Aug. 22, 2010
Oh, little crown of iron forged to likeness of imam’s face,
what are you doing in this circle of flaming inspectors and bakers?
And little burnt dinner all set to be eaten
(and crispy girl all dressed with scarf for school),
what are you doing near this shovel for dung-digging,
hissing like ice-cubes in ruins of little museum?
And little shell of bank on which flakes of assets fall,
can't I still withdraw my bonds for baby?
Good night moon.
Good night socks and good night cuckoo clocks.
Good night little bedpans and a trough where once there was an inn
(urn of dashed pride),
what are you doing beside little wheelbarrow
beside some fried chickens?
And you, ridiculous wheels spinning on mailman’s truck,
truck with ashes of letter from crispy girl all dressed with scarf for school,
why do you seem like American experimental poets going nowhere
on little exercise bikes?
Good night barbells and ballet dancer’s shoes
under plastered ceilings of Saddam Music Hall.
Good night bladder of Helen Vendler and a jar from Tennessee.
(though what are these doing here in Baghdad?)
Good night blackened ibis and some keys.
Good night, good night.
(And little mosque popped open like a can, which same as factory of
flypaper has blown outward, covering the shape of man with it (with
mosque): He stumbles up Martyr’s Promenade. What does it matter
who is speaking, he murmurs and mutters, head a little bit on fire.
Good night to you too.)
Good night moon.
Good night poor people who shall inherit the moon.
Good night first editions of Das Kapital, Novum Organum,
The Symbolic Affinities between Poetry Blogs and Oil Wells,
and the Koran.
Good night nobody.
Good night Mr. Kent, good night, for now you must
soon wake up and rub your eyes and know that you are dead.
Kent Johnson, an MA graduate from UWM, where he studied with Jim Hazard, Bill Harrold, James Liddy, and Jim Chapson (with the last two at Axel’s Bar, during the late 1970s), grew up in Uruguay and worked, during the 1980s, as a literacy teacher in rural regions of Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution. He is author, editor, or translator of twenty-some books and chapbooks, including three collections of poetry abroad in translation, most recently Homage to the Last Avant-Garde, from which this selection is taken. Two new books will appear this year. Translated into a dozen languages and appearing in more than twenty countries, his work has been selected for awards from Pushcart Book of the Month, the Illinois Arts Council, PEN, and The National Endowment for the Arts. In 2004, he was named State Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Community College Board. He lives in Freeport, Illinois, USA.