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Ira Desmond Jan 3
As we got older, it became clear
that we wouldn’t have the luxuries

of drink without worry,
of sleep without restlessness,

of raising children
without fear for their survival.

It became clear
that we would never garner

the respect of our elders
no matter how dearly we pined for it,

and that the world itself
would smolder

while those responsible
rested comfortably in their graves,

and those of us to whom
our forebears’ sins were bequeathed

would be left to choke on the smoke
and ashes

of a promise to posterity
allowed to burn instead.
Ira Desmond Jan 3
A clock
is not a thing
that shows us the passage of time;

a clock
is a primitive device that moves
at a fixed rate while time passes all around it.

Time
was drawn and quartered
by the clock. It used to be an endless horizon in all directions,

but it was violently
partitioned into a grid system
in order to make it easier for those with power

to control
those without power. Clocks are
perverse. Clocks are capitalism. Clocks

**** nature
without nature’s consent. We rightly complain
about the partitioning and deforestation of wild lands,

of the Amazon,
and yet we are not outraged
at the partitioning and deforestation of time. There is

a reason
why one feels out of sync
with the natural Earth. There is a reason why one

cannot sleep
through the night. There is
a reason why the years feel like they are

slipping away
from us. Time is not
sand in an hourglass. Nor is it an etching demarcating

the position
of a shadow cast by a cone. Nor is it
the rate at which an electrified quartz crystal oscillates.

Rather,
time moves at the speed
of experience. There is simply nothing more

to it:

A morning fog lifts.
A bird lands on a dying tree on the far side of a river.

A frog leaps from a rock and disappears with a quiet splash.
A child dozes off while reading.

The world becomes dark.
A white-hot meteor streaks across a frozen winter sky.
Ira Desmond Sep 2020
We know that to look now would set us ablaze,
the projectionist has loaded up the next reel,
but still we can’t seem to avert our gaze.

The clumsiest cinema still often sways.
The sound may be garbled, the edits piecemeal,
but we know that to look would still set us ablaze.

We question ourselves as the velvet drapes raise—
the playhouse itself thus begets our ordeal—
but still we can’t seem to avert our gaze.

The schoolmarms all warned us against such forays,
having seen how the real sinks into the surreal.
Yes, we know that to look now will set us ablaze.

Now the actors all shout patriotic clichés,
and we balk at the film’s jingo-populist zeal,
Even still, we can’t seem to avert our gaze.

Transfixed by tricolor and beset with malaise,
but what truths did Lot’s wife’s noncompliance reveal?
For we know that to look now will set us ablaze,
but still we can’t seem to avert our gaze.
Ira Desmond May 2020
The parks are now empty of all but the trees.
The rot in the woodwork has made itself clear:
the virus reveals a more wicked disease.

If we watch each other with growing unease,
more sinister shadows may draw themselves near.
The parks are now empty of all but the trees.

The nurses and doctors make no guarantees;
their furrowed brows are not at all insincere.
But the virus reveals a more wicked disease.

While some may not fret at a cough or a sneeze,          
our day-to-day life shows a mask more austere:
the parks are now empty of all but the trees.

The wealthy can shelter on yachts overseas,
far-flung from the whims of our mad racketeer,
for he, too, was borne of this wicked disease.

But Justice may not brook the fraud she now sees,
her blindfold being repurposed as protective gear.
The parks are now empty of all but the trees,
and the virus reveals a more wicked disease.
Ira Desmond Feb 2020
I dreamt I was walking across the high plains,
through the husk of a small American town.

The air was hazy
with distant smoke. The sun was high in a

muted, cloudless sky. The heat radiated
through my temples. I was parched, older, leathery, searching.

I came upon
a rusted-out school bus on the side of a dirt road

I walked in. The seats had been removed
from the bus. Along the left side lay

a long row of bedridden, elderly adults, comatose and naked,
each one receiving the slow drip of a tincture into the mouth:

clear nectar oozing from a carnivorous plant
hanging from the bus’s ceiling.

There were small children, also naked,
standing there in the bus. Their eyes

were covered with dark patches. As I turned
to leave, walking back down toward the road,

one of the children tugged on my leg. I turned
to address the child, our faces now nearly meeting,

and I saw that her eyes were not covered,
but removed. Two spindly black voids hung there

instead. “It's okay,” the child said to me.
“You don't need to be afraid.”

*      *      *

I continued down the road, the air
murky, salty, boiling, deadly.

A neon billboard with an American flag waving
shone off in the distance.

behind it loomed a giant radio tower,
hard at work transmitting,

but I knew that its broadcasts
were never meant for me to begin with.
Ira Desmond Feb 2020
I spotted a gull flying over the bay
not more than a foot ‘tween her wings and the waves,
with feathers unfurled, flap and flail as she try,
she hadn’t the strength left to climb toward the sky.

I spotted a gull flying over the trees,
unable to fight the northwesterly breeze,
he tottered while gliding, unsure of his route,
completely resigned now to be blown about.

I spotted a gull in the jaws of a shark,
his hollow bones breaking, with blood running dark.
His face was of shock now, amid razor teeth;
how could he have known what was lurking beneath?

I spotted a gull on a rock, old and frail,
her beak nestled close to protect from the gale,
alone on a cliff ringed by thundering sea.
I wondered what plans fate was making for me.
Ira Desmond Jan 2020
When you were eleven
and shy and shuffled your feet

from classroom to classroom
in that middle school, eyes downcast,

avoiding bullies like a midge fly
zipping away from the hungry maws of

rainbow trout lurking in
a mountain stream,

your father sat you down
at the dinner table on a cold Monday

night, over a steaming plate
of meatloaf and a baked

potato and some type of microwaved
canned vegetable

(the same meal that he served
every Monday night),

and he lectured you about the
importance of direct eye contact,

always making
direct eye contact,

while he held the fork in his left hand
and pointed it at you,

its tines coated
in starches and ketchup,

like he was jamming
his index finger straight into your forehead.

“Never look away when someone is
staring at you,” he said. “It

shows that you are afraid. It
shows that you are weaker than they are.”

Then, to make his point, he held his
eye contact—an aggressive, primal stare—

with you, an introverted child,
for as long as he could,

knowing that it would hurt you,
that it would make you wince and cringe,

but hoping that it would strengthen you,
solidify some resolve deep

within you, foster the germination
of some thorny plant there

beneath your sternum, which
over time would grow into

a gnarled cuirass designed to
protect you against the world

and make you into a Man—a true Man’s Man,
the kind of Man who uses his hairy

knuckles to smash his problems—the kind
of Man who eats red meat and drives

a truck, and never backs down
from a ******* contest, even with

an introverted eleven-year-old boy,
and so on, and so forth. Of course,

no such hardness ever germinated
within you, and whatever bond it was

that existed between you
and your father there beneath

your sternum simply frayed
in that moment—a sacred rope

spanning generations
suddenly transmuted into dust.

And of course
you looked away ashamed,

and your father was ashamed, too,
not for his own abhorrent behavior,

but because you were his child.
But he was also proud of himself

in that moment for showing
what a Man he was now,

for finally having proved his own father,
your grandfather,

wrong,
even after all of those years had passed.
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