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New Poem: Fire Sciences

June 26, 2008
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This is a poem that I’ve been working on for a while-an introduction to a new series.
The idea for “The Fuckers” series was taken from “The Vandals” poems written by Alan Michael Parker and ideally is a way to use poetry to talk about all the things that I usually don’t use poetry to talk about: politics, social conditions, race and the small group of insanely self absorbed but powerful people who “run” the world and who constantly fuck things up for the rest of us.
This series is my little way of fighting the fuckers, throwing rocks at tanks if you will, and hoping they explode.

Fire Sciences (prelude to The Fuckers)

Some years ago I was watching a show on criminals and forensics and there was this one case where southern California arson investigators were convinced that this man had set his house on fire intentionally, to kill his wife and collect the insurance money. The prosecutor presented stacks of proof piled to the ceiling, enough evidence to lock the suspect away for five lifetimes, reports said.

The case was open and shut guilty until, quite out of the ordinary, the court got a call from a fire scientist. From Maryland I believe. This man’s job was to study fire and it’s patterns, the ways it was born and lived. He admitted he didn’t know much about arson, but he assured the court that he knew his flames, calling out the investigators and their proof.

“This is not arson, I’m sure.”

At first he was laughed at but the man persisted. “This is not arson, this is something else, I’m sure.” In the coming weeks the fire scientist drafted a report that proved without a shadow of a doubt: the cause of the fire was faulty wiring, not insurance money. And the subject was released.

While interviewing the scientist afterwards, the host wondered where the firemen went wrong. “Their job is to investigate fires and look for arson” said the scientist. “If you’re trained all your life to look for something, even when it’s not there, if you look long enough, you’ll see it.”

I was born looking for things and it’s only gotten worse.

It started out searching for small things: shoes, toy cars, transformable robots.

As I got bigger so did the searching: my wallet, my keys, a way off the block, a sense of place.

Now that I’m older I look for things professionally. I look for the big things, much larger than I can carry: love, trust, meaning.

I’m convinced sometimes I see them even when they’re not there.

Passing people on the street, I search their eyes for recognition. I look at their faces for acceptance. But I’ve learned to settle for smiles.

When I pass men who look like me I search signs that we are brothers, some nodded chin or raised fist, but I’ll settle for raised eyebrows.

With women who look like me I search their eyes for some longing for respect or lust but I’ll settle for good morning.

With everyone else I look for signs of no fear, signals that say that they would sit beside me on the subway and not mind if our legs touched.

But I’m learning to stop looking for big things in people.

On too many occasions I’ve had too many scientists tell me I was looking for something that wasn’t there that I’ve finally started to believe them.

The evidence is steadily mounting.

And rising like flames.

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