for Philip Levine
In the 7-11 parking lot, white boys are terrorized
By a Lincoln stereo punching out 98-decibel jazz. The scene
Reminds them unconsciously of high-art cinema shot
In ferocious blue illumination: the deep wax job
Of the Continental telegraphing the luster of the streetlights.
The stone-colored lawyer in an elegant linen jacket
Leaning on the fender while the digital self-service pump
Carries on its decisive artifice. Turned up this loud
Past midnight. Miles Davis is a cool apocalypse
Like nothing these boys on stolen skateboards ever entered,
A neighborhood in which no one remembers the depth
Of the aether where antifreeze and motor oil pool.
Or the white ghosts of congressmen obliterating angels' hairs
With their otherworldly logic. This is the music they play
In the tunnels of the underground where subways run
From Cambodia to East LA. In the barrios, children speak
The subjunctive—If this were bread, could one eat it?—
And the love of God is a drug, like the love of death.
The abuela behind the 7-11 counter shuffles
And lays out the cards. Her abuela taught her this.
Five of clubs, three of diamonds: Every low card
Whispers its password and its alibi. There's an occult
Future here. Somebody makes it. Somebody loves somebody
And crosses the great water for a promise, on a dare.
Rodgers & Hart. The boys on their skateboards listen
To the trumpet whose language nobody taught them.
Mi enamorada graciosa, it might be singing. Mi corazon.
One morning somebody wants to blast somebody's lights
Into a pure cobalt vapor floating at the Pleiades' heart.
One morning the cash register and the Lotto machine are eclipsed
By a mist of tear-gas-shadowed perfume, the exhaust of the LAPD.
And one morning—Neruda made it past tense in invincible Spanish
That could not translate Franco into hell, or contradict
The bullets that distorted Lorca—Everything is aflame.
One morning the fires/Come out of the earth/Devouring people.
from Walt Whitman in Hell
Other T.R. Hummer poems posted @ Against Oblivion:
"Fallacy of Accident"
"The End of History"