Thursday, April 30, 2009

Verdictgo

I pass it sometimes
on the freeway,
the chain bus,
a staff of bars along
the windows, flashing
a big gold
badge

back and forth
between the cold walls
of county courts
and county lockup,
property of the state
say the gavels
and guns

diesel fumes
and polished chrome,
white paint
and black glass
seals the innocent,
the guilty,
the sellers,
the shooters

sitting shackled
and silent
as we throw it into 5th
and pop the clutch -
remembering what a wheel
felt like
in their hands,
the radio on,
the smell of
someone
beside them

passing the chain bus
I remember
the night we ran
down railroad tracks
and ducked

into bottlebrushes
with the boombox
and beer cans,
watching the flashlights
bounce around
the bridge

getting kicked out of
dodger stadium
for drinking because
somehow
their hands
in my pockets
missed the powder

buying what I had no business
buying
driving when I had no business
driving
to go where I had no business
going

the stupid buzz I stole for
the backbiting affliction I stole for
the eventual dispossession
I stole for;

I had no answer then.
I have no answer now.

maybe it’s a single moment
or a missed call,
a friend of a friend,
or a bullet
through the window;
maybe it’s what time you
leave the party or
the streets you take
to get home

And then
one morning
you are in a chain bus
on your way to court
to face the music

or in a car
on your way to work
with the music
blowing out the window

and you are driving into the sun,
letting the rhythm
of the ride
keep you numb,
and you carelessly
glance over

and all at once
the air
in your lungs
turns to ice
and the ice
in your eyes
starts to melt
as you think

there is no real reason
why that
should not
be me.

19 comments:

Aniket said...

Amazing Amaaaaazzzing!

"buying what I had no business
buying
driving when I had no business
driving
to go where I had no business
going"

"your lungs
turns to ice
and the ice
in your eyes
starts to melt
as you think"

It'll be the whole piece if I keep selecting fav. lines.

Now I wonder too "there is no real reason
why that
should not
be me."

soulintention said...

Excellent and true, it could be anyone of us in the bus or on the street, and to think we are so different most of only need to think back to the time when we thought we were individuals only to realize we are all part of the big picture of life --- very well said

S.L. Corsua said...

Jaw-dropping-interesting story to share through a poem. Loved all the details (in the first six stanzas, which blew me away) making the piece grounded on reality, making it hit close to home (especially as regards stanza 11 up to the ending).

One of your best, Joaquin. One I'll remember. ;) Cheers.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Joaquin! Worldly and gritty - great visceral engagement here. It is such a collective thought - (given the things I did, how did I get away with them - how did I escape punishment or accidental death?) Strong emphatic effect by your use of anaphora - as with all your work! Every word pulls its weight! Just an impressive poem!

Reminds me of the beat poets' work, (Kerouac, Ginsburg, Burroughs)

I am always astonished by the originality and honesty of your work. Your voice remains strong, steady, and clear in poetry blog-world.

RachelW said...

Very nice. My favourite bit was how you played with the music...

And then
one morning
you are in a chain bus
on your way to court
to face the music

or in a car
on your way to work
with the music
blowing out the window

trooping with crows said...

(Ohhhh, here we go again, Mom got on here and mentioned Kerouac which was EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO SAY! ERRR! I'm going to start checking this thing at 5am on Thursdays)
Anyway.
Totally captivating. We are so quick to judge others with skeletons in our own closets. I wish to know what inspired this. You have such a wide range, Joaquin. I never know what you're going to write about which is why you are are an exciting and skilled writer.

This is like a narrative in the beginning of a cool indie film with Sam Elliot reading it. Well, hate to always repeat myself but umm, LOVED it!

trooping with crows said...

ps. I want to paint everything that you write!

lafemmereva said...

and from now you have got urself a Thursday regular!!! Watta poem fix!!!

Karen said...

joaquin - This poem captures a couple of feelings that are part of me, one from childhood, and one more recent.

The first is summarized by a saying of my father's: "There but for the grace of God go I." It could have been me, had I been handed other circumstances in my life. Had I had other parents, made other choices, listened to other voices. But for the grace of God...

The other is much more pessimistic, and unfortunately, I'm thinking it more and more. It goes like this: "Wrong place, wrong time." That person was in the wrong place at the wrong time; it had nothing to do with God or grace or destiny -- just accident of place and time. This voice, I don't like, but it's in my mind. How else can I explain the awful things that happen to people?

There are many times in my own life (you'd never know to look at me -- so respectable, such a lady but a child of the 60's after, all) -- that I've been saved by simply not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You state it so well:

maybe it’s a single moment
or a missed call,
a friend of a friend,
or a bullet
through the window;
maybe it’s what time you
leave the party or
the streets you take
to get home

there is no
real reason why
that should not
be me.

