VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Richard Modiano

Poem for Danny Baker

The world of real life, the raw urgency of the moment—

the taste of black coffee, of charred red meat,

the recoil of the Glock in your hand, the poem that forms in your brain—

waits for us beneath history,

its mysteries passed down through

generations in the currency of moments

so intense they annihilate time itself,

moments that can be suppressed, discouraged and denied by

the rules, laws, and regulations that hem us in from every side.

We adventurers track these moments through this world

as hunters track the most prized of prey.

As long as we have hearts in our chest

we will find ways to them again and again.

History is haunted by its own karma—

the moment of freedom, of real poetry

brings all its unsettled debts back into play,

to be discharged forever so life can really begin.

What we want now are moments so overwhelming,

so irresistible that

the entire control system of regulated life

melts before their scorching radiance

When the world ends,

white dust will fill the air like

the curtain at the end of a play.

A rain of desperate bodies will fall from the windows

of burning buildings, drumming the concrete below.

Men with splinters in their eyes

will stumble though the streets choked with debris;

women clutching babies

will pick through the rubble and tear out their hair.

Our generation will go to its

grave shouting its

last words into a cell phone.

Or perhaps it will arrive as a thief in the night,

 step by invisible step. Factories

will disappear overseas and corporations

vanish into thin air, taking jobs and retirement funds with them.

 Cities dying from the inside out will spread like ringworm,

 the shrapnel spray of suburbs slicing through forest and field.

Wars will reach from continent to continent and neighborhood to neighborhood –

the terrorists won’t make peace with the horrorists

who would enforce it at any price,

who keep trying to impose harmony between oppressed and

oppressor with fear and fire power.

 Gas prices will rise with global temperatures and tides,

acid rains will fall with the last of the redwoods,

 computer systems crash with stocks and stock markets…

until one day everyone has cancer.

Or else nothing will happen at all,

business will continue as usual:

prison guards pace concrete tombs,

psychiatrists contemplate madness,

demons glare from the eyes of ministers,

consumers are bought and sold in the marketplace.

It’s after the end of the world, whispers the homeless man,

don’t you know that yet?

Others, mysterious and knowing,

who have held themselves aloof from the discussion

until now, finally interject: “Which world?”

Dawn breaks over the East River

The poet takes a picture

            Insomnia

(for Puma Perl)

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