Everyone has their own peculiar price,
Not quantifiable in currency.
When my hypodermic grazed your vein,
You confessed yours.
It was not exorbitant
So I withheld the serum
A moment longer before
Pushing the plunger.
You saw rattlesnakes mate in the arroyo
Tangled like hoses, braided
Like black ropes for a day,
Utterly vulnerable in the grip
Of love or instinct.
Indians say this sight
Grants second sight.
You saw your victimhood
Cupped like a cross of iron
In the hollow above your sternum,
Cold, rusted from fear,
Dangling from a chain
Is a dangerous thing
And can’t be granted
By a single vision.
Spoke a prophet with his head on a platter:
“To stand for something,
To protest abortion or the destruction of wetlands,
To remember the Holocaust or the Alamo,
To disagree with farm subsidies
Or campaign against clear-cutting
Helps focus minds dulled by tolerance,
Not a virtue but a courtesy
Like ignoring someone’s body odor
In an elevator which makes it
Perfectly moral to say,
‘I understand and accept what you are doing
Though I find it utterly abhorrent.’
Blessed are those who have found their cause:
Gun ownership, preservation of historic buildings,
The fight against leukemia or for hemp:
Whatever we are righteously incensed about
Restores our passion for goodness,
Beneath the empty platter
The world moves
Like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.
The gut-ache of youth,
Socially melancholy, is beyond
The generation previous,
Confirmed by body-piercing,
Black leather and ghostly skin
As if in preparation, not for a prom
But for a funeral.
You must have cancer of the throat
To sing for them.
Pain sustains them.
Blessed are the pure,
If only driven by glands.
Seeking the river’s calm
You stretched before the television,
Dreaming of a Winnebago
And Palm Springs,
When suddenly you heard:
My sheep hear my voice and my voice is on TV.
Was the sound inside or outside your head?
No televangelist with cockatoo hair
Came to explain, so you wept like a sinner,
Fearing you were the Christ,
Everyone was their own Christ,
And this was too much for you
So I injected the antidote
Out of pity for all the lies
You need to make life tolerable.