Lao Tzu

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu



A Marine helicopter flies overhead,
on its way to Camp Pendleton, its
propeller-driving no-heart thudding, a
sound like canon shots in steady
succession, while on TV a high-speed
chase is underway, ending with blown
tires, a shootout, a frightened white dog
emerging from the crashed car,
leaving her owner to the police
who move in for the kill; all the while
I scratch my knee, and a painful twinge
registers along the mastectomy line,
arm pit to rib; this, while in Baghdad
the number of surgeons has reduced
from 208 to 40 since the invasion,
the one I helped finance with my
taxes; while —endlessly— Iraqi children,
wrapped in white strips of cloth, head
to toe, or not, are laid side by side
on truck beds, by fathers, mothers
crying to Allah,
crying to Allah.


The list of my crimes takes a journey
much like the Los Angeles river where
we used to play, skating on concrete banks,
whooping for echoes and irony through
all the man-made canyons of my dreams.

It began one day after I saw the hens and hogs,
raw and piled up, leg over breast over joint over thigh
waiting for the next step in ultimate humiliation—
an exaggeration, I admit, like an Abu Ghraib pyramid
we would rather not think about, but did—

The old man at the end of his drama—
the wire where pomegranate trees waited in silence—
the too much temptation for deliverance, how nothing
could stop us, how we slipped in, cupping our mouths
how he emerged, raging after us, waving his axe.

Through an opening in the leaves the apple appeared,
hard plump with promise and simply asking for it:
Sweetness is desideratum wending its way
from tongue to brain and back again— for this I did
everything, beginning with the seed, ending with you.



I do not wonder what became of certain spirits of old,
those former thought-ways and wills of consciousness,
those we have found manifested on film and paper
through toga-clad, spear-wielding, black-stallion-riding
rulers known by myth and truth, one in particular
thought to be fathered by Zeus, per Oracle,
whose preference for war over talk was so great
an entire age came under his influence,
whose paranoia so held him aloft, the gods
were said to speak through him—

I do not wonder on what head the crown sits today,
for we are more subtle than that; nor do we
faint to see a conqueror on horseback,
now that leaders drive the carnage from afar
where boys and girls in tanks waste the enemy
and themselves, and God still speaks through
a mouth bent on death, arson, torture,
and humiliation in defiance of calm—

I do not wonder where Bucephalus thrives,
the great ox-headed horse of empire,
for though the one responsible for his upkeep
is frightened in the saddle, incoherent at the horn,
he makes it go by proxy, his best homoerotic steed,
presuming privilege to gallop barbaric over all.



Watching the road from the house,
hands clasped behind and grasping
closed like a horseshoe crab
—the ear, witty eye, nose—
tactile as toast, as if canvas should
speak, and I wonder—
the back of Forrest’s head, its
hairy sarong, what words are there,
woven in the feathered pleats?