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Problema 2

“My Father they have killed me.”

—Chinua Achebe

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.

from DigestFind more by Gregory Pardlo at the library

Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Gregory Pardlo Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.