Can we, can we get along?

Can we, can we get along?

Rodney King, rehab star, dies his dunce’s death & my love’s voice

is a long feather, language crunched up by grief.  Meaning tonight,

recovery means nothing, drinks sucked in like air, words lithe & loose;

some woman’s mark on his neck.  In brief rage, I send curses to the whole


city of Los Angeles & all of its bodies that broke the body of that

anonymous drunk, turning his name into the symbol that would come

to haunt the dry lips of the only firefly left in the dark field of my chest,

then wet them. Because I know once his voice climbs to the top floor


of his throat & the barkeep rolls up her sleeves & his eyes are so heavy

with blood & regret they don’t respond to light—he will spend his night

with wings drowned by whiskey, body lit, then not, then blacked out

somewhere along the summer landscape—I know this will be


the final time; locksmith dialed. I’ve come to know there is not always

a way to keep a blank space where words should be, or blank face

amid turmoil. No, there is not, in fact, any way to avoid what must come: 

a riot in the chest, squashing the beetle as it luminesces, choosing the dark.


A slightly varied version appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Summer 2013, Vol. 53 No.4 .

Update, 10/2013: Beloit Poetry Journal has nominated this poem for a Pushcart Prize.