An Apology to the Vietnamese and Iraqis

Marvin Bell

Fog and lamplight and a sleepless night
suggest a past to sit up with, in an armchair
with a book and a snack. A small boat putt-putts
somewhere under the cliff, passing the fennel
and ferns at waterside. I have screened out,
like you, the far away. For me, there’s a khaki
sheen over Vietnam, and a sandstorm
will erase Iraq before the owl lifts its dinner
by the heel. That’s the way we sleep now,
screening out the gunboats in the fog,
listening to the owl hunt farther and farther
to find his kill. Our nights are lampblack.

Bus Stop Essay on Rampant Capitalism

Property means money will own
our dust, the rinds of squeezed lemons,
soap film, and the reeds whistling in the swamp,
and they want the swans for themselves,
and the leftover thread from the tailor,
and the hair from the barbershop. They want fees
for dancing and a royalty for a quip. The rights
to Armageddon are still up for grabs. I was sitting
by a man who owned a coat in a storm
and was off his rocker, growling like an engine
uphill. He had a thrown-away half-hamburger
and a bag of wine. He was showing off his
best Fred Astaire, and he planned to visit
Hollywood and Cooperstown. He told me this
corner was his. He gave the breeze a cold shoulder
and his smell. He said he liked to find things.

Art Shoes

Let’s turn a blind shoe to war. Let’s point our shiny shoes
ahead and behind, to earth and sky, to time and no-time.
Let us kick up a rumpus to shake the maps.
We walked, we tapped, we scuffed. Now we stub our toes.
We laced up and stood on pointe when that was the point.
We looped, we arched, we coiled when circles were beauty.
We traced and retraced the steps from this to that.
We kept time to arrive at the timeless.
If the tongue could speak, the sole of a shoe cry out.
Listen! It says, “Walk, don’t run.” And then it says, “Run!”
It says life’s a kick and a kicking, a stomp
of protest and pleasure. My own shoes, my everydays,
are wild to dance. They drag me foolish
to the music, they push and pull me to the beat.
They want to show me how free they are.
But they back up at the sound of boots.

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