Porgy and Bess, Third-Grade Chorus, 1959
They put on their headrags
at home, humming till burnt cork
(left over from Halloween) spread
from their mothers' long fingers, surrounded
their lips. Then it was safe
once again to open their mouths
and sing I got plenty....
No mule! Twenty
Mule Team Borax! Misery?
A word wagging its tail, under the dinner table,
where they'd fed it whatever
they never wanted.
No rug on this floor!
And more bagels than locks
in their neighborhood, that's
the way to be, kids drifting
into one another's houses
at the first scent
No cars of their own, not yet.
That evening, they sat in back
and rode the train of Good
'N' Plenty, these eight-year-old commuters,
without newspapers, shaking the candy box
until the school they'd never seen
glowing was born again through the windshield,
a new galaxy with a parking lot.
And, as they left those hubcapped
finned rockets, as they dropped
from their parents' hands to run
for the risers waiting inside,
they didn't have to look up, they were
the stars in the Long Island sky, all prized,
What is the sound
of one hand clapping?
The question follows him
into biofeedback, months
of manual training, until
with a single
snap of the wrist, he can produce
the requisite applause, like Superman
at a gay rights parade.
Now he does it whenever
he goes to lectures
on Kryptonite or Chaos Theory
with his arms spread wide over the seats
beautiful as a hummingbird
slam-dunging the sidewalk.
Sometimes people even mistake him
for a poet
with only one name.