The Band Plays On
Eyesight fading. Hair loss.
Back aches from pipe-fitter work.
The industrial sky is sheep’s-wool gray.
I go to sleep at night thinking
of what cereal to eat for breakfast, wanting
a different whole-wheat toast.
I’m indifferent to the lives of others outside my family.
Homeless diabetics found on city corners,
infinite hatred killing hundreds of thousands,
every pipe fitter with a gun behind the door.
After six thousand years of history,
the same primordial state of consciousness,
and we’ve all heard the Good News
and stories of the Lotus Buddha held up to
enlighten those who have eyes to see.
I stand at the weld truck waiting for work orders,
earning wages, paying for daughter’s college.
Filled-in natural-watershed swamp,
oil refinery and rubble of wildflowers,
shipping canal leaching twelve feet of oil
sediment like infectious bacteria into the great lake
that fed Indian cultures for thousands of years.
Fish with bladder cancer, birds with no feet.
Hydrogen bomb, three small wars butchering people.
To my left, in my son’s bedroom, a green parakeet
chatters recklessly in the bright mirror.
Ten dollars in my work-pants pocket since 1966.