Two Poems

John Hartley Williams

America

O America, I feel like Superman going weak from proximity to Kryptonite
Something has spread a small Donatello of urine
Over the tessellated floor of the execution chamber
‘It’ll all be over in a flash,’ they murmur
Be quiet this morning, America, be quiet
Is this the telephone call of my last-minute reprieve?

‘In America when someone says “I feel happy,”’ she tells me,
‘They really mean it.’ But in America, it costs money
To be so happy, to be so
Loquaciously pleased with yourself
America, every waggle of your tongue costs a dollar
And, listen, what have you done with Superman?
I need to see that steel-chinned genie of superlove remove his red knickers
I need to see him part the thighs of a TV evangelist
And move his V-shaped body with all the expertise
You might expect from someone who can view his own expenditure with X-ray eyes

America, the all-seeing, radiographic power
Pales our skeletons beneath its probity

And there are elephants moving through the twilight
Hauling gigantic cars through the Persian dusk
And Hannibal is riding them up front –
Great ears billow – Jerusalem fronds –
Grey trunks upcurl – Jericho krumhorns –

And they are coming up Main Street with a wraith-like army
The freeloading dead, who have returned

The Hang-Out

In the Café Antonio
the ceiling swarms with municipal cherubs,
peeling angels, bellow-cheeked.
Moodily, the artists imitate
this ripe celestial sprawl:
across the tall-backed velvet couches,
or leaning by a quartz-seamed marble pillar –
the immolation of the rest in somnolence.
Through the mockery of gateau-forks,
sarcastic belching of the coffee jug,
ironic dribble of the fountains,
the artists stare at their reflections
faded in the silver-tarnished mirrors,
watch each others’ brittle mouths
that gawp and twist on verities
like fish on hooks. Are these
the keepers of the relics?
Idle they are, unquestionably.
Unproductive, certainly.
What rational man
would argue that we should not
stand them at the wall and shoot them?