Saturday, December 16, 2006


I'd give anything to be lost in a foreign land.
Nirvana; to not understand
a single word of what was said around me,

instead of listening to every morning's chatter
about the weather, or rush hour eulogies
for TV doctors who died last night.

In my sweet land of Babel, all speech
is birdsong, Latin chanting ringing off cloister stones,
sound of the surf running up the shingle to my toes,

unlike my own hometown, full of words and alleged meanings,
where an old couple argues in the checkout line
and someone sits behind me on the train and recounts
an appendectomy entirely in curses and run-on sentences.

Does that sound mean-spirited? Please understand,
I love humanity, in the abstract.
And I'd love humanity even more
if I could stop running into it
at the bus stop, at the barber's, at the bar,
rabbiting on about nothing at all.

Let me stop you right there. I'm perfectly aware
that I've been overheard on my cellphone
holding forth on minor matters and major league
scores, or sharing only the most important details
of what the dog did last night, and someone, maybe you,
has listened in, and judged me, too.

It's simply this; once, on Broadway
a ragged man caught me by the sleeve
and leaned in too close, wheezing
"I can see that you, too, have heard the whipoorwhills
chuffling like mad balloons on the jungle-gym ruins
of long-gone imperial Mars."

Every morning, I tuck a folded dollar bill
into my pocket, hoping to see him again
and continue our conversation.

Mark Aiello