23 September 2007

Born with Sin

Justice Putnam
When was the first thought?
The first inkling of cognition?

Can I reach back
Find the original light?

Or was it a sound?

A drum beat
Heart beat
Moving feet and souls?

I heard a crying
A low moan
Quivering breath
And then a scream

And piercing.

Did I clench my fist
Lick and then bite my lower lip?
Did I pray to a god
That did not exist?

When would my scream begin?
And for what reason?

Would I scream for the woman
Who gave me life

Lying in the corner
With blackened eyes
And scattered dreams?

Or for the man
Whose sperm
Made up half
Of my emotional outlook?

Whose hands would caress
Upon one moment
And pummel
Through many others?

Or would my cries and screams
Be for myself?
Helpless under
The blankets of despair

Pleading to the Saints
Of battered children and wives
Never getting an answer
Only delays.

Cries and screams
For my bare feet
Running on the gravel
Of Camp Creek

The McKenzie
Nineteen fifty-eight
The United States.

But I was born into
A sonic boom of recognition
And a silent fear of remorse.

A mushroom crowd
Walking in atomic heels
Crying hydro-electric tears
Pumping Bourbon blood
With bias plied hearts.

There were Catholics
There were Atheists

There were Protestant politicians
Burning black flesh
On Southern barbecues

While a quiet
But effective
Northern bigotry
Butchered more lions
Dressed in African velvet.

And women
Were subservient
In sexual boredom

Stepping out
And applying
Lipstick and polish
Mascara and perfume.

Walking with a sway
Along a jazz bebop
Saxophone avenue.

Escaping the file cabinet bedrooms
And dish soap romance

Meeting lovers for
Back seat hand jobs
And cashmere petting

And they all temporized guilt
With motel showers
And a street sign excuse.

And the children were asleep
In station wagons
Parked at cocktail lounges

And fathers were doing time
For involuntary manslaughter

Drunk in a car.

Penitentiary phallus
And penetrating denial

Barred-window shadows
On concrete block walls

Absent and jealous

Fermenting hot-white revenge
In the testes
Of another born
In a suffering Nativity.

© 1978 and 2007 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen
(Born With Sin was performed as part of KCET's New Poets Series in 1983, produced by Luis Campos and filmed in Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Sun Valley. It has also recently appeared in "Art in a Liberal Frame: Selected Writings and Images of the Daily Kos Community.")

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