poem #5

Babylonian Gestures
 
BABYLONIAN GESTURES
 
I swear, the latest malfunction in the marketplace must be
a serious calf-cramp for whichever Last Atlas is supporting
the working class in a constant sphere of semi-solvency.
 
Down State Route 101 there is a sign for disposable body parts, $3.39/lb.
I drove past it eight times a summer, for eight summers before
buying $216 worth.  I bought it more out of pity for the struggling
body-part-harvester than I did out of a need for anything extra or disposable…
 
After quickly eliminating any immediate strategic uses
for extra body parts, I began to call into question the merits of
charity-consumerism; picking my nose with a pinky
selected at random from a bag  marked “MISC. FINGERS”
and making out a mental list of good friends deserving a call
from me that week, I drove away from the carcass-stand internally conflicted.
 
I began to wonder why it is so difficult to feel sympathy for the dead,
while, conversely, it is those living with a healthy ac/dc
of self loathing and self praise who, sympathetically,
find difficulty in the day to day.
 
Not surprisingly, the economics of ethical living
began to overwhelm me. I felt it was time for me to be rid
of the spare appendages. “Certainly,” I thought,
“there are charities that can turn anything harvestable
into a resource for rescue organizations.”
 
But then I thought, “Isn’t it better to drive
to the city, parcel up the appendages,
and sell them at an emergency
retail price to quack doctors in need?” 
 
So I stopped for ice to keep my flesh fresh,
then drove home.  That afternoon, I began to sell the spare parts
around town.  Before long I was down to a couple fingers and a leg.
 
The next morning I received a phone call from a street doctor
who had an uninsured patient— a former soldier, discharged while
still in Iraq, in need of a new knee cap.  I said I had one and could deliver.
 
The doctor thanked me profusely.  His patient, he said,
had been wounded by an explosion when his Unit failed
to fire soon enough upon a young boy with a hand grenade. 
 
The boy, he said, was trained by his parents to taunt American soldiers—
singing, dancing, getting closer and closer;
holding the grenade over his head,
pulling the pin in and out with his slender, boyish,
middle finger held high…
 
– Richard C. Armstrong III
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