the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Allen C. Fischer

A Wax Man

Platz of the unrepentant, the wax museum
has few empty berths. Yet the line is long,
the application process tedious. A man must
tell everything, even that which he can't recall.
He must strip naked and bear witness
to his own anatomy — how else to replicate the body
down to every mole and follicle, bruise and
scruple. How else to exhume his rectitude and
recreate its moral fiber? Doubt has no place here,
nor compromise. In defiance, the mission of
a wax man becomes meticulous, to flock body & soul,
not to change, no matter what.

Within, his template spies like a staunch candle
and shadows every whisper.
Smooth and unflinching on the surface,
the wax man may be about to come apart,
but few notice. A creed gathers
around him like a crowd at an accident.
Governance springs a leak, banks take on
debt, yet the hymn in his tea is sweet.
His slick facade presides over the public
with the pale monotony of a plastic angel.
His smile says hello. Fish hooks tweak the air.
The message is in the body, the fire in the wick.


Ballistics of a Demagogue

As though his words were
lemon-shaped with the deep
contours of a grenade,
when they hit, meaning flies apart.
Suddenly the air is full
of free syllables and the shrapnel
of shriek and fear, as
word after broken word
reaches people's eardrums.

No pin is pulled. A demagogue's
moment isn't housed in the mechanics
of mutilation as percussion cap sets off
the main charge. Yet when his message is
heard, it inflames far beyond the flight of metal,
reaches beyond the weather of a bomb.
As his words go off, millions roll over.
Within the body politic,
disintegration is instant.


Venture Capitalist

If air could be mined for ore,
some redneck would do it.
He'd blow a hole in the sky
big as Bisbee's pit and
haul the precious lode away.

If a cloud's dark foliage
could be clear-cut, some jack
would find a way. He'd lumber every
storm front of its wilderness and
stack the thunder bolts like cord wood.

If we could lie on air like
sun bathers on a beach,
the sky would litter with bodies.
There'd be signs announcing lots
for sale and the coming of helium condos.

With so many people in the air,
labor pools would swarm
like birds in September,
and behind some cloud banks
sweat shops would teem.

And if anything were not tied down
or secured by armed patrols,
there'd be theft and vandalism
and across the night sky, tracers
would fire like shooting stars.

But most of all the climate would probe
the soul. From the cockpits of the stars,
the word would go out on the backs of light years.
Believers would invest billions, for what could be
more promising than air, more profitable than

something made of nothing?



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