WE WOULD RENOUNCE THE SELF COMPLETELY
for Rafﬁ Kiureghian
WE WOULD renounce the self completely, if only we knew it would take.
We are willing enough to be nothing. We don’t want to be a residue.
We look back on the Middle Ages and say they could not read.
One day we’ll be somebody’s Middle Ages; they’ll say we could not read.
To be famous, to be talked about—these are like a Classical education.
One of those things we have to achieve | the better to renounce them.
The same thing that counts as a job well done throws somebody else out of work.
And for every scientific advance we have to pay | to junk the old equipment.
“Savor pleasure and shun pain”—there’s the old mistake.
For, why must we always scorn the plentiful in favor of the rare?
You wanna win every argument? Have a good look at an onion.
For, the bricklayer of that beautiful minaret knew how to stack in perfect circles.
Show me no more equations, for I shall no longer discuss mathematics
With persons for whom solutions are found by recourse to numbers;—
Oh, when shall I ever be better understood than I am, right this moment?
RAFFI, try never. For only in the present moment have I found my perfect reader.
EVERY NUMBER’S A LIAR
IF YOU had a million quarters, you’d have a quarter of a million dollars.
But a roll of quarters is just twenty bucks, and an empty hand is a debt.
We all love that classic story—not that we care about Christmas.
We like the idea that a man is his watch, and that a woman (his wife) is her hair.
If you are twenty-one today, kid, this is not your twenty-first year.
And this is your third, not your second decade. Get it? Every number’s a liar.
You ask me if it rings a bell? It does. It does, but just barely.
It rings a bell the size of a Christmas light, on the other side of the parking garage.
I remember making a delivery, coming up a hill, and hearing sirens.
The other side of the road was a perfect rush-hour log jam;—
Suddenly, two ambulances blow by me, going the wrong way, on my side of the road.
Shot by me, to my right and left: they were driving on the wrong side of the road!
If I had been in either of their lanes, when those two ambulances crested that hill,
I would be molecules now. I’d be particles. And you, RAFFI, would be me.
ANTHONY MADRID lives in Chicago. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI Online, Boston Review, Fence, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, Lana Turner, LIT, Poetry, Washington Square, and WEB CONJUNCTIONS. His first book, called I AM YOUR SLAVE NOW DO WHAT I SAY, was published by Canarium Books, April 2012.