Bob Herz
The Monkey

A girl I lived with then (you remember the terrible January of that year) rushed home
           to tell me several things not reported during the night-flights:
She said: A shadow fell on the supermarket checkout line, & suddenly the people were discovered
           to have no faces.
Yes, I know, I said.
She said: A train was found abandoned, no record of the passengers or crew, only the slow sound
           of its engine beating like a human heart.
Yes, I know, I said.
She said: The drop of blood buried at the heart of philosophy was seen begging on the streets for            spare change.
Yes, I know, I said.
She said: The statistics were uncovered burrowing into the mountain, & could not explain
          themselves any more.
Yes, I know, I said.
She said: The rain that fell as we slept was found to match exactly the inches civilization
           dropped during the night.
Yes, I know, I said.
She went away after that.

Now I knew none of this before she told me.
I had to say those things because I knew I was being recorded.
(She lives now with the Commissioner of this spirit-Gulag which is our time, our place, our life).

These days, every relationship is a court. You’re judged every day you love.
As long as you’re good in bed maybe you’ll be ok for awhile; but do, say or think one thing
           wrong—one thing opposed to the zeitgeist—
You’re dragged before the court of the people,
The latest Danton-poseur judges whether your spirit is worthy of our present-day revolt
           of the masses,
The latest Robespierre-poseur judges whether you sufficiently appreciate the virtue of rags
           enshrined in our miserable lives.
Worst of all, the Trotsky-poseur moderates the whole thing on TV.

That’s why, on the day she came home & said, “I love you, do you love me?” I got out of there
           as fast as I could.
Already my name was hissing through the crowd like a common cold,
Already I saw myself circling leftward through the streets like a monkey chained
           to an abstraction.

The Year Of The Masses

First I went to the counting house where the accountants of night index
The hours of darkness lived through, & those still to come.
It was spring when I went. We had a beer together & I walked on,

Following the barbed wire that crosses Main, past
The busted lights & the red graveyards of the shop windows,
I came to the courtrooms of night, & watched the comedians tell jokes about the rational life.
They were very angry men: I think they still had hope.

The Judges of Night finally got there late last summer, & I saw the masses of the mad divided
           from the masses of the saints
& how when the division was done there were no saints.

In August I saw the loveless couples divided from the others,
Then all were sent to the same hell.

In early September the poets & warriors were judged guilty of the crime of using the same words.

October had begun its first huge storms when the great leaders were judged guilty of loving
           mankind only in the abstract,
& the lovers condemned for loving only some.

In November I saw the heroes judged guilty of choosing sides.

Just then it was December & I saw case of the plain good man thrown out because the law
           contains no definition of the good.
The judges were clearly pleased with themselves after this decision,
But by then I was pretty hungry.

Outside again, my neighbor explained that night is a flying island we see only the bottom
           of as it crosses our part of the hemisphere.
I said to him: Fear must be the engine that keeps it going.