It was when they determined that I had been born dead
That my life became easier to understand. For a long time,
I wondered why rooms felt colder when I entered them,
Why nothing I said seemed to stick in anyone’s ear,
Frankly, why I never had any money. I wondered
Why the cities I walked through drifted into cloud
Even as I admired their architecture, as I pointed out
The cornerstones marked “1820,” “1950.” The only songs
I ever loved were filled with scratch, dispatches from
A time when dead ones like me were a dime a dozen.
I spent my life in hotels: some looked like mansions,
Some more like trailer parks, or pathways toward
A future I tried to point to, but how could I point,
With nothing but a hand no hand ever matched,
With fingers that melted into words that no one read.
I rehearsed names that others taught me:Caravaggio,
Robert Brandom, Judith, Amber, Emmanuelle Cat.
I got hungry the way only the dead get hungry,
The hunger that launches a thousand dirty wars,
But I never took part in the wars, because no one lets
A dead man into their covert discussions.
So I drifted from loft to cellar, ageless like a ghost,
And America became my compass, and Europe became
The way that dead folks talk, in short, who cares,
There’s nothing to say because nobody listens,
There’s no radio for the dead and the pillows seem
Like sand. Let me explain:when you’re alive,
As I understand it, pillows cushion the head, the way
A lover might soothe the heart. The way it works for me,
In contrast, is everything is sand. Beds are sand,
The women I profess to love are sand, the sound of music
In the darkest night is sand, and whatever I have to say
Is sand. This is not, for example, a political poem,
Because the dead have no politics. They might have
A hunger, but nothing you’ve ever known
Could begin to assuage it.
Copyright © 2010 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.