Thursday, June 17, 2021

Multiply the Answer by Pigeons

You can’t possibly tell me what’s on the fire escape
or why the old Italian woman is playing the concertina
so soon after her husband shot himself full of needles.
You can’t tell me why the Buddha hovers over the intersection
and nobody notices the quiet karma in the traffic lights.

Take any given siren.
The emergency is only speculative
from five floors up.
Maybe Macbeth has murdered Duncan in lower Manhattan.
It’s all too much.

Divide the city by two
and multiply the answer by pigeons.
All you get are repeating decimals in Central Park.

Sometimes pedestrians freeze to death
when their feet get stuck to the sidewalk.
Who can blame them in subzero?
Their color is gone by lunchtime.

The light turns green,
the siren fades,
pigeons start pecking decimals
left on the ground by school children.

I don’t especially want answers—
I want to know what causes the questions.

For example:
a fat Buddha on a silkscreen
is holding an orange.
Is he going to throw it at the Italian woman?
Does he hate the concertina?

Did you hear  the one about the little old lady
looking for a book on Zen?
She goes into a bookstore,
stares at the clerk,
but doesn’t say much.

~William Hammett

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