Occasionally, country roads back home
allowed a quiet somewhat-peace
after we quarreled. Bodies loosely swaying
in their seats, words hurled
to pothole rhythms, lean gravel shoulders.
We’d push through a fog that became
a rain that shared our intensity. As if
the earth and her oceans were a fishbowl
we had knocked off a table.
Ghost lights across primordial landforms.
Streaked moonbeams. The green-black
night drowned and the weight of the car,
its entire heft, lifted atop a hydroplane.
Then, a hailstorm of frogs.
In our headlights, hundreds of frogs
teeming on the roads: on the roof,
at our windows, on the sheet of the car’s
hood, their bodies fell like pitched stones.
Frog choirs constrained the air,
commencing and ending haphazardly.
Quick as dream. Quick as salt tears.
Born from the very pavement, leaping into
the tire wells, picking up the car’s hull.
Having stayed close-lipped and hungry
in ditches, in mudholes. These tadpoles
and polliwogs asleep underground,
far from what they desired. The drudge.
One chance to return to a world
of wet sounds. A Tigris-Euphrates rebirth.
Now, to fly underneath the flapping
petticoats of our car. Their raw ambition
to move without thought or recourse.
The options were: accept the occupied
road and that unalterable rut, or wait
for a drop to become a deluge and
for a deluge to devastate us into freedom.
Wine, Women & Song
surprised those he loved most
by not destroying them.
I thought I owned a world that took years
to conquer, saying nothing of my own heart.
Near the end that sickly warrior-king,
that handsome devil, infidel,
could barely spare a life.
Sweetheart, don’t straddle
the weak, unroaring lions. Don’t braid
their manes or cut off their tails. Climb
into the high laps of power.
There was that holy city, Persepolis,
and what happened to it?
A slave girl named Thais
who danced for weeks
in camp with bare braceleted feet,
had her arms around the king’s waist
as he led a drunken army
through the gate’s dark sleeping columns.
She cried ululations. She snapped zills
with her long fingers. She carried
a fire-brand baton through jeweled doorways
and mural throne-rooms that, come morning,
would only be ash and bone and legend.
Of the dangerous things – wine, women,
and song – which is the worst?
If I were truly beautiful, if I had ocean depths
of dark hair and skin
like a sun-laid mountainside,
I would make men
broker such lasting peace.
I would lick
ideas of progress behind their ears.
DC’s vanity resolves itself at the Natl. Portrait Gallery,
&, with it, the rest of the admiring world.
Not the rock, strong-armed statues or living memorials,
but young professionals, school children on field trips,
chain-link fences penning tonight’s protests,
& reporters covering a made up story on controversial art.
Lean forward, listen to the city tradition of canned speech
performed by the shut mouths of silent paintings:
old presidents in funeral wigs, uninhabited eyes, inhuman.
No more than any place in the world do they value
this kind of chastity, solutions through discipline.
When suddenly, in the museum’s large granite floor, a child
begins to spin on her heels & all the air in the room leaves.
Dorothy in a tornado of her own making.
Arms like long reeds caught in the waves of her motion,
head spun back in an unending laugh, pure propulsion.
One tight black braid falls from her knit cap.
Otherwise, she is as silent as the last Greek Sybil.
Sneakers enact the death-defying Kali resurrection dance,
toe-to-toe, toe-to-pivoted-heel, a soft rubber thud,
quick as a string of light carried electricity down, bulb by bulb.
Kids run the edge of her spiritual sphere & dolphin leap
through the wake of her breakneck performance.
Fifteen minutes of unremitting momentum, of rabbinic zeal,
shuckling prayer back & forth &, finally, out of the body.
Part air, part memory. I wait for someone to notice
this vortex overtaking the double-doors marked EXIT.
She just wants this total instance, unrestrained action, &
spinning benign humanity. But, as soon as
the windstorm appeared, it’s gone. A woman grabs her little
hand and pulls it through a green backpack, weights
for the ballerina’s feet. Now, the city is too still,
too solid. Stones become more stone. Buildings age
another hundred years, & the small charms of this place
come to a dizzying halt. The images becomes clear:
I’d forgotten how to take a devilish possession of myself.
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