I lived between the hemisphere of songbirds and the hemisphere
of men. The birds kept their necessary distance and the men
their self-consciousness, their standing thereness. It was impossible
to say for whose sake they were tortured. When one came home
in a big black bag other men would lift him, a kind of cannibalism,
but there was no him, apparently, although they continued
to use the words believe, see. [The last a bird term]. They continued
to use bandages, to look elsewhere, to be contorted into postures
of wake or suspend belief, but for whose sake and for what furthering?
It was a winner-take-all system in the hemisphere, summer or winter.
[Some say the songbirds were subtitles, some say décor, some say
there was some subversion in the call.] Men continued to prefer, to urge
to their advantage, add options to the standard, gather onlookers.
They snowballed. They boiled. They detailed. They petaled.
They wasted with such skill they called it ours, our way of life.
Men blocked the exits, confused the hemispheres with mirrors,
windows, and the mix of optimism and emptiness the songbirds found
holes in. One song was exit, exit, one song was por favor. Men muscled under.
Men had ten men inside them which explains their skin, and ten men
enlisted [boys] which explains the embargo on joy, the ravishing angelic
toys, faces, recognitions. I suppose it all comes down to the discolored
dusk and a walk around the heart-shaped lake where men behave like
recreated birds, mate, splash in the thisness, the whatness of puddles,
flash the colors. I haven’t said much about the other hemisphere
which I only know in groundling bits I don’t understand [man term],
but who has the music, I ask? Who needs the cuts to enter the world?
Who needs no market? Who knows no handedness, pity, or duty?
Who brought the mail from Tunis, and who knows where the ark should land?
Bruce Smith is the author of six books of poems, most recently, Devotions, a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the LA Times Book Award, and the winner of the William Carlos Williams Prize.