This one hits me hard.

You are incredibly goooooood.

Julie said...

Now THIS poem is my new favorite of yours. It hits hard. It hits true. It rings. I love the voice. This poem is awesome.

I can relate to hiding in the bottlebrushes watching those lights bounce. One of my best friends ended up on one of those buses, because he got caught...and he was a minority...and he was a guy. I wasn't with him when he got in trouble, but I could have been. I slid out of other situations by batting my eyelashes or crying. It's not fair I know, but we do what we can to stay off the bus.

This stanza really pierces me:

"maybe it’s a single moment
or a missed call,
a friend of a friend,
or a bullet
through the window;
maybe it’s what time you
leave the party or
the streets you take
to get home"

The bullet through the windshield leaves me breathless. Amazing poem.

zorlone said...

This is a good poem. The phrasing of the words appeal to the contemporary readers.

I like it!

Zorlone

Poet Man said...

I live in San Rafael CA. I have driven past this kind of bus many times as it makes its way to San Quentin.

I am glad that you wrote about that bus - it seem to me that to be on that bus is to experience a very particular kind of loneliness. And to be in a car driving along side it is to experience a strange sort of disassociation...

For me, although I have never been on a bus like this, I always wonder about its air...

Poet Man

Little Girl Lost said...

"the air in your lungs turns to ice and the ice in your eyes starts to melt as you think there is no real reason why that should not be me. "

Joaquin, how do you write these wprds that i can feel in my lings and never brethe out?

i love you.

trooping with crows said...

Hi Joaquin,
Back for another read of this amazing piece. I've just spent the last 10 minutes or so reading some of your excellent work to my husband. He loved "Man Who Wished..." He said it's like a Neil Gaimen children's book.(geez, I certainly hope you take that as a compliment!) Anyway, Joaquin, never stop!

Little Girl Lost said...

joaquin, please read the comment section for 'A Modern Poem'...

Catvibe said...

Joaquin, HOW DID A WEEK GET BY without my seeing this. This is just about the best poem I've ever read as far as just feeling like I am right there experiencing the entire thing. Wow and double triple wow, I am jaw dropped in awe. The last line was the clincher.

joaquin carvel said...

aniket - thank you - scary, isn't it, the "what if..." game?

soulintention - i really like your take - individuals vs. big picture - thank you.

s.l. - so glad you're back! thank you - wow - that is a high compliment.

k. - you're amazing. thank you - (reeling from the comparisons) - it is a collective thought, almost too big to think sometimes.

rachel - thank you - i was pretty pleased when that part fell together - glad you picked it out!

troooooop - wow. i don't know what would be cooler, sam elliot reading one of my poems or you painting one. i had to google neil gaimen (how lame is that?!) but having done so, yes, it's a huge compliment - thank you (to you & your husband)!

reva (can i call you reva?) - thanks & welcome!

karen - that nails it - "there but for the grace go i" was running through my head as i wrote it - and the flip side. thank you for reading my mind in this.

julie - another wow - thank you - you're right, it's totally not fair - but (speaking for myself) i am a lot better off because of all the "unfairness" that's come my way. the bullet actually happened one night, but i couldn't decide if that line, there, worked or not - your pointing to it made my day! (and is all the endorsement i need)

zorlone - thanks for dropping in and for your comment!

poet man - wow - that is a serious chain bus - and i think you are right about it. thanks for dropping in.

lgl - red bull and poor ventilation. just kidding. thank you - your comment on "modern" blew me away - the thought of your weekend on the roof is beyond awesome. (and you more than managed, and i feel the same.)

cat - i am saying "wow" a lot right now, but wow. that is more than a compliment - i wish there were stronger words than thank you, but thank you!

Sarah Hina said...

I, too, am in awe of your talent, Joaquin. The best poetry makes us unaware that we're reading it; we just experience the poem and vision as the words are absorbed. I felt that here.

remembering what a wheel
felt like
in their hands,
the radio on,
the smell of
someone
beside them
I love that your mind reaches out like this. It's the gift, and burden, of true empathy. The prisoners' lack of freedom and total isolation is soul-stunting. For them, but also for us, if we allow ourselves to sit with them for a moment, and not to judge.

Everyone else said what I wanted to already. But this is so profoundly good. The randomness of the universe is its most terrifying property to me.

Jannie Funster said...

Totaly freaking chillingly awesomely true!!!!

My forays into shoplifting a thing or three in my day. All the weed I carried home.

Could be me too.