"Whether, in view of what humanity is capable, such a trait implies, along with a benevolent heart, more than ordinary quickness and accuracy of intellectual perception, may be left to the wise to determine."Across the last swerve of 101
--Melville, Benito Cereno
Between the soundwalls, before
The road splits and opens up
To the usual emerald city,
To the San Francisco skyline -
The London of California -
(In London London, the paper says,
The best-invested now dig
Infinite pools in their basements
For sheer lack of square feet) -
Someone in '62 once threw
A soaring footbridge, now caged
Full round in Ohio chainlink,
Over all nine lanes, allowing
The new Californian to travel
In perfect comfort and safety,
From his home in the Sunnydale
Homes, to his homies in Potrero -
Obviously, I jest. Racism! In verse!
You won't say I didn't warn you.
And this shit actually happened.
I was there - not a month ago.
Not on the bridge, but on the road,
Alone in the car, evening rush hour,
Moderate traffic. As the Cougar
Swept around the curve, in a span
Not over fifteen seconds, three men
Came on the bridge. Did I call them men?
These were animals, from the ghetto.
Did I say animals? They were nobles,
In splendid robe of privilege,
Prancing with glory of lions.
Performing, sure. But just walking -
Across the road to tha Sunnydale.
Your eye might not have caught them,
From below on the freeway, but mine
And others did. When these men
Came center over the median,
One turned, faced the traffic,
Dropped to a shooter's crouch,
Pulled out his finger, and blew
Us all away - laughing, I assume,
Like a perfect fool. And then -
I slid under them, and was gone.
Now, since I'm such a racist,
My position with respect to these
Particular terrorists is clear;
The instant reaction was no less.
I simply felt, as a human being,
As a San Francisco parent,
It essential that this population
Cease at once to exist - means
No object. They could be broken
In some way, as by the whip,
Or educated into professors, or
Superman could swoop down,
Seize them by the pants and hurl
Them without trial into the Sun.
Does Superman do genocide? Heck -
What would Hitler do? - and this,
A train of thought I am not, of
Course, endorsing, but rather
Confessing - this simplicitude
Flashed like powder in my simple head.
(Hitler too, says Trevor-Roper,
Had this knack for simplicity.)
But consider the complex! We,
Apart from my rotting Cougar,
River of post-Axis automotive,
Educated and expensive,
Unimpeachably progressive -
Confronted suddenly, without
Warning, by this unmistakable
Parade of pure warrior hate,
Almost classical in its beauty,
Tablet of Akkad or Ur. What
Does a person do? Might he find
Refuge in the church of his youth?
We both know what he should think.
But here appears the animal itself.
Who would argue its humanity?
Before his eyes it is clearly itself.
What of his complexities, his
Cliches, his studies? They scatter,
They can hardly compete. But
Nothing competes with them;
For our sample driver, a man
Perfectly made for the period,
Young, bright, even cultivated,
Roughly as lost in history
As a toddler in a steel mill -
Has not a thought to think.
Instead, I think, a black smog
Of grand, impeccable despair
(Exactly as intended, I fear,
By our urban performers),
No logic at all, just emotion,
Truth in its way nonetheless,
Swirls up in an instant from
His medulla; looms; wavers;
Then blows away - as his Audi,
Too, passes the footbridge
Without so much as a BB
In the wipers; the soundwalls
Recede, and reveal the vista
Of Dorothy; and the bite
Of our cold sweet Pacific air
Elides any small unpleasantness...
No, it is this man, who exists,
Who is history; who is, I'm sure,
The future; and the drama is his,
As dangerous as elegant. His
Demons, made by him, are sent
By the great gods to scourge him,
And have doubtless barely started.
As such these creatures are divine,
Like the tiger or the killer whale,
And must not be disrespected:
A slice of advice both prudent
And compliant with federal law.