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Nocturne with a Dictator

ISSUE:  Winter 2008

The landowner’s gin is spiked with ash
from burned sorghum. All day the field
blazed—a red tide.

He woke in a sweat.
Thatched roofs of the workers
sprayed down with hoses steam,
the tendrils of smoke, citrine in the evening.

His eye traces the silhouettes of bats
spiraling around the mustard cloud
as the narrow scream of insect wings
purged from their burned nests
rivals the crack of gas.

The drink, he thinks, is good, and he stirs
the ice with a nail. He puts a match
to a cigarette and, squinting, aims the ruby
tip on the shadowed heads of the laborers.

Hot wind. But the ginkgo is still and the man
absently slaps a mosquito on his ankle.
Blood is in the creases between
his index finger and his thumb.

Two plains are on fire: his hand smear and the field
lit like a marquee.

High beyond it all, an escarpment
holds its vigil. Low moon, sore
with the fusion of smoke and sky,
is halved by the rise.

The young sleep in their houses, in mortal danger.

The frantic bats glide in the dry currents,
blind and furious.

They are the angels for those who are unspeakable.


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