Sunday Poem

Watching the History Channel in a
Topeka Hotel

Ben Lerner

Well, who really believes, when the lamps are nailed down
and this Haitian is shaking a song from one sad word.
History is boring. It's so easy to warm to. And the Shiva ends
and the people smooth their laps and stand to leave.
And the faint rain, that starts when the headlights disappear
is too predictable, making grief just another chore
that we take up to keep from getting fat and poor.
Of course, this man makes wonderful music,
his leathery French, prone both to poetry and riot,
is its own revolt. And below his left breast his skin erupts
in authenticating pinks. His scars still wet, he goes on singing.
But everywhere this channel's answered with another nakedness,
somehow starkest when it's scrambled, that shows us as fluid, dividing
packages, almost less animal, containing only what the other puts in.
Everything's a dirty war. And in this music more redeemed—
because the silly moans and disco riffs leave little room for cause,
for the one-sided story beauty tells us in our separate rooms.