The Machine

Someone hit it with a rock
to see if it would split open,
spit out what was owed us;
someone singing said something
about our wanting; we all stood
in front of it for days, staring,
trying to understand; someone
added, what we need is love
and someone else gave him
a black eye, thank god; someone
brought up the children, but when
we looked for them by the edges
of the river, when we followed
their footprints, we found
only their shoes, a pair of pants,
torn, frayed at the edges and wet;
someone pointed to the sky
at a shooting star, and some of us
made wishes; I made a wish;
someone asked, could things
get worse? and haven’t they already?
someone pushed on the corners
of their mouth, then we all did,
until our faces bled where our teeth
cut the skin; then someone
scowled, and of course that led
to a fight; I couldn’t stop frowning;
eventually someone poked it
with a stick; eventually
someone asked where it came from,
and who brought it, and why
it hadn’t been fixed, the parts
that weren’t working, we could all
see them couldn’t we? Then we wanted
someone to blame; it seemed
this was surely the emergency
we wouldn’t survive; we all
remembered something different
and old; one woman walked
in circles up and down the street
pushing a stroller filled
with dried gourds. It was
innocent until it wasn’t;
someone came back
from the edge of the world
looking how we all looked,
chanting the word tolerance
over and over, as if
that would change anything.


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