Walking the Raised White Line

Please walk fifteen steps in one direction, heel to toe,
counting to fifteen, then turn or twirl and walk
fifteen steps in the other direction
without a separation of slip.

Stars dazzling the reflective paint.
The righteous citizens of Athens whiz by. Dinner that night
nothing special, sirloin tips in Chinese barbecue sauce, a bottle
of a California Cab, 1992, the poet who split the bottle—duck
with blueberries. When he said, “Paris in 1927,” I asked
“Who was there?”
Succulence, sweetness, savory seconds—“Everyone.”

Without spreading your arms, lift either foot
eight inches off the ground and count to fifteen,
a thousand-and-one, a-thousand-and-two . . .
Do you know the English alphabet?

I did. I do. I wrote a term paper on the Easter Rebellion.
But if I ever get out of this, I’ll write, I’ll write—I’ll type
letters, letters, six letters to the inch, the characters pressed
into twenty-four-lb. parchment bond. “Yes.” Yes, I do.”

Please then, without singing or hurrying,
say the English alphabet from A to X.

OK, OK, Alright, B,C, D, digital recording, E.F.,
effortlessly, chiaroscuro, L,M, N is where they want you
to slur, O.P.P., you know me, R, S, T, Orestes,
chased by Furies, U, V, IV, RV, recreational vehicle,
slow at Double U, double-bar, don’t say bar, ranch
in Jackson Hole, watering hole, slower, slower,
Malcolm X, X-Files, loss of license and two-thousand
dollars if I can’t touch the tip of his silver pen, astronauts
circling to an unmanned space station, police station,
space rangers, town police—

Follow the pen with your eyes
and not your hand.

Follow the blip of your heart. What will they know,
what can they establish by watching my eyes move,
same color as their flag insignias, salute, saluud,
to see if it hurts, or are they really watching my hands,
which are not in my pockets or on my hips. Could my hands
be on my hips, are all the bills paid, checks received?
thirty dollar tip on one-thirty-eight, the poet still writes
to Andre Spire’s daughter at Square de Port-Royal.

Where are you coming from and
did you have anything to drink?

Didn’t I pass, didn’t I gain a semblance of balance
in giving straight answers to prepared questions?
Shared a bottle would have been better than half
a bottle. Some wine would have been better than
shared a bottle. More wine would have been better
than anything, and staying there, wild flashes of pulsing blue
over the cemetery, angels on the granite bench. Why didn’t
they ask me a question about God, why didn’t they ask
the proportions of a Rumford fireplace? Freedom, freedom
to come and go as I please, freedom of speech using
the y and the z: a free country with pink azalea bushes,
and cemetery stones inscribed with letters, V for U,
and T for Texas, but if that foot drops, you fall hard,
no one will ever believe you weren’t out speeding,
that your taillight wasn’t out, and you weren’t out
trying to run over their children. How do you answer?
What does the IRS mean when they ask, Is this business
a passive activity? You must explain yourself clearly
to someone who has a job to do, the oddest yellow
piping on his light blue shirt. You must directly state
to the names of the dead, you must without any argument,
without burning the element, you must with no antagonism,
with the plain speech of pure sequence, with the mantle
of indignation, seizing a frame of reference, you must
slowly make clear what you feel the truth to be.

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