Elaine Equi: Four poems

  Elaine Equi

  Four poems

  Ode to Weird

Emily Dickinson was weird.
Fernando Pessoa was weird.

All poets are weird
even when their poems
try to appear normal.

Macbeth’s weird sisters
stirring up trouble’s
unsavory soup:

‘Just be yourself
and you’ll be king.’

Weird always wins and loses in the end.

  Bystander Effect

We do not live up to our potential,
but neither does the city, the country,
the world. At the end of the day,
there’s always a lot of unfinished business,
and certain smells that grow stronger
in the dark. A mixture of blood and earth,
clay and moonlight — they rouse sleepwalkers
and set them on their nocturnal errands.

What if everything were really run
by a secret cabal of superheroes?
What is it that turns history into
a comic book or costume drama — as if
we couldn’t bear to believe it happened?

No, we didn’t do it.
We were just watching TV,
counting our chickens,
gambling in the casino
of the stock market. It wasn’t us.
We didn’t pull the trigger.
We didn’t drop the bomb.
We didn’t assassinate that man we never met.

  Stopped by a Light

There are far
too many of us
to pursue across

galaxies receding
in rearview mirrors.

Cars drowned
in pools of darkness,

leaving the mind’s
engine to idle.

Across the narrow
divide of a thin line,
scenes crystallize,

splinter personalities
flare up into being –

a couple fuming,

a bored child
swiping a screen,

that woman, frozen,
with perfect spit-curls
and vermillion lips,

her cigarette dangling
just so.

  Like a Blue Dogmatism

The sky became
a sort of religion.

Was it ever empty —

or did it always
carry the perfume
and contagion of ideas?

And if so, whose?

We say ‘ours’
as if the answer
were obvious,

but lately there is
room for doubt


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