The Patron Saint of FutilityUntitled #170Better Than CalculusThe Greater GoodI.N.L.A. (Iraqi National Library & Archive)Laureate

The Patron Saint of Futility

This is me wishing the wish
of the pessimist, rubbing the
well-bent back of hope, seeking
out the patron saint of futility
with this one request, simple
as it may sound – I want it
all to remain as it is, every
molecule in its perfect place,
not a word misspoken, not a
day too long, a pristine loop
of the way it should be, with
then and when as the bookends
of now.

Untitled #170

I still remember the first time
that I read "The Delta of Venus",
daily bus rides about who did
what to whom and for how long.
I read it hot-bloodedly and eagerly
but well-aware of the riders behind
me. forever expecting a nun at
every stop, damning me for reading
such filth, shaking her head at
my moral decay. When I read it
now, and often enough, its at home,
near a window with my back against
a wall and not a single nun in sight.

Better Than Calculus

"Was it better than calculus?"
I asked her afterwards, referring
to her new-found love, because
calculus, I’m assuming, never
argues or disagrees, never snaps
when its in a mood or plays the
stereo too loudly, never appears
at eight o’clock on a Sunday
morning with that look in its
eye, never acts more full of
itself than necessary.
"Yes", she sleepily replied,
"it was better than calculus"
and with that we drifted
off, our bodies still fused
in the shape of some ancient
mathematical sign, a formula
to be applied some other time.

The Greater Good

“Richard says, “Hey man, let’s dress up
like cops – imagine what we can do.”

       -    Television, “Venus”

Imagine, indeed.
Aviator shades, shiny badge, jackboots,
helmet and gloves, over-sized cycles
purchased at auction, saddlebags filled
with all sorts of illicit and who would
             Who would suspect, knowing
that power is always safe in such confident
hands, might and right and the formula
of allegation? Who would guess that
something is other than it seems?
Who and why and how?
                                   So, yes, let’s
ride the back alleys and make trouble
for ourselves, let’s lie and cheat and
steal in the guise of the greater good,
let’s trade in fear and hope and trust,
belt to hip, hand to holster, aiming
for the night and making the most
of what illusion affords us.

(Iraqi National Library & Archive)

Overdue fines, I’d guess, are no
big concern for librarians in Baghdad.
Nor are unruly patrons or pages torn
from misfiled books, not food in
the study rooms or a transfer left
on the hold shelf a little too long.

A staff of four hundred and fifty
and not a week without a death
threat, ninety visitors on a good
day, none on a bad one, the building
a magnet for mortar shells, punishment
for the crime of information.

Mutanabi Street destroyed, the book
market bombed, the sky a tumble of
paper and grief, “The Complete Works
of Saddam Hussein” stacked in the
corner, waiting for the translation
of a tongue perhaps more forgiving
than ours and the librarians continue
to report for duty, counting each
morning as its own version of success.


Someone make me poet laureate
of the nation - I'm not the
army-joining sort but I'll
happily serve the country
with my half-assed rhymes.

Failing that, I'd assume the
state position flitting from
town to town to disseminate
my guttural gospel, my
Loosely hinged rants.

Or, perhaps, the cities
official scribe, rotating
amongst the schools, sharing
with the kids just how far
a portion of a Masters Degree
in history can take you
these days.

What about the speaker of
the neighborhood, a tour
from house to house, raiding
a refrigerator here, catching
the lady of the house in the
shower there, all for the sake
of my depreciated two cents.

If nothing else, I can claim
laureate of my own house
but, as no one else here
writes such things, the office,
it seems, falls to me by a
simple default.