Personal & Metaphysical Derivatives

sus huesos yacen

caidos en el povo

—Eugenio Montejo

At 5, I picked up French with ease

attending a parochial school

my parents couldn’t really afford—

le morceau de gateau!

I knew a table from a window,

the book on the desk from the stars

in the sky—le livre sur le bureau

de l’école a patri des etoiles

dans le ceil,  voila!

I was almost sure of things.

30 years later, in Paris,

I’d held onto just enough

to know not to order tete de veau

from the menu, to be able

to ask for un demi-kilo

fromage des Chaumes

at the market, spending

my first meager grant money,

convinced I was investing

in the future.

          As I

understand it now, we are

conglomerates of small strings

more invisible than air,

than light . . . even the leftover

parts of stars, everything

there is on this side

of the dark, or some other

parallel side—all that

is finally nothing you can hold

in your hands. . . .

We have only

a fresh consignment of clouds

to fill the afternoons,

to subsidize our speculations—

and yes, I was an over-serious kid,

pulling my white pant’s pockets

inside-out, turning my palms

up to the sky, showing

they were empty

as those clouds, as

I waited outside the store

while others dispensed with

their discretionary income—

allowances, or pocket change

filched from the bureau-top

in their parent’s bedroom—on

Mars Bars or Milky Ways.

                             But

those were short-term dividends

and soon we’d race our bikes back home

to fish sticks and Franco American

Spaghetti or Spam and canned peas;

this was, after all, near the bottom

drawer of the lower middle class

who spent their income dressing up

as entrepreneurs, a word my father

invested with specific moral gravity

as he inserted staves into the collars

of his starched shirts.

                    We had,

as models, members of The Junior

Chamber of Commerce,

John Foster Dulles who

refused to shake the hand

of Zhou Enlai, Eisenhower, and Nixon

in their bad suits, playing golf,

cutting deals to sustain

General Motors.

              No one

talked about Korea anymore

or the deficit—there was

just a short intermission

before Vietnam.  In passing,

Ike mentioned the Military

Industrial Complex on his way

to retirement and the first tee

at the Club, waving from the back seat

of his Eldorado.

               On our porch

above the creek, I held talks

with my white tom cat, TJ,

and we listened to the wild peacocks

register their complaints

from the oaks . . . it was the ‘50s

and we were the last ones still

running free in the foothills.

In earlier socio-political quarters,

Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe

were just making trouble

as they worked out the laws

of planetary motion

while they played cribbage

each evening beneath the peg board

of the stars.  I later saw it

as a toss up between

Spinoza and Pascal—

God is the free cause of all things,

or, the flip side, Atheism is not

a good wager.  Your odds set

against the ontological clock

ticking in the middle

of nowhere with no hedge fund

to back up your bets.

             In Prague,

The Communist Museum

is right between McDonalds

and the casino.  Now my childhood,

my house in our seaside town,

seems further away than

the haphazard and residential

stars . . . for instance ARP 273

in the constellation Andromeda

300 million light years from earth;

what looks like a perfect merger

in the shape of a rose is actually

two galaxies connected by

a thin bridge of stars 10s

of 1,000s of light years apart?

Go figure how long until

the pay-off?

          When our bones

lie fallen in the dust, what remains

of you or me is at best

some recycled light,

some depreciated chemicals.

For now, guns or butter,

metaphysical puts and options?

The account balance of the sky

still looks empty.  My poor cat,

Cecil B, died a year ago this

August—his last days on earth,

or only all his days on earth. . . .

What can I take away from that?

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