In the Preamble, Gouverneur Morris refers, poetically,
to the “domestic tranquility” shattered by rebelling
veterans who, unable to pay mounting war taxes, confronted
the state for having seized their homes. They argued
their point with bayonets fixed to their flintlock rifles. Point being
that blood should have been enough, as it was in their barter
economy, to square their debt in the Revolution.
Morris could not abide an economy that imagined exchange
in such discrete terms. For him, every shilling appraised on an altar
of speculative devotions, every home subject to the metaphoric
notion of home, the value of tranquility proportionate
to the power one has to gerrymander the metaphor.
Consider the dear evangelists who canvass our homes
saturday mornings, who share their pamphlets and good
words, their domestic concerns swelling with their
longing for the fellowship of us. spinoza gives us
this reason not to opt off of their call lists: The good
which a man desires for himself and loves, he will love
more constantly if he sees that others love it also;
he will therefore endeavor that others should love it also.
Be tolerant of their attention, their pursuit of agape,
a planet-sized chip they bear on their shoulders
from house to house, door to door, welcome
or not, blessing whatever they find inside.
I finally friended my brother.
It may be we will never
speak again. Why speak
when we have this crystal ball
to judge one another’s lives?
I imagine this is what
the afterlife will be like.
I’m ghost, we say
instead of goodbye.
It is nearly July in Brooklyn and already
the fireworks from Chinatown warehouses
are bursting in stellar fluorescence like tinsel-tied
dreadlocks above the Bushwick tenements and the brownstone
blocks of Bed-Stuy now littered with the skittering
décollage of wrappers exploded across blacktops and handball
courts, playgrounds and sidewalks knuckled by tree roots.
My neighbor’s teenaged boys argue who possesses the greatest
patriotism. Just as pit bulls chained to their fists imply
their roughly domesticated manhood,
they seek to demonstrate their patriotism with bottle
rockets, spinners, petards, these household paraphernalia of war.
The competition is vigorous, draws spectators and blood.
When the smoke clears, no charges
are filed. We neighbors waver distractedly a moment
before tracing our paths back into our quiet homes.
Copyright © 2014 Gregory Pardlo
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.