

Whatever happened to free animals, free trees, free skies?
Whatever happened to natural lakes, rivers, and mountains?
They all got harnesses on them now.
They’re all pulling the big post-industrial plow,
or attached to pulleys and curtains and floodlights.
They’re props on a stage that’s gonna crash down on everybody.

Whatever happened to nice guys, nice girls?
Whatever happened to people who care?
Everybody’s in the business of Major Hurt.
He splatters a bloody, betrayed razor of shit in the toilet.
She combs her hair that a cockroach will later sip between its mandibles.
He’s got a Master’s Degree in Suffering.
She’s got a Doctor’s in Torture.
Don’t mess with this guy, don’t mess with her, don’t mess, period.
He’ll shove a hot needle in your eye, a boll weevil in your ear.
She’ll sponge the whipmarks with salt and say Now, now, baby,
I never meant to hurt you.

But No, you say, No, no, it ain’t so bad! There’s good times, too.
Like when a river of drugged happiness spreads like an orgasm
down your legs and out your shoes,
and you go splashing big puddles of joy everywhere,
with the trees laughing like crazy, the hawk chuckling,
and the bill-collector asleep dreaming he’s being tortured by a telephone.

Everywhere you go it’s Horror Enterprises.
A doorknob gets slimy with the fingerprints
from a passing funeral, and still they wipe their asses.
The Exit door to the Terminal Ward closes
and everybody is at home, evaporating into a TV gameshow.

There’s noises at night: a rumble of rubber over tracks.
There’s black tears of soot dribbling over the ledge,
traffic signs switching people forward, scarring directions
into the night.
There’s a gang on the corner with knifeblades of rumor
about you, flashing in their palms.
Everybody wants out, but still the city keeps
breathing through their pores.

Open the door and the rot smells buff against you.
You get plucked, suddenly, one day out of the toilet
by cops dressed as truckdrivers, a shred of shit still dangling from your ass.
No one turns around, no one says anything.
You know you’re doomed
when the interrogators turn out to live next door.

But God Bless America! Isn’t it great? People will defend
when the time comes. They love it here.
Just don’t stare too long at your best friend’s TV.
Don’t check out the little white girl, the little black girl, the little
brown girl with the frilly panties and a dirty bottom. Stay back!
Whatever you do, don’t touch anything!
Because they’ll burn every last molecule in your bloodcells.
They’ll search out every living hair until they find you.
And when they do, you better take flying lessons, homeboy,
you better have wings.

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