Lorenzo Thomas

Ailerons & Elevators




Autumnal Equinox 2002



The backward see
The wise don't say a word

Three dreams, one foolish
And two meaningless
Are haunting me, disturbing me

One says
A golden road was plotted out for you
In dreams, of course

But that's not where you are
When you awaken

The danger is seeing the world
   as two extremes
The afternoons of rushing home to see her
Balanced against
   turning the corner
Hoping that her car will not be there

Daydreams are better

Nice –
            watching the planes come in
On the last day of summer
                                         Airport peaceful

Passengers are few
On flights answering demand
   more than desire
Their stress has been at home
Or will come later

They deplane calmly

When the Wright boys
   and their friend Paul Laurence Dunbar
Finished high school    in 1890
Their neighbors knew
That they'd go high up in this world

Paul as an elevator boy in downtown Dayton
Orville and Wilbur
Going swimming in thin air

They'd never heard
   of Richard Gallup
David or Romare Bearden, either

Such are the baffling deficits that time imposes

They never dreamed
Someone would use an airplane
To drop bombs made of oilfield dynamite
   and set Greenwood aflame
Andrew Smitherman fleeing    in 1921
   from Tulsa to New York
To the edge of America

What is this shadow
Cast across the coming season?

In the still watches of the Negro night,
Fear rising like mist off a bayou,
The danger in the world
Is seeing it as two extremes

Is this full moon so indiscriminate
That even liars prosper
   if they have launched
Their web with the new moon?

This autumn equinox
A harvest of deceit
Leaves the ground rugged.
The harvest done, the fields outside the city
   flat and sere
A single egret
   stands in the parking lot at the Post Office
Poised and confused

The world automatically recoils
Into itself

Are you ready for football?
For serious business
Are you ready for war?

People throughout all history
Have lived in ashen cities
                                      or died in them
Marcel Duchamp was joking
Wasn't he, as always
   when he said
Dust-covered glass
Might offer auguries
Of our predicament

       O mirror, mirror

How have my people been distracted so
They don't care any longer who they are?

How so misled that they believe
Punishment does not apply
To crimes committed in their name?

Must war morph from Nintendo game to spectacle
To get attention?

If all are suspect
Could my own duplicities
Be causing this –
The way we're all responsible
For air pollution

                                  (if you keep breathing

If you believe in magic, yes

And that same magic, yes
Could stop the rush to madness, too

There are still
   scraps of summer laughter
On the street
There's still some music
   from two backyards away
The Funkadelics and Jay-Z resist denial

But here's
The truth:

You have the right to keep your mouth shut

Trust me,

Across the room
A person looking like a crazy version
   Of somebody you once knew
Might be our Savior
One who can draw fire
   Out of ashes
At least a lover, maybe
The one to take you up a little higher
   Or let you down easy.

But don't look this way,

It isn't me

New York City

22 September 2002