Friday, March 11, 2011

Theory of Tragedy

When the quake begins when does it end?
Tsunami follows. If it happens here
the rich will be sure to capitalize.

I was walking around New Orleans.
It takes a long while to go all the way.
You have to stop to look over the girls.

I’m drinking now. Again. The hurricanes
have a way of getting you back to Start
after Stop has worn out its Unwelcome.

You gotta blame it on something, don’t you?
Li Po drank to write poetry, I’d bet.
I don’t know how the Chinese spell his name.

Ray bought a TV just for The Saloon.
You could watch the tragedy happening
from your table, drinking, killing time . . .

Business today, any day, was slow.
Ray said: Johnny, I hate to interrupt
but’re you still workin’ after I'm off?

I said, You better take it easy too.
He said, I’m drinkin' so I can stay home.
And I thought, There are other tragedies.

Once the rich and gifted fell from great heights.
Shakespeare got that idea from the Greeks
Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides.

Global warming, climate change, whatever
has no name; nor El Nino, La Nina . . .
Only now is the earth like the human

in Leonardo’s drawing of the man
straddling space, touching the poles and edges
of the circle he measured the world with . . .

That brings us back to TV, the earthquakes
San Francisco, L.A., Chile, Haiti
endured before Japan, and I forgot

Iran, Afghanistan . . . the Madras Fault’s
where Ira’s only other living kin
is, too damned cold for tragedy to touch.

Upper Mississippi River Valley,
that's the place to die. Only Indians
have tasted its waters of tragedy.

But what if you're not even Ojibwe?
I ask myself. Ray declares, You can’t beat
life here, if the levees hold. You should know,

The grief you gave and got other places,
you knew better than desert this city,
its music, food, women, laughter, and joy.

(11 March 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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