Two Contemporary Poets

Spring, 2004

Robert Bohm

Unignorable Measure

Cargo elephant on noon airport road into Mumbai,

an old thought on the verge of extinction.
Huge ungainly hips beat car fumes and light
into a lather in which the eyes' choked birds die in midair.
As if alone on a jungle path, the elephant's rider
hears the sound of teak trees growing.
Closer, slums stretch for miles.
In scum-ponds stinking of human feces, a new bacteria
breeds, a poetry of reinvention, fouling
everything and filling with open sores
the mouths of those who chant holy words near cremation pyres.
Out of all this, the thin man on the elephant's back
rides forth, controlling the animal in the midst of a noon traffic jam, coughing
in spasms and spitting up
wads of phlegm that hit the road
with a metrical cadence too improvisational for those consoled by how, behind
the Brass Rail Tavern back home, the ex-high school football hero
fucks who he wants, promising there will be no
unpredictable tomorrows.