ROCKPILE on the road / 2

David Meltzer


Brother died there was no choice 
Brother died in bed a radio near his head
repeating rosary news of a word world
abbreviated fragments casualties stocks
weather reports traffic jams sports equations
Died without thought of power
Died with a name nobody knew but we who buried it
Brother died devoured
alarming what was left of his body
bones shattered by plague and abundance
tongue and nerves retracted
shrunk by the touch of all of it
too painful
unmythic death
no martyr brother died for no known cause
slowly died before us
we don't know why
Brother came home that summer stunned by insight so right
it stopped him
drew blood from his veins
reduced him to a gnome bent over in silence
on the bed like a pea pod we let clean sheets
fall gently on his body not to break anything
it was that bad
shades drawn then doubledrawn always night
the radio repeating news twenty-four hours a day
except Sunday
when prophecy redemption damnation choirs
made brother suffocate
scream into rubberfoam-filled pillows
his mouth tore at like a dog
Brother died there was no choice
Brother returned from war with secrets he never told
everyone asking how did it feel
how many did you kill
did you see their faces
he never told them anything
but asked about wheat and rock and roll
and stopped eating meat such a mystery
upon his face it froze there
nights the garden roared open
and lovers ran off in panic
mortar shells lit freeways
he wouldn't eat shellfish they were scavengers
insides filled with curls and ribbons of poison
Brother bought a Bible which led him to Market Street to preach
apocalypse to nobody
passing around him like a lighthouse
everyone going elsewhere
while junkies and crazies watched brother preach
reaching for light beyond ruin
Brother at full moon buried the Bible
wrapped in a flag of yesterday's newspaper
Brother awoke to shave his head eyebrows pubic hairs
Brother sat naked in the backyard for days
until hair sprouts like occult runes
reappeared upon his gaunt body
Brother marched with others into a city
and saw himself later on TV
in a cell a self-announced Angel
pulled off his pants
they had to stuff a sock in his mouth
everyone took turns
Brother lost count
basic numbers erased at the Bank
he couldn't remember his Social Security number
and when the phone was put before him like a blueplate
he blanked-out his home number
they didn't know what to say to him
not even the Bank president yelling in his ear
could break the silence of vanishing numbers
racing down the drain even his address then his name
stammering letters and numbers
memory emptying out
he made sounds they turned away from
speed-popping attendants clanked a gurney into the Bank
nobody blinked as they strapped brother down
four TV cameras memorized it
Brother the lamb repaired
returned to us in a wheelchair
a hunger to build a 10 x 10 shed in the backyard
paint murals on the walls
read through a stack of paperbacks
bought from a New Age bookshop
heal and return to life
all systems cleansed complete
blank page
ready and able
Selah Selah
Brother died we know not why there was no choice
Brother died in bed a radio near his head
repeating rosary news of a word world
twenty-four hours a day
abbreviated fragments casualties stockmarket
weather report traffic jams body count sports
equations child mutilation decapitation
husband tears wife apart
wife rips out his tongue
nuns raped dogs ratpoisoned
suicide club crashes rented plane into Mt. Rushmore
Church mugs State
Buddha incorporates
it's all Real Estate
electricity turns hair white
castrates twenty-two teenage boys
buries their pale bodies in backyard lime pit
birth rate exploding expanding universe
black blood drunk neat with gin back in Rhodesia
white blood used for sign paint
Arabs eat flies in endless marketplace of empty bowls
Chinese on the march 20 million strong
ultimate weapon carried along the Great Wall's spine
multinational empires sneak away to Shangri-La
the Pentagon's lowered into underground caves
turned sideways into atomic Nautilus manned by Capt. Nemo
twenty-four hours a day
repeating rosary news of the world
near his head in bed brother died
Brother died we knew he would there was no choice
Brother in his shed tracked words to roots
no difference between barbarian or wizard
one clan scales the pyramid of another
plants a flag into the King's cracked skull
Brother went with tape recorder to streetcorners
asking questions nobody answered
what difference does it make
nobody stands a chance they said
Nazi or Maccabee
none less noble than the other
Brother tiring
Brother wore down
Brother came home that summer stunned by insight so right
it stopped him
drew blood from his veins
bent-over gnome in the bed
we let clean sheets gently fall on his body
not to break anything
the pain that bad
burned from within
shades doubledrawn
always night
the radio on
twenty-four hours
brother remained silent
eyes open
until they shut
sheets soaked with pallet of body's collapse
died there was no choice we know not why
nobody on heaven on earth to remember brother
everyone takes turns forgetting
numbers and letters
faces and shapes
twenty-four hours a day
I cannot forget

Brother died
there was no choice.

David Meltzer performs Brother
at the Aqus Café, Petaluma, CA.

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