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Friday, March 23, 2007


by Michael Graves

In my own land,
Let me be
As an illegal border crosser,
A stranger dispossessed
Of kith and kin
Beneath the vast night sky
And metal barbs of shaky fences,
Afraid of dogs and lights
And hard faced officers
In cars and trucks.
Let my wet flesh gleam
Beneath the moon
As I emerge
Upon the dreamed-of bank
To face the frightening expanse
Of promised land.

I move as stealthily
As thieves and secret weapons
Of the sky among the crowded cities
Of my nation state.
Insubstantial and anonymous, a wraith
Beneath the notice
Of my solid fellow citizens
Who know I work the jobs
They can or would disdain.
I am a smuggler,
My self is contraband.

A menial seeker of my destiny,
I flee oppressed or not
In my conflicted loyalties
An origin I can’t escape
And honor in my movement forward.

I can be seen
In the shape of loiterers
Who linger on the corners
Of our neighborhoods
Waiting for the vehicles
That come to offer work

But I would be invisible
Within this mighty Babylon
A shadow on the sunlit walls
In public plazas uninhabited
When millions are inside
Their homes or at their desks.
I love the empty neighborhoods of night
The buzzing thrumming city
When it slows
And skeleton crews
And revelers or solitary citizens
Possess the streets
As streams of traffic flows
And neon glows
I move most freely then
Aware I am alive
And carry worlds within.

Michael Graves is a widely published poet and has a full-length collection Adam and Cain (Black Buzzard, 2006) nominated for a PEN Osterweil Award. Graves was the recipient of a substantial grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation in 2004.