Peter Campion

Government Center
September 25, 2019 Campion Peter



Screeching right up to us through downtown Friday traffic.
Then “cut me off, you pencil dicks, I’ll break your face.”


Slouched in his Jag and biting Central Casting’s obvious
flourish, the stub of his Cubano, who was he


but all we never wanted to become made flesh?
Just blocks from there, the clogged-up artery on-ramps


rose to our other world—space age pastoral: fields
becoming parking lots becoming fields of bonfires,


dome tents and hash, and once this girl who takes
my hand and leads—if that poor rich guy only knew.


Swerving right past him, we were gone, except
twenty-five years and the festival is thin mist


while the man in traffic’s full color, undissolved.
I wonder was it class, the unleashed rage of class?


Maybe “poor rich guy” gets it wrong. He could have been
some Southie stiff who worked or gamed or clawed his way:


before we even notice much less threaten him
he’s sized us up as pinko stoners, suburban


and spineless, TV baby posers, never got
what we got from earning it. Except he could have been


a mobster or currency broker playing at mobster. Class,
but abstract: bare rage of “I am this and you are that”


short-circuits him to puppet jolts, mechanical,
and still, so much the fiercer he pierces the decades


(I do it to myself, I know) to pay me back
my grubby wallowing, my betrayals, my greed.

Peter Campion is the author of four collections of poetry and of the essay collection Radical as Reality: Form and Freedom in American Poetry. A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, he teaches in the graduate creative writing program at the University of Minnesota.