You can see it in their eyes,
much as you can see any thing
if you look hard enough.
It's not hard for the villagers
who wear the expressions of their ancestors,
long since resolved to the
tenets of progress. Honest in the face of deceit,
through the duplicity
of all that you bring them—lotions and
granola, designer shampoos,
mirrors from the First World laid on a pillow.
They understand the semantics
of charity; they will grant you your pity.
But don’t pity the villagers.
They are blind to your wealth,
your laissez-faire waste.
Because when the scythe blade swings
the machete descends,
you will run from the riverbed parched—
Cortez, reviled, blood sticks to your fingers.
Not this for which I stand:
this malevolence of arms,
this single finger thrust into the air.
Brought to the cliff’s edge
we are taught the water’s demise,
but dare not to bear witness
to the foam’s bold coupling
with the broken black shore.
Always this lesson, this
I continue to want
more from two souls
united by flesh--
a pact between mortals
still scared of the dark.
It is this for which I stand,
for which I continue to dream:
to be mortal and believe,
to learn laughter between screams.
[first published in Powhatan Review, 2004]
We refuse to see that we will not see,
and that keeps us safely from guilt.
Ask the station-man, the utility man, the man
in the cell block. Ask the master of the Hummer,
but he won’t recognize either
this need that defines your disorder:
the blight of the first world
that rips flesh from the third.
So drink up your martini
and suck dry the fruit,
slip the noose around the neck of the natives
and strip the bark clean--
thatch hut torched and the naked cheek turned;
reap and then reap and then reap and then burn.
[first published in Out of Line, 2006]
James Gage is a freelance writer and editor who has published poems in Main StreetRag, Inkwell, Northern New England Review, Powhatan Review, The Iconoclast, Out of Line, and others. A lifelong native of Vermont, he is increasingly interested in the Vermont Independence movement.
(author retains copyright)