Chronicles of Man
After the first beheading, hope was severed like a limb.
After the second, love produced a fountain of blood.
After the third, faith changed faces with fear.
After the fifth, knowledge bled to the last drop.
After eight beheadings, God recoiled.
After fifteen, there was no more happiness.
After twenty, it all seemed propaganda.
After thirty-four, more headless people took office.
After fifty-five, a collective body was sworn in.
After ninety-nine, children played with human heads.
After two hundred, there were no more days of peace.
After four hundred, it was hell on earth.
After six hundred, the executioners were put to death.
After a thousand beheadings, they dare not stop.
After fifteen hundred, fate and freedom were indivisible.
After twenty-five hundred, the heads kept singing.
After five thousand, a dialogue began.
After seven, the heads became oracles.
After ten thousand, there were more priests than people.
After fifteen, the books were sealed.
After twenty thousand, it was a total human eclipse…
for Victor Hernández Cruz
Strip search because I was full of the drug love,
Strip search because my name is an eye-rhyme with Allah,
Strip search because of Mafia stereotypes,
Strip search because I was carpooling to Mexican Village,
Strip search because I carried a book of poetry,
Strip search because I was traveling to New Orleans,
Strip search because I loved a woman with two names,
Strip search because a black woman offered me a ride,
Strip search for desiring Belle Isle after midnight,
Strip search because I am not a savior but a Salvatore,
Strip search for bleeding from hands and feet,
Strip search for driving naked and saving time,
Strip search for visiting the graves of my ancestors,
Strip search for the orange blossoms on my bride,
Strip search for the smoke of ablution and peace,
Strip search for defiance at the borders of freedom.
They could not decide what to take first,
So they took everything.
They took everything and promised to return,
So the others took the nothing
They had left and hid it away.
They had no trouble hiding it.
Weeks later they returned
Demanding the nothing they left behind.
The others refused, they refused,
Claiming nothing was all they had.
So they went away to plan.
They sent their scouts
To search for the nothing.
They searched all morning.
They peered into forests.
They overturned rocks.
They parted the water
But always found something.
Determined to find nothing
They said to surrender nothing
Or be slaughtered,
But the others refused
And prepared for battle.
So the battle lasted years.
They forgot about nothing
And kept killing over nothing.
Bodies burned into nothing.
Nothing was left behind.
Legend has it, nothing was never found.
To this day there is still nothing.
Last night I dreamt I was talking to Wittgenstein. It was a frightening dream, hyperreal; and later I thought, not only relevant but important to share. I was wearing a blood soaked apron, as apparently we were both doctors in a First World War field hospital somewhere near the front. I marveled at his remarkable sangfroid under fire. I was about to make the first incision into my patient when I saw that it was a young boar and then a fatted calf. “Truth is truth enough for a grain of sand to keep the earth from falling,” he said, while amputating the right arm of his own brother.
Salvatore Ala was born in 1959 in Windsor, Ontario. He has published three books of poetry and several broadsides. His poems have also appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.