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  • Ailerons & Elevators
  • Lorenzo Thomas (bio)

Autumnal Equinox

The backward see The wise don’t say a word

Three dreams, one foolish And two meaningless Are haunting me, disturbing me

One says A golden road was plotted out for you In dreams, of course

But that’s not where you are When you awaken

The danger is seeing the world   as two extremes The afternoons of rushing home to see her Balanced against   turning the corner Hoping that her car will not be there

Daydreams are better

Nice—     watching the planes come in On the last day of summer         Airport peaceful

Passengers are few On flights answering demand   more than desire Their stress has been at home Or will come later

They deplane calmly

When the Wright boys   and their friend Paul Laurence Dunbar Finished high school in 1890 Their neighbors knew That they’d go high up in this world

Paul as an elevator boy in downtown Dayton Orville and Wilbur Going swimming in thin air

  Unfortunately, They’d never heard   of Richard Gallup David or Romare Bearden, either [End Page 181] Such are the baffling deficits that time imposes

They never dreamed Someone would use an airplane To drop bombs made of oilfield dynamite   and set Greenwood aflame Andrew Smitherman fleeing in 1921   from Tulsa to New York To the edge of America

What is this shadow Cast across the coming season?

In the still watches of the Negro night, Fear rising like mist off a bayou, The danger in the world Is seeing it as two extremes

Is this full moon so indiscriminate That even liars prosper   if they have launched Their web with the new moon?

This autumn equinox A harvest of deceit Leaves the ground rugged. The harvest done, the fields outside the city   flat and sere A single egret   stands in the parking lot at the Post Office Poised and confused

The world automatically recoils Into itself

Are you ready for football? For serious business Are you ready for war?

People throughout all history Have lived in ashen cities         or died in them Marcel Duchamp was joking Wasn’t he, as always   when he said Dust-covered glass Might offer auguries Of our predicament

    O mirror, mirror

How have my people been distracted so They don’t care any longer who they are?

How so misled that they believe Punishment does not apply To crimes committed in their name? [End Page 182]

Must war morph from Nintendo game to spectacle To get attention?

If all are suspect Could my own duplicities Be causing this— The way we’re all responsible For air pollution

         (if you keep breathing

If you believe in magic, yes

And that same magic, yes Could stop the rush to madness, too

There are still   scraps of summer laughter On the street There’s still some music   from two backyards away The Funkadelics and Jay-Z resist denial

But here’s The truth:

You have the right to keep your mouth shut

Trust me,

Across the room A person looking like a crazy version   Of somebody you once knew Might be our Savior One who can draw fire   Out of ashes At least a lover, maybe The one to take you up a little higher   Or let you down easy.

But don’t look this way,

It isn’t me [End Page 183]

Lorenzo Thomas

Lorenzo Thomas (1944–2005) was a professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown as well as an internationally acclaimed poet and critic. His poetry collections include Chances Are Few (Blue Wind, 1979/2003), The Bathers (Reed Books, 1981), Sound Science (Sunbe/am, 1992), and Dancing on Main Street (Coffee House, 2004). Thomas's critical monograph, Extraordinary Measures: Afrocentric Modernism and 20th-Century American Poetry (U of Alabama P, 2000), was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book. His works have appeared in many journals including African American Review, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, and Popular Music and Society.



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pp. 181-183
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