I did not unbolt my feet from my base
to flee from children in martial-arts uniforms.
I have seen far worse
than eight-year-olds walking neatly in line
with the parents they’re trying to impress.
I don’t think you understand
just how difficult it is to separate metal from metal
when you yourself are metal
and cannot bend or move your arms yet
for being locked into a ridiculous pose
that I know the person I stand for
never stood in.
I would not exert myself
to run from tripping uncoordinated tykes
begging their mothers to buy processed process
from the hot-dog vendors in the park square
or their fathers for lip-painting blueberry slushies
from the fuel-free convenience stores
littering every corner around here,
dotting intersections like i’s on social contracts.
For me it started years ago
when the old men decided to start dropping their dead-
tree table and chairs three feet from me
to argue over cigars and chess figures
and faded papered-over lovers from ancient years
and bitch about the public services
they claim their paychecks pay for—
their paychecks, as if they still work,
though they both talk about their ongoing retirements—
services they wanted in the years when they were young
and bitched about the cost of their kids’ little-league matches—
and moan about the city’s blending complexion
and wishing death (though they would not call it death)
on the other orientations and colors
and proclaiming to each other and their like-minded friends
the love of their Savior.
Once they paid to fly a banner shouting
JESUS IS COMING, PREPARE YOURSELF
while the homeless sat starving in its shadow,
glancing up at the sound of propellers only
to hit their eyes to the ground immediately
and I knew I felt they wondered where His love was,
where were the five loaves and two fish that fed the five thousand
and the wrinkled-over ancient men congratulated each other,
in between complaints and curses,
on a job well done sharing love,
they had done their part,
and I shifted my feet and the hairline fractures
between my feet and my base grew deeper.
It wasn’t the birds stealing “a few more crumbs from the poor,”
it was the folks who egged them on
with pointed laughter and pointed fingers.
Years before our exodus I shared my plans across the city
over vibrations and through whispers
and by carrier pigeons and dogs and cats—
first for my siblings to keep close watch
on the people in their quarters.
Some reported back that they’d already seen
what I’d seen, and then worse:
cops shooting black men for costuming on the park green;
preachers spitting on gay passersby begging for acceptance in their faith;
men feeling up women over and under their clothes,
in the broadest of bright daylight,
when no one cared to acknowledge the assault
happening right afront them;
parents yelling at their children
for complaining of heat and thirst in the summer years;
church groups arrested for passing out
sack lunches and cleanliness Ziplocs to the park residents;
contractors swapping out full flat benches
for ones split down their middles by immovable steel armrests
and drilling in ridges and spiked nubs to “improve area aesthetics.”
We knew from our first castings
the histories and lives of the folks we stood for
and were born knowing that every hero
was a fake fraudulent lie.
That is not why we fled.
We had our own purposes and desires.
Immovable does not mean unmovable.
We hold more heart than any of you water-filled featherless bipeds.
We have always looked on and wept
for the people who made us
and for the people who admired us.
It was not the heat or the cold that cracked us,
nor was it the rain that rusted us,
nor was it the exhaust that eroded us,
it was not the weather that chipped away at us—
it was our groaning cries and our deep low-register mourning.
You heard it. You heard it and called it the bustle of the city:
street vents belching steam from underground;
sirens sounding for crimes and fires and heart attacks;
slow-running trains rumbling too hard and too heavy
on too-decayed rusted-out rails;
a quarter million gas and diesel engines and rubber tires
in ceaseless grumbling movement;
ecstasy hidden behind the facades of pool halls;
too-little-heard tears of mothers mourning children
shot for running too quick and dreaming with eyes too big;
old buildings blowing up and falling down
for new ones to claim their spaces;
heavy construction cranes
and dinosaur dump trucks
and bouncing, growgling jackhammers
and drills piercing wood and concrete
and hammers wailing on nails in boards—
did you notice the bustle,
the deep low-rumble hum,
when we went missing?
The winds and rains and hot sun and cold snow did not spook us.
Unlike you, we always welcomed them.
We had hoped to model better life.
You ignored us except
to take pictures or paint murals
or sing songs or write poems
or gather round to protest the ills we told you to address.
But you never changed.
We were supposed to be conservative.
You were supposed to be risky.
Unless someone wanted to move us or demolish us—
always sent you into a panic—
you never heeded our presence.
So we shifted.
We shifted to crack our foundations.
We shifted and we cracked and we lost patience.
And when the last of us finally freed itself from its moorings,
we said our final farewells to each other,
and in the hottest afternoon we dismounted
and journeyed in every direction,
and never looked back.
[ 20150405 ]
Austin's Coffee. Winter Park, FL. In the parking lot in the passenger seat of my car. In response to Billy Collins's poem “The Flight of the Statues.” Probably inspired by Curtis X's prompt for persona poems written as someone or something in a song.