Commas, Dashes, Ellipses, Full Stops, Question Marks


Vijay Seshadri

People restless on the pews downtown, people
not of the book or of the book, itchy and introspective
in the big cross-section-of-humanity room in the courthouse
on Adams Street—
apothecaries, scriveners, gendarmes, recidivists . . .
Sixty per cent are happy sixty-five per cent of the time.
Thirty per cent are OK seventy-nine per cent of the time.
One is angry—that's what the bulletins
from the ether say—and maybe will do something about it.
But not today. Today is another day.
Today is the day the self's
whispering to itself in its hundred endangered languages merges
with the sound of water running and scoring grooves in the damp,
lithic, adhesive interiors,
the limestone cavern of being
where flying mammals hang and nurse their young
and contemplate upside down the inscaped person waiting
to be called out of himself into the light of reason,
to be empaneled on a jury, here, right here in Brooklyn,
so he can judge lest he not
be judged, but forgiven, just forgiven.
Grace, with no instinct to explain itself, pouring out of every portal.
"Are you blind, that you can't see it?" "I am. I guess I am."
Communion. Submission. Detachment.
And what would I rather be doing than sitting here pretending
not to look at the rest of you, of the city and of the world,
so compelling is your exhausted, disillusioned but steadfast commitment
to the mechanisms of justice, the apparatus of democracy?
Twelve good persons and true
will be summoned from the cardinal points to . . .
but not me, I guess. The bailiff is saying,
"Go home, not you, not today."
For the hundredth time. I have been called but not chosen.
For the hundredth time, I have to shuffle into the subway station at Jay Street
where a tall, sweet-looking, willowy violinist
is playing the Chaconne with apocalyptic focus and the ghost
of a smile on her lips.
Maybe she will say yes to me.
Maybe I can stay with her always.
Maybe I can sleep on my hands at her little desk.
"I'd rather, I'd rather, I'd rather go blind than
to walk away from you, child."