Bellday Books
Bellday Books
In Manhattan, The Oracles Do Not Lie To Him

This time, the face of the Blessed Virgin
staring up from a folded matchbook, four
draws to a poker hand studding her cardboard
gown, the fifth card hidden inside with all
her fire, a two of clubs, and down her back
an ad for business school, 1-800-
A-NEW-YOU. He doesn’t even smoke, a mistake

he sat at that table in the first place. Still,
shimmering incidents track him in the park
like the eyes in haunted houses:  A bunting
talks to him in code, sweet-sweet, chew-chew,
spit. The bench’s grime scrawls fluent
Mandarin along the back of the sniveling man,
his hand out even in sleep. By the time

he reaches the great lawn, he’s grown comfortable
at the center of meaning, the crux
of the mandala. He wonders if giant
monks drizzle sand on the city at night,
if Navajo brujos spin history
out of a hidden cave in Arizona. Who’s
responsible, he wants to know and thank,

for the lamb shawarma at Mamoun’s
in the Village? He wants to know who pulled
the trigger on the train that very morning:
whose hand, whose hand in the sky, whose hand
above the hand? Someone in orbit could look down
on one and all and see nothing, or trace
the golden hemline of the buddha. All around him,

boys and girls play softball, football, then, farther away,
lacrosse until the lawn runs out and forest
begins. How do children, metaphors for humans
they never become, steady themselves
so easily on the limber blades of grass and walks
slick with fallen leaves and wayward spray
from fountains? How do bunting and jay

and squirrel, metaphors for motion and heart,
put up with each question and still
find their way? On a gray rock inside
the green woods, the man in a tuxedo
sings Italian to the secretive
rodent, the feral cat, all the uncatalogued
night species, the budding virus and bacterium,

each of them waiting for its colored
grain of sand. No one chases him toward
the tenor. Still, he’s moving in that direction,
a wrinkle on the great lawn, a pixel
on the cornea of hovering, dispassionate
earthmakers, a blip on cave radar. He
thinks he knows this song the way he knew

a coat he once stepped into and drove
a car inside to another country.
He drank the local beer and listened
to its one river. He sampled
the national dish. When he returned, he never
noticed how his talk had changed—all his friends
swore to it—or how the animals

looked back at him when he whistled
the familiar tune out his door, under
his breath on the subway, past that holy
ashtray, the newsstand of doubt, past pilgrims
colliding with their grief, making his own
invisible trail to the center, long past the time
he hung that old skin back in his closet.


-Richard Robbins

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