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Brent Armendinger

THE MUSEUM OF CIVIL RIGHTS AND WRONGS

 

The streets of Detroit walk on their hands

away from train tracks balancing

hubcaps on the soles of their feet. 

Some of the water trickles up. 

It’s a six hour drive from Buffalo

in a car whose vertebrae my father

might have lathed.  At the border

I declare the music boxes in my Toyota. 

 

It took twenty-six years to cross

the Ambassador Bridge, a funeral.  Unwind

the songs in my grandmother’s china cabinet.

Some of the water trickles up.  The doors  

to Grand Trunk Station burn open

and ticket stubs direct each visitor

to a different floor.  My bones

shake off their American chlorophyll.

 

The museum of civil rights and wrongs

drinks from a water wheel like the husk

of a building I saw in Barcelona.  The sun

pries open a casserole of tile and faucet.

In their ghostdrawn morning, bathers

float on top of each other.  Some of the water

trickles up. Translate the factory crust

on old soap into pleas and sighs. 

 

Bromeliads coil a tree whose limbs

are shattered windows.  Can power

be unraveled by giving mine away?  Each floor

the see-through size of bathroom.

Little trap doors under our feet spill

follicles and foam.  The ceiling

condenses the past into little discs

of wet with curiosity.  Some of the water

 

trickles up.  Phantom

forty years in forty minutes or five

stanzas.  It hurts

to be invented or remembered

by a stranger.  These long vowels

between us.  The temptation

is to stare at time before it dampens.

Some of the water trickles up.

 

 

WEST

 

A few things broke inside

the boxes

I mailed across the country

so I buried them

a mile or so to the north

alongside my doubts like what if

I don’t belong here?

That was 1996.

 

Meanwhile, the continent

continues

to slide an inch into the ocean

every year, or so

a farmer told me.

 

But it’s hard to picture

anything so massive or so

miniscule.  It’s hard

to picture much at all when the day

slides at this angle.

 

On a hook

inside my dream I see

a pair of scissors –

I picture them so clearly,

as if the sun is only

a reflection

as if the fog behind,

as if those hinging

silver legs are the origin

of light. 

 

They speak to me

tonight, those scissors,

as if they’ve grown

impatient.  They say,

Our name is Fact.

Our address is the same.

It’s time you cut your hair –

when you separate

the strands, part the question

from belief.  I watch them go 

like grassy parasails upon

the salt and wind.

 

My questions float and sink

into the tender kelp,

through gravity

and half-sister, into

that slow green void.

Without complaint

they tumble

until doubt is not

a doubt at all but a rhyme

upon the floor.

 



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