Benjamin Paloff | Two Poems

Imperial Burlesque

If the prime movers—honor, vengeance, pleasure. Love?
Money.—embroil me in the poetics of accusation—not necessarily
a bad thing, but I’m embroiled—and every so often I imagine myself
how a bill becomes a law, the first man convicted of space murder,
the professor of undeclared (exceptionalism’s sorry solitude
being brighter than nature’s disinfectant, and if not, well,
there’s really no ifs about it: countless are the planets
that will never amount to anything, and in China there’s a village
where everyone has your name, not far, not at all far
from the one where everyone has mine)—
then, not to discount tradition—unless you believe
in a devil leading us unto falseness or idolatry,
or that the world won’t end, as it has to eventually—
wouldn’t to forego such gifts as move me be
a bizarre affront to everything we stand for?



The Three Christs of Ypsilanti

Insofar as you clearly share
Pharaoh’s unhealthy fascination
with cats, Lord,
it’s a good thing
you cannot slap a copyright
on titles.

Another year, another
red army, perplexity expressed
in the question-non-question:
Who is to blame? It was not I

who set the bed bugs marching
on our children, though it was I
who defined what was right
according to what I’d thought
you’d done. Does that make me
a bad husband or father?  

Who can say no to a hard night
of adoring?


We keep meddling with The Savior,
and through The Savior

we have a lot of blood on our hands
that we’d prefer not to think about.

It’s true, of course, that The Savior
never seems to get it together

and has sent millions of disciples
around the world, mostly

to the Americas. They are The Savior’s
largest source of income.

The Savior holds elections,
but these have often been sorry affairs.

The Savior used to have a Commission
on the Truth, but no more.


Like any acquiescent tyrant
elevated wherever books are sold,
like a tachometer or the Ghost
of Christmas Yet to Come,

my sole value is in where I point.
Like the Lincoln in the Lincoln
Memorial on currency that costs
more than it’s worth, I am absent

and always close. Like whomever you hail
at the crosswalk, I am your brother.
Like whenever you open your mouth,
I am a concert.