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Poems by Ramsey & Corseri

Cover Image (BG June 3)

by Joe Ramsey

The black knife dangles
from the policeman’s hand—
human hand gloved, arm coated in green fluorescence
reminiscent of a protective suit,
as if the weapon were radioactive.

Held by a string, held by the gloved cop hand,
the eight inch blade dangle-stabs across a street-side yellow clump of tarp—
tarp the color of caution tape,
clump large enough to be covering a body—
a body shot down by guns perhaps?
but guns are not shown in this photo on the front page
of the Boston Globe this morning;
nor is the body of a man shot dead,
nor the shocked faces of his family.

The front page story here is not those guns
not any tarp-covered body;

the story is the big black knife.

After all this is Boston not
Baltimore or Cleveland
New York or Ferguson
This is Boston, a liberal and cop-loving city,
a terrorized town grown ticklish
for quick triggers:

We only kill the bad ones here.

“A man under round-the-clock surveillance by an antiterrorism task force was shot and killed Tuesday by a Boston officer and FBI agent when he lunged at them with a menacing military knife, according to police.”

According to police (who are to be believed).
According to police (who never have yet lied).

Flip the accordion?:

“Police shot and killed a 26-year old man with no criminal record after provoking him in an unwarranted stop, having followed and harassed him for weeks under the auspices of an unspecified ‘anti-terrorism’ investigation.”

Same facts, different frame.  (Read Greenwald)

Different claims, different page.

The older brother’s version is buried at the bottom of page A7.

According to his brother: “His last words to my father were: ‘I can’t breathe!’”

Ah, but that big black eight-inch knife
front-paged, dangling,
blotting out life.

Hiroshima Spring
By Gary Corseri
[Author’s Note: UNESCO declared 1979 “The International Year of the Child.” Fatefully, I found myself in Hiroshima that spring, surrounded by ghosts…. On the 70th anniversary of the atrocious A-bombing of civilians in a prostrate, defeated Japan, let us look around our world today and consider– to what end?]

A poem for voices, shakuhachi and koto….

(Sound of shakuhachi, as though the instrument itself is breathing.)

1. The Pilgrim

Under the flush of cherry,
in air as mild as breath,
by the Ota’s tributary–
five crooked fingers reaching
into the Inland Sea–

I stalk the A-bomb dome.

(The reed sounds tremble, linger, fade….)

2. The Old Man

(Echo of minyo in the distance….)
The moon of snow
rises over the white world.

In the chill gauze of the air
wild stag and deer
in a nook of mountain.

Nameless birds, my white brows
over the dim reflections.

Your memory fills the air
Like the incense of a dream….

3. Ghosts

When the wind shifts against these bamboo poles,
or sifts the water in the carp-jeweled pond—
the petals of the cherry fallen there
as though a girl had strewn them with her songs—
then we may hear the chansons of the dead,
shuddering the bamboo temple’s bell,
clamoring softly in the bamboo hair
how human passion shuddered in a sieve
upon the spume of time, cast spells,
and cleaved and echoed in a timeless well.

4. The Old Woman (An “ordinary life”)

My daughter died a week after the bomb,
its image blistered in her crow-black eyes.
Two days later my son found me.
Keloids covered his back and skull.

He crawled into bed and did not rise.
Three days passed, and he vomited blood.

“Though I am dying,” he said,
“you will live a healthy, ordinary life.”

The smoke his body made was white….
(Minyo echoes with the cry of a deer,
caught in a trap in the forest….)

5. The Pilgrim

I clocked my walking speed
at seventeen minutes a mile.
Seventeen minutes I walked:
all I saw were dead.

Seventeen minutes more,
the wounded lay with the dying.
Half an hour on,
and that which escaped the fire
huddled in desperate corners:
shadows that sought shadows.

6. The Old Man

A woman is standing
behind a silken screen.

The scent of her silhouette
is naked
on the snowy screen.

The sun drops softly behind her:
a ripe melon of youth.

She leans her head back,
her long hair covers her buttocks,

her nipples harden
under my imagined gaze.
(Koto crystal trembling….) 

7. Ghosts

In the Twentieth Epoch of Love
they pulled on the rubbery face
and found the luminous skull
turning around in its place,
wearing the grin of our race,

saying: All who endeavor will
find here the end of man,
the bone at the heart of will,
the snake in the garden of Love;
saying: Go and be killed if you can!

Man of the dinosaur mind,
taking the atom’s weight,
balanced it on his nose,
sealed his doom with hate.

Now they stand on the brink of the cold
while the earth turns around in its place,
a tiny rock of the light
turning in infinite space
while they cling to themselves in spite.

8. The Pilgrim

In Peace Memorial Park
I stare at the A-bomb dome,
sit on a bench in the dark
while pigeons roost in the ruins,

while a girl with ivory hands
plucks a koto’s strings;
somewhere beyond my hearing—
crystal, unbreakable things.

9. Ghosts
Now ghosts of the children enter, speaking in an echo chamber:

We sought nothing but the triumph of the blossoms.
(Our skin was new to breeze and shower.)

War, we thought, a kind of blind-man’s bluff.
(No victory but in the seasons’ power.)
We forgave the distractions of those older.
(We lived life before we knew life.)

We are your children
(and your children’s
(Koto strings are plucked briskly, violently, then are still. 
The shakuhachi lingers, fades…)

(First published in Poetry Nippon)

Gary Corseri has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has published novels and collections of poetry, has taught in US public schools and prisons and in US and Japanese universities. His work has appeared at Counterpunch, Village Voice, The New York Times and hundreds of publications and websites worldwide. Contact: gary_corseri@comcast.net.

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