II. KEPT

caino
          

Is not sin at the door like a
crouching beast hungering
for you?
— Genesis 4:8

As we walked from
the meeting place,

I began to ask if
he loved me enough

to take care
of me always,

just as
his knife

opened my throat
and my life

sprinkled the earth
like fresh tears.

[For Nicole Brown]

Selma, After All

EdmundPettusBridge2016

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2016

“What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
–Genesis 4:10

Walking the back
of the white Dragon arching
the Alabama, down Rt. 80
towards the helmets of
hubris and hell.
Somehow, not afraid
of anything save that some
might heed the order
to disperse, knowing only
together could they capture
the still, steel monster.
No club, no boot,
no driven horse or acrid smoke
could stop them from their
march, even if they
took no other step,
that day, or ever.

And there was blood
and bruises and broken limbs;
and cameras protesting the
obscenity across a fractured land.

And, after all,
a bent and bending Dragon:
a monument to
the very courage he
sought to vanquish.

[May 3, 2016 —

 Selma, Alabama]

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2016.

Matter of Time

“Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse, and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.”
–M.L.K.

Each and every day, leaving home with
guilt screaming from your pigment,
like the sight of blond hair provoking,
justifying knees hitting pavement,
pants dropped, privates inspected,
and the prospect of a bullet
for any protest.

A malignant matter, a psychic tumour
evolving to a softball orange,
of a kind that borrows ever more
greedily from the branch,
until the tree itself rots.
And no more than a plaintive whisper
permitted to prove your civility.

The easy, empty moral that any life, all lives
matter shatters all-but-silently
against this matter of time.

First, a matter of simple property.
Of three-fifths human,
thenceforward and forever free,
separate but equal,
content of character,
mandatory minimums.

Now, a matter of simple justice still
never so swift as that terrible sword.

 

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2017.

Typing Death

Ethel Rosenberg mugshot

    “things should me made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.”
–Albert Einstein

So, you might have,
maybe,
     punched the printing
keys among your pots and pans,

lending legibility to inchoate,
     incorrect instructions
for millions’ immolation.

(Bad enough,
     you dirty rat!)

but from that fire, you would fry
in first-quality varnish; a knotless,
shakeless seat of dried red oak.

    when the naked bulb
     seared the psyche
with your husband’s
sutured instructions
for the cooking of Jell-o.

And such an electric,
exquisite corpse
          you’d be.

 

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Exquisite Corpse

180px-Florida_electric-chair

“Kiln-dried oak of first quality,
free from knots, shakes and
other imperfections, and to have
a straight and uniform grain and
to be of uniform color…to
be finished smooth and clean, given
two coats of the best-grade furniture
varnish.” — These are technical
specifications for an
Electric Chair.
***

 

***(Description found in Sam Roberts, The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks), p.16.

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2017.

City

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    “Izena duen guzia omen da.”

In this French province,
     this cross-topped city of
Jewish and Greek,
     African and Portuguese:

in this ache of oak and leather,
     old brandy and cigars
ooze from old men struggling
     with smartphones,

the corpulence of Britain’s
     finest hour giving the lunch
place a name.

A half-carafe for the euskaldun,
     instantly dispensed, while he
offers greetings and technological
     advice to the midday drinkers,
an intermittent etxekandere in
     his Crescent house.

There is beer for the still-Ottawan,
     then, following steak-frites,
fine scotch to warm a Celtic belly.
     A dessicated tavern-owner banters
with the high school barmaid,

with whom he would
     sleep, wryly offering silk scarf compensation.

Despite everything, the afternoon glows
     with shared histories, professional
and pardonable: of immense Vegas lobsters,
     soft logic, fortunes lost to indecision,
and cold trays of tequila at the Frappe.

And then, there are sons near tears
     at fathers too proud, too departed
to reveal even ruptures of pleasure
     in the journeys of their living sons.

[for Joe Alonso]

 

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2016.

Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Daphne Major

 

Daphne_diary

“The sisters of mercy / they are not departed / or gone.”
–Leonard Cohen

In 1831,
Darwin took his trip to Daphne Major
and, eventually,
changed forever what it means
for us to become.

There were new tortoises and platypuses;
beetles and barnacles and blue-footed boobies;
and finches,
oh, so many different finches!

It was the island herself
who made them so many and so rich.
Her finite store of Tribulus seeds,
her infinite tribulations and
utterly unique,
volcanic experience prompting
rival siblings into individual species,
transforming their very beaks
into ever-more appropriate
tools of survival.

Many years later,
a young girl — a true Tryphena —
saw her father, brother, mother
between them encounter and endure
War, then
a still closer sadness,
a twin loss, a scarlet Tryphosa,
then, incredibly,
War again.

In 1953,
with a newer sister beneath her wing,
the young woman took her own trip,
discovering that,
despite everything,

the Wars
had not won.

There was a brand new queen
with a divine prince husband;
lunch and champagne at
Canada House, and

“Mary still out at 1:30 am – tut! tut!”

There was Mallorca and Barcelona
and Nice and Cap Martin;
Capri and Sorento and Genoa,
Laocoön and the Vatican,
and, by all means, Rome.

There were the Carters and Stopford and
Stephanie and Smitty,
Dora and the Casa Rosa,
gin and oranges and quarrels with Jack,
(“a very superior sort of type,”)

and
“Julie and Dougie
have new house and puppy
— exciting!”

And there was wine,
and dance,
and Mario picking flowers:
“so very sweet.”

But more than all that,
there were two sisters, being
and becoming
the closest of friends.

For the now many of us,
(and, perhaps especially, for me)
this trip too changed forever
what it would mean for us
to become:

Two sisters returned to
spur the evolution of our pulses –
with all of our differences;
for better, for worse;
when loving and not –

and forged the generations
now
looking
look through their eyes.

[for Mary Tryphena Smith, née Wurtele, and Daphne Jane Moyle Abraham, née Wurtele]

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2016.

Nixon Music

“The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.”
                                            –Inaugural address

By the way Glenn Miller played
     songs that made the hit parade,
guys like you, you had it made,
     but never took the insult or the irony.

Archie was a derisive joke
     when he talked about coloreds
and spics and fags
      and wops, but you

you were in outraged earnest,
     religiously recording your feelings
about niggers and dagos
     and wetbacks and, of course,
those Jew cocksuckers.”

Only when Archie showed shocking
      compassion for an old friend did
you identify his urge to “celebrate homosex
      as the very thing that
killed the Greeks.

Meanwhile, you dreamed with dictators
      (Commie ones at that,
right down to their underwear”);

wistfully pondered the wholesale drowning
      of at least two hundred thousand,
before thinking it might be better
      to go nuclear instead.
      (“Have we got that ready, Henry?”).

Even at home, you fancied the utter immolation
     of all those who thought against you.

And every day that you were there,
     your nutcutters got together
and decided how to make
     your dreams come true.

They sprinkled sulphur in your
     thinning hair, and meekly asked just
what you’d like to do.

 

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2016.