What We Do

A metallic detonation arcs
       over Broadway’s gulf, & the aluminum
              contorts to contain the continuous
syncopation wrecked into its side—

       with two feet of pipe
              a man’s beating a keg till it turns useless
for anything else but to carry
       his liquid rhythms. He’s drumming

              a rim full of dents, angled
facets that pull to themselves
       all the sun they can bear before tossing
              a tremolo of light off the bricks behind.

Look around: whatever this sound is
       that ricochets the streets is contagious–
              less drums than a seasonal quickening
that everything’s so busy keeping up with,

       new desire mixing up the thick torpor
              of the past months. At my feet,
two pigeons struggle over any spare
       piece of garbage to entice a female.

              They fumble in this patch of spilled popcorn,
gurgling and churring in figure-eights,
       inflating the sheen of their necks
              over their turf. Even when she dodges

away, they just keep flashing iridescence
       for no one. Noontime, the drummer’s checking
              the metal where he’s reflected
in more than one place, tucking a stray

       curl behind his ear. But just so you don’t
              forget whose block this is,
when a woman goes by
       he’s sent demonic, like he knows

              this commotion’s for keeps,
and he’s thrown into a shimmy
       of the hips which he rises out of
              just in time to fit the mechanical stumble

of a far off jackhammer into his running
       cadence. These sounds the music wants
              to encompass, make its own,
so in the end, you can’t tell if he’s playing

       the drums or if they’re playing him.
              Because when you’re itching
to finish with your wrists
       the rumble that begins in your gut,

              this is what you do–you’re ready
to bang on anything for love.
       You’ll break your hands
              to get that rhythm out.

from Shiva’s Drum


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