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  • Body Politic: To Ezra Pound in Purgatory
  • David Wojahn (bio)

I. Interrogation: Pisa, 1945

  Thus Ben and la Clara a Milano     by the heels at Milano That maggots shd/ eat the dead bullock

canto lxxiv

The set: card table, two chairs, the OSS captain smoking, The prisoner (“somewhat agitated”) before him, handcuffs

Loosened but not removed. A window above, a single cloud chuffing South toward Roma.     The captain, silent, shuffles & reshuffles

The photos spread before them. Upon la Clara’s chest Benito seems asleep, a scepter wedged into the rigor-mortised

Fist, face pristine, though Clara’s eyes have been jackbooted shut. “Dago humor bewilders me,” the captain admits.

The prisoner says nothing. Now to the gas-station gallows Where like sleeping bats they sway,       Clara’s chest bayoneted open

Though her skirt (for modesty) sailor-knots her knees. Duce is bruise & broken teeth, face a bloodied potato, jodhpurs ballooning.

To build the city of Dioce whose terraces are the colour of stars. The captain: anything you have to say?       The prisoner coughs & stares. [End Page 604]

II. Las Manos de Che Guevara (Redacted), 1970

woe to them that conquer with armies   and whose only right is their power

canto lxxvi

My XXXXXXXX saw them—the year she’d been “stationed” In La Paz.     Someone wheeled them in

To an embassy cocktail party. The formaldehyde Goldened the jars where they swam: color of urine,

Sepia-tone XXXXXXXX the left hand still raised To salute la raza,     lifeline slithering toward a wrist

Snaggled from the bone-saw’s teeth. She gazed Entranced, setting her daiquiri down.       The thumbs XXXXXXXX twitch,

The index quivers. Langley’d needed confirmation & she could see the residue of ink, smudging each whorled

Fingertip. Atop the jar her Bureau Chief XXXXXXXX set down A crushproof of Pall Malls, two sheets to the wind

& fumbling with the Polaroid     accordioned open in his hands. How ’bout how ’bout a li’l pic-ture for me, XXXXXXXX. [End Page 605]

III. X Ray of a Swallowed Toy Battleship Lodged in the Esophagus of a Toddler, ca. 1905: Mütter Museum

“Liquids and fluids!” said the palmist. “A painter? well ain’t that liquids and fluids?”

canto lxxx

Poor boy, you gasp & wheeze but must stand at attention, Posture straight & silent for the fluoroscope—

Tedious exposure time, X rays shrapneling the consult room. Dr. Jackson fidgets the controls,       a thrum & warble.

Be still: though inside you a model of the USS Maine Splits & plummets to Havana Harbor, ever down.

(Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!) A false flag op; we “ourselves” laid the mine,

The death toll 266. Walk soft, big stick. Swallow A colony. Another.     Invent the gentle art of waterboard—

To breathe & to drown conjoined. The water flows To mouth, nostril, face, earhole, the stomach pummeled

As a kind of coda, the swallowed gallons upchucked. Poor tyke, Breathe in peril.     Someday they’ll get us all to talk. [End Page 606]

IV. The Dyeing of Bin Laden’s Beard, 2009

    The chess board too lucid the squares are too even . . . theatre of war . . . “theatre” is good. There are those who did not want it to come to an end

canto lxxviii

In paradise, its color shall not fade. In paradise, the virgins shall offer up

Their seventy-two hymens,     white thighs supplicant & splayed. But today, no virgins: only burkaed wives atop

A pair of stools. They weave the bootblack In with tiny horsehair brushes,       the dark streaking down their wrists.

Now to the half-moon moustache, now to the detail work— They’ve traded their bifocals for a magnifying glass,

Shared to permit the coverage of each follicle. & Allah, we know, is in the details,

Each hair blown upon to dry it more speedily. & then he rises, our Prince of Shadows.

Laptop powered up, he views a cherished video of himself— White robes streaming     & the chattering Kalashnikov. [End Page 607]

V. Cento: Radio Roma

Waal go ask yourselves what prevented it.Ezra Pound trying to tell you:       the danger is not that you WILL BE

Invaded, it is that you HAVE BEEN invaded.Pound speakin’     and the big Jew has rotted EVERY

Nation he has wormed into. (Born...


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pp. 604-613
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