No temple or tomb; there is only a coffin
as shiny and antiseptic as a new car,
a few maudlin flowers in vases.
Everything has already taken place.
Rather than sacrificial scatterings hurled
into the air or censors swinging,
only a thread of cigarette smoke
punctuates the character's compulsive monologue,
wafts up, and dissipates.
The play's story is oddly ancient.
At some point, as it quietly turns
through its installments, it whispers "Gotcha!"
The welter of ambivalence through which each
has known the world will begin to slip
away: a curtain in a breeze; an angel
arched over each of our ears,
the two of them murmuring our name.
Back to the original night of times.
Back to the original mover unmoved.
In that last movement of the poem,
a spotless stone lamb or two
will nestle at the soles of our bare feet.
In Iran, the table of Allah
is blue, flat, and heavy.
Among the children of Hagar,
Khadisha, and Fatima,
there are those who would rise
if they could. Besides the sword,
there's a pile of stones,
a beam above the bed
of a truck, a pair of blindfolds,
a glass of dark wine.
In the United States, to placate
ignorance and hate,
the Feds have gas and a syringe;
they provide a last meal.
One star, then two.
Unable to follow our rising up,
they float like flakes of cork,
in front of everyone.
Scott Hightower's third collection, Part of the Bargain, received the 2004 Hayden Carruth Award. His translations from Spanish have garnered him a Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. He is a contributing editor to The Journal. His reviews frequently appear in Coldfront Magazine and Boxcar Poetry Review. A native of central Texas, he lives in New York City and Madrid, Spain. He teaches at NYU, and has taught at Drew, F.I.T., Fordham, and Poets House.