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Pompeii is Burning

Transcribed from Snowflake (Blue Flower) Journal

Pompeii is Burning

Stamped tin soldiers
cigar box guitar
an empty can
  of red kidney beans
  a broken can opener
  and a Swiss Army knife
She lost the toothpick
  first year in
the nail file
  five years after that
but the knives
  are still sharp
   as the day she bought it
the knives, like the lies
  are always

Some stories
  get worn over time
   smoothed, rounded,
    polished, comfortable
She keeps hers
  lean and hungry
   (for we are all
    honourable men)

Knew you not Pompeii?
People died there
at least that’s what they say
choking in ash
  so hot it
   turned your lungs
    to cinders
  shadows still lying
   in each other’s arms;
If this is what
  they call an aftershock
I’d hate to be
  at ground zero
 (the eye of the storm
  is a myth
   like Sisyphus
   and Androcles;
  a starving lion
   will eat anything.)

He thinks:
  the pictures are too small
   for their place
    on the wall
 (discount bin beige
  masquerading as cappuccino)
A picture should expand
  until it fills the emptiness
  the artist as magician
  capable of placing
   images directly in your mind,
  indirectly deciphered,
  unhindered by education
  enhanced by hearsay,
   or possibly just
   seen in the wrong light
   the image becomes
  (that’s Art with a capital ‘A’
   for those who are only

  unlike people,
   don’t need directions
  don’t need to ask,
   "what’s my motivation?"
  The final cut is
   from the blooper reel
   in the tangible world;
    there are no second takes.
  don’t need to be told
   to seek higher ground;
   they’re already up there
    already hip
    to the secrets
    of the city dumpster
    and the food court crumbs.

      In the margins:
    what are you doing tomorrow?
     and tomorrow, and tomorrow…
     creeps in this heady pace, from day to day
    "this place is the beat of my heart"
   "if the storm doesn’t kill you, the government will"
   submerged elevators, broken wire mesh hearts,
     & quicksilver tears

Lay me down
  in a field of poppies
   cotton candy colours
     in a sea of green

Someone told him
  never to look back
  but neither the threat of salt
  nor the apocryphal tales
   of pomegranate seeds
   can hope to compete
   with that twinge
   in the pit of your stomach
    that says, clear
     as pycrete,
    I’m sure
     I left the stove on;

And Pompeii is burning,
  Delaware’s bleeding,
   and Venice is sinking
    beneath the green waves;
    who knew that death
     could smell so sweet?

Tuesday comes
  after Monday,
  at least that’s what they say;
  people died there,
   choking on laughter
   so hot it turned
   your heart to ashes
    blown away
     on the next
      stiff breeze.

In the midst
  of stagnation
   the hero transforms:
    liquid to solid
    to supersaturated
 only it’s not
   your grandfather’s
   set in the realm
    of Escher’s pen,
    where the endless stair
     becomes a hill
      that never sets,
     a winter
      that never rises,
  words that freeze solid
   and fall to the ground
    so you have to thaw them
    by the fire to hear them.

Can a song escape the singer?
  can you put a bounty
   on an idea?
  can a toy car jammed
   into an old car seat
    really save your soul?

She would see the glass
  as a weapon at hand
He would see the lens
  full of rainbows
  and long-playing prog albums
   (the round kind
   with bumps on
   for the needles to read,
   for those who are only now
    waking up);
The homeless man
  who used to play air drums
  on the George Street bench
    (he’s dead now)
   would see a portent
    of things to come
    and, drinking it,
     become the Messiah.

     In the margins:
     and heaven would ring
     with steel drum reggae bebop
     and dancing in the streets
      sepia piano tones
      and false drawers that don’t open
     plastic flowers, backgammon & tea
      Never stop digging;
       some day you’ll reach
      the other side of the world

– T.H. (May 2012)

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