the smoke that rose from the old house
was the same smoke that smoldered in my chest the other night
and it said, “what if you are mistaken—
what if this fire in your gut is burning you alive?”

and I, with my hunger,
was suddenly just jot someone tittled from an old-fashioned pen
and the house, for all its familiars
was undone by the same flame that warmed our wintered hands

it was money that made me angry
that cut me loose on the world with my soap-dodgin’ rhymes
it was capital, said “come all you weary
and I will give you pills and products to make your sick skin shine!”

and I, with the road that rides me,
I pass through towns where the anger hangs limp-limbed from the eaves
and the smoke of an occupation
just one last twitching of the fingers of a soldier
ground out by a war-machine

how does a bomb feel?
buildings don’t just blow up on their own!
mountains don’t just die!
they go on twiddling their thumbs in quiet, headless lives

we pulled into the station
I was humming this song in a soft tremolo
we were cattled, like dogs in a cage,
starved frantic to find some object for our rage

I struck a match into a gas tank
like a band strikes up a song or a child strikes an animal
we floated between the flames
saints unsinged but unsure of to which god we had prayed





peter j hochstedler South Bend, Indiana

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