Three Poems

The Thinker 

[audio link]

The doctor at the Sparta clinic believes the world was created in six days.
You don’t need to go to medical school to be stupid.
A writer popular in Paris once wrote he was the most overpaid coal miner in the world.
He doesn’t sit on his ass all day for nothing.
If a physician is a glorified auto technician,
what does the illiterate rickshaw driver in Kathmandu count for?
The pole dancers in Pattaya studying Russian?
Or your aunt with Down syndrome watching Barney on VHS?
“Get a degree in being human,” moos the choir of registered cattle.
“My love is certifiable,” claims the man checking me out.
I embarrass like a school boy.
The woman buying my book bends over to exhibit her breasts.
To be so lucky to be harassed.
Ads on the internet flash like signs in a red-light district: GOD LOVES YOU.
Not nearly as gracious as “Vaya con Dios.”
I’ve thought a lot about heaven and hell -- either would suffice.
A Slovene philosopher once said, Christ’s death cursed you with your freedom.
You are free to sabotage your each and every action.
You were never you, a Zen poet once said.
For better or worse, you’re your own animal you know.
You think you can be your own thinker, too,
but you wouldn’t let me cut out your liver without a license.
But I could, you know, I could save you.
I could stoke your fire. I could start your car—though I may need six days or more.

Days Off

[audio link]

I can’t say I miss the dump,
but it was Saturday and we got to go along with Dad.
Like the summer great uncle Bill took me to the open pit mine
in his hometown of Ladysmith.
He stood there with binoculars bitching how security wouldn’t let him see the geologist.
Now Fukushima,
that’s where you want to go for the fall season,
advises Japan’s department of tourism.
They’re probably right for the wrong reasons.
The madwoman weeping on the banks of the garbage-choked Bisnumati
has more faith than the monks of Boudhanath.
Forget the sandy beaches of paradise—pack your bikini for Dakota fracking in December.
Remember that photo of Governor Thompson and his wife in a boat on the Wisconsin state map?
She had work gloves on so she wouldn’t hurt her hands holding an oar.
I’d like to see the prime minister in suit and tie and his wife in hazmat
waving from reactor Number 4.

I Was a Saintly Kid

[audio link]

The last year of grade school, I checked out from the public library a book on Chico Mendes.
I identified with the underdog
because I rooted for Randy Wright and the Green Bay Packers.
And because the boys at school called me Peckerhead because of the butch Mom gave me.
And because I wore Wal-Mart clothes.
And because I read White Fang and Call of the Wild.
And because I sucked my thumb till I was 9 and wet my bed till I was 12.
In turn, I fell in love with each girl in my class.
The first was the one with strawberry curls in kindergarten.
At night, I laid awake in the top bunk with side guard so I wouldn’t fall out
making-believe Rose was lying beside me.
The sickly one I didn’t fall for till I saw her visiting her brother at Catholic boarding school,
though I was still in love with the dancer, who wouldn’t answer my letters.
I spent hopeless hours alone trying to read Don Quixote while classmates crept out at night
to drink, fuck and fire handguns from the back of moving cars.
In college, I got a summer job at the state park selling stickers and signing up campers.
The Ho-Chunk kids that came to swim called me kunu, big brother.
In Swahili that’s kaka, which is what I often felt like in Spanish.
I mowed lawn, collected garbage, cleaned pit toilets,
and cut and cleared trees that fell in storms.
I fell asleep reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream
while the couple on the beach lit each other’s cigarettes under the stars.
There was little, if anything, I might do for the rain forests burning down.

—Adam Halbur, Saitama, JAPAN