Mudlark Flash No. 12 (2001)

R. D. Girard

"R. D. Girard lives in Washington and Los Angeles
and writes poems when he can't sleep at night."

Leukemia In The Drinking Water
Tet Is Nice But It's Not Christmas
White On White | Priced To Move

Leukemia In The Drinking Water

In Calcutta or California
suffering is the source of money and poetry.

Raspberry pesticides slither across the Whatcom county water table
and blossom in the tissue and marrow of low-income tracts.

In a utopia without Rockefeller or Rimbaud
madness in the great ones would not go unwatched.

When you repel your imagination
to run guns in Africa

When twenty-six oil companies bloom
and your grandson shoots Attica inmates in the back

You can excavate the future from
the quartz petals that fall from the rose of the fair state.

One day this year
you will pass the anniversary of your own death.

Tet Is Nice But It's Not Christmas

The pure products of America
are made in Thailand
by the children of Kentucky coal miners

or the mothers of postindustrial
taggers sprung from the ribbed south end of the Bronx

who go crazy saying America lost the war
while they're selling
Coca-Cola in Ho Chi Minh City

to some doctor's son, a sometimes promiscuous
Elwood the third
who protested at Princeton the war

in Vietnam, spent a summer slumming
the brothels in Bangkok
and has now adopted the cutest little baby

who, Elwood and his wife have been
no one in all of Korea wanted—

someone's giggling little boy, rescued
by the broker
to point as deer go by the Volvo and wave

at those Khe San vets tricked out in green fatigues
at stoplights
with stained crotches and cardboard signs

who make us look away from them and from
each other
make it hard to drive the car.

White On White

In the neglected regions of capital
a gentle genetic tug arcs across the shift
from tactile to digital—
your face's cold fusion
persists across generations of bathtub marxists and pit bosses
and women wearing bespoke suits.

Many years later, as you find yourself teaching
in a barrio high school only to be fired
for telling your students that the difference
between poetry and rhetoric is the difference
between orgasm and ejaculation, you will
remember the day your father took you
to discover ragtime—production trading eights
with mechanical reproduction
at the dark end of the street.

The good old days live in the electric air
sucked over and over through the ones and zeros
punched into dusty piano rolls, in the ebbs and flows
between flaccid and tumescent, in the pinstriped spokes
of a spinning wheel when they begin to pinwheel backward.
Needs not your own wait
at the end of the end of representation.

Priced To Move


Had she lived today
Would be her fortieth birthday but she still would
Be younger than you

And still able to turn the head of the President
Who is coming to Seattle where six topless lesbians
Are marching with little black crosses of electrical tape on their nipples
Down the drizzly Fourth Street pavement behind steel workers
Anarchist drummers and a guy on stilts wearing a death mask.
A lot of white people in flannel.

We know they're lesbians by the Dyke Power banner over their heads
Pulling their breasts taut and high like centerfolds.

The President's hotel is well guarded and tonight on television
The cops will chase this crowd up Pine Street with teargas and rubber bullets
And next week the police chief will resign and in nine months
In Philadelphia the slightest resistance to civil government
Will be herded to cells naked or bleeding or hogtied or cuffed
Like a crucifix to the bars without lawyers
Without doctors, without a place to pee, and not on television

But today
With the sheltering gray sky kissing the faces in the crowd
As they shift and skate like fall leaves down the pavement
It's like a carnival or the end of a war
Where the drinks are free and strangers are your friends
And all these union men and college boys in wool ponchos from Tijuana
Or Ensenada and even the T.V. guy who, having seen too many
Vietnam movies, keeps asking people which way
To the real action can all imagine themselves kissing these lesbians
And maybe even fondling their breasts right here
On Fourth Street.

In the morning when
She would reach to the sky to let her T shirt fall down her arms
Her breasts would bob just like these twelve lesbian breasts
Just before they disappeared beneath tie dye
Or a Rolling Stones tour shirt he suspected she got from a roadie
Or maybe even one of the band when they played Madison Square Garden.

If she were alive today
She would insist that he look, even gawk along with the guys in boots
And the cop who, lulled by the easy leering fraternity, confides that
"If this were a crowd of niggers we'd have to start shooting."


If she were alive today
She would say that this would be a good time
For a little Christmas shopping, here
In the empty Bon Marche between marches
The only place open without boards on the windows.

It's like peeing in a crystal palace, where clerks loll
Like pit bosses on a break in a casino that glitters with flatware,
Fishing rods, Samsonite and Hugo Boss, time trapped
In diamonds under locked glass, middle class couture,
Authentic leather backgammon and seasonal gift wrap.

Next week, you'll see some of these same faces, appearing
With a chirping chamber of commerce, on television
To blame the mayor and those kids who burned the Starbucks
And even people like you for so many holiday dollars down the drain.

But today, which would have been her birthday
Had she lived, they just give your sweatshop Nikes and midnight blue
L. L. Bean sweatshirt a surly glance
And then turn back to their gossip.


Had she lived today
She would be outraged to learn that once the mayor has declared a state of emergency
It becomes illegal to even carry a gas mask and would insist that you buy one
At the Army-Navy store on Sixth Street. She would take off her shirt
And put on the mask, forgoing the electrical tape
And when the cop arrested her she'd demand to know if he's charging her
With the mask or the nipples, but then she'll offer a blowjob in the back seat
To keep from actually spending the night in jail.

It would mean even less, she'd say, than love in an air raid
Like dancing topless at Mardi Gras, the record sealed
Like the confessional or psychiatric records available only after death
And even then only by court order, something

The president, sitting atop the Westin on the mottled butt of Empire
Like Teddy Roosevelt ready for his photo on San Juan Hill,
Would appreciate.
The apparition of these faces in the crowd,
Silent confetti after a parade,
Leaves the president melancholy.

In August in Los Angeles the president will shake it off
And stomp the televangelist shuffle one last time and the LAPD
Will pen and arrest these people who will not appear
On television, but today, if he had lived
A different life, the life that maybe he was meant for, these would be
The president's people, the people who know there's more fun
On this one street than in all the presidential suites
In the world

It's easy for him to imagine himself
You, leaving the Bon Marche, his bladder empty and a new spring
In his step as one of the lesbians is dancing now with a shop steward
From the AFL-CIO, explaining that "A chick's not a lesbian
Just because she likes to fuck girls. Everybody
Likes to fuck girls."


If she had lived today her sense of betrayal
Would be understood, like manners or a cold sore.
It would go without saying. On your way
To the Sand Point Naval Brig you would think the first time
As tragedy the second time as farce, revolution pivoting
Through time's mirror, reduced to the mask , the nipples,
And attempted bribery, and she would be pulling on a Navy T shirt as you
Smile and say What are you doing in there? And she,
Still with the timing of a sniper, would echo
Across two decades of sweet silent history
What are you doing out there?

Copyright © Mudlark 2001
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