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I stepped on a bird this morning. It had fallen between
two parked cars. My boot-heel made it make a quiet,
sobbing noise, not at all like birdsong. It was
brittle and soft at once, like matchsticks inside
chewing gum. As a child in Rome, I dreamed someday
I would be Emerson’s “transparent eyeball.” I tried
different ways to disappear: I wore a football helmet
everywhere. What I found out was: you can’t
be a transparent eyeball in a football helmet.
I feel better in the dark. I compare the dark
to chocolate: some rich, naughty substance covering
my body. That would be invisible—to be dipped in chocolate.
That’s no football helmet. What if pain turned
the bird inside out, what if its own scale were volcanic?
You’ve got to get yourself dirty to imagine it.
You’ve got to get down on all fours and bark.
I became a tiny eye to see into the eye of a sparrow,
a cricket’s eye, a baby’s eye; when I looked
at the night sky I made my eye as big as history, for
the night sky is a kaleidescope of past-times,
as noted astronomer Carl Sagan said. I watched TV and
made my eye a TV: lidless, rash gazer at whatever happens,
casting shadows of what happens for the neighbors,
whose eyes are the size of windows, my windows, and sharpen
their sight to voluptuous desire, voyeur voyeur
pants on fire. Anything half-seen becomes what’s on,
becomes the neighbors’ newscast, lotto drawing, rerun.
How do you know a child had died, except by watching
trays of casseroles brought in, the old sit down,
peoples’ bodies doing as bodies will against the wall?
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But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.
The vast hinterlands of the Global South’s cities are generating new solidarities and ideas of what counts as a life worth living.
Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.