The Agonist Journal

Among the Occupiers

With trenches full of poets…
Spanish Bombs, The Clash

She waited for you with violins
in a season of riots and roses,
but the bones at the bottom of the river
shook from out their rotting sacks,
sang upwards of your secret histories,
and the children of your muted forebears
poured into the placarded streets,
to hurl bricks and bottles at ghosts.

She waited for you on the promenade
with a dog-eared book of verses,
as the ranks of tired soldiers
swept beneath the singing balconies.
So you slashed your wild red name
on every rumor of a wall
and waved your private colors from
the smoking stinging barricades.

Now the stinging smoke has cleared.
The giant cardboard gods
lie crumpled in nearby dumpsters.
The young are writing other anthems,
and she hopped a cross-town ferry,
vanishing onto the river at night
where the lights of the city mingle with
the steady points of summer stars.

A Cautionary Tale for Young People

A young boy fled his father’s crumbling house,
and left his sainted mother-land behind.
Their world was poor and small, so he set out
to see what droll adventures he could find.

He left without a wallet, sword or map—
no plan at all—insisting on, instead,
only the latest, most expensive talisman.
The cardboard box it came in said

it would protect him from dangerous beasts,
translate epic tales from savage tongues,
illuminate the lonely highway hours
and fill his head with all the proper songs.

He never fell or lost his way. He heard
his own language everywhere he went.
The road was musical. Every creature
approached him with a soft, benign intent.

Until one evening, half-way through a forest,
the magic item’s little light finally died.
There was nowhere to plug the damn thing in,
so he just stood there trembling and cried.

He had no guide, no light, no useful weapon,
no local words to lull the grinning fears
that stepped out of the dark woods all around him,
licking the cold sharp edges of their spears.

So now his nodding parents sometimes pause
and wonder why their brave boy never phones,
while the latest, most expensive talisman
sits atop a pile of well-picked bones.

Hired Gun

There is a sudden, second-long silence
that follows the final shot
when you let off the trigger and look
into the face of the stranger you sought,

the one you’d seen only in images,
clipped and sorted and filed away.
Now that face searches yours for answer,
mouth open as if to say…

Nothing. Nothing at all in the air,
just the rush in your head, the beat
in your chest and the tiny metal music
of casings hitting the street.

Tires squeal. A woman screams,
and your footsteps fall into pace,
as the brave ones reach for their phones
and try to remember the facts of your face.