“My Father they have killed me.”
Consider throwing the baby from the window a figure
of speech barely reaching across the fence separating
expression from intent. For all our sake, I tell my wife,
I’m going to throw the baby out the window now,
asIrise from the sofa in response to the midnight
wail of another footie uprising heard among
the moans and whines of our neighbors’ appliances
and the various alarms of the city’s eternal self-soothing.
The ancient hardwood floor in the bedroom upstairs
groaning under thirty-pound footsteps for the fourth time
tonight. it is nearly July in Brooklyn. Windows are open.
Consider the neighbors grimacing, pillowing
their ears against the little one’s battle cry.
Because I am teaching euripides in the fall, I am
reading him now between commercial breaks, and
imagining far-flung Brooklyn quorumed in the armories
and in streets beneath the gingkoes and buttonwoods,
crowds gathered to mandateIquiet my lamb eternally.
What if my neighbors read my hyperbole as oath, made me
keep my word? Who would I betray? Would I smuggle
my mewling daughter to Canada, flee this land? I do love
Brooklyn so. I have lent a neighborly ear to elderly
West indians on the B44 from Bed-Stuy to Flatbush.
Heard them lament Yankee reluctance to use
old-country discipline, which, they claim, is the only real
solution to this climate of “gang foolery.” Spanking. Yes.
The sacramental rod tanning backsides of the elect few,
a ritual hazing to appease the divinity of the unknowable
and omnipresent urban populace. Consider the vanity
of sacrifice, the paper tiger of blind devotion fanning
the dander of a timid hand. Consider Agamemnon,
victim of pride and contagion, raising that hand
against his child at Aulis, the inexorable machinery of tribalism
grinding away the primacy of paternal love. Beware the prophet,
the genie, the divine stranger who, with a wink, unmasks your
arrogant self-images, who finds the harmonic note that gathers
your most discordant emotions toward the mute
accumulation of will. What I do this night
I do for you, Brooklyn, I offer,
as the banister whimpers beneath my trembling hand.
Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.