By conservative estimates, there are currently enough wrongfully convicted people in prison in the United States to fill a football stadium.
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Remembering formerly fallen nations,
Proud behind their wampum walls and calumets,
Never dreaming the sea/lake wild
Rice or the forty pound blue
& yellow forest turkeys would vanish
Over the rim of time’s hoop,
I read familiar voices in the daily hieroglyphic:
‘Persian Gulf Earthquake’ crowds ‘City In Space.’
An Indian queen falls, dictatorial prophet’s
Daughter, row upon row of Chinese farmers
Pass buckets of water hand to hand
To save the winter wheat.
(The narrative breaks apart,
A poisoned gene.) Advance of mongol hordes,
PCB’s conquering the Hudson, economically
Worthless striped river bass
lashing in a trough,
Senate debate over rat tumors
& aerosols, ‘Russian Warning.’ (More & more people,
In a small item inside, building homes
Far from cities and their salient catastrophes.)
& I recall a last letter from Stefan, who escaped
The Mekong War dated Kamloops, B.C., seven years
Ago: how he listed all the tools scattered about him
Where he built his cabin; adze & plane, saw &
Hammer, weight of the nails he was pounding;
That, a signature, nothing more.
Or two years before that, taking acid
By the shore of Big Bear Lake in
& the first fear, the no escape from
Swelling, death-bound planet
in the chest,
& then the colors in nothing but light
Streaming among pine branches
Stunning us, making us part of ripples
On the wind-driven water & the brute
Clouds of darkness formed
above the pulsing trees.
Or how a grey-blooded war in
Made such holiness seem an insane novelty
Rotting in our blood as we tried
Staying high above our own lives
On alcohol & drugs, sex & hatred,
Racing through beachtowns the night they bombed
Tonkin Bay dreaming in a beat-up Jaguar
Of pure lands of highway stripe & crashing
Waves, with no Christ or Marx,
Freud or Plato.
But what’s a body to these forces?
Or a life in memory?
One night we went out with our friend Frank,
Who worked in the county morgue,
& saw, down a long row of glass jars,
The lungs heart & brain
from an old jeweler I had killed
In a traffic accident.
& the mysteries of time & death
With its trail of nations & men
Passed over us, & we stood there,
Before the jar, drunk & stoned,
Arms about each other’s shoulders,
Swaying slightly, side to side.