County fair August, windless sunset:
Robinson can’t hearing Hoobastank
pounding their overamped, unvarying fortissimos
a mile away to girl-screams.
Overhead, silence of jet trails
connecting Miami to New York.
What diff between power-chord riffs
and bombardment supported by heavy
machineguns, between commercial jet vapor
and vapor of fighter-bomber sorties?
The screams at each end
are the same: girl-women finding
themselves alone in a chorus
of survivors, luckless or lucky.
Luck’s imperial: sandals, cotton candy,
ferris wheels neoning the background.
Lucklessness equals rubble, dead babies,
after-effect of mortar and rocket.
Robinson on his condo porch
feels like a journalist perched
at Saigon’s Hotel Continental, auditioning
the Tet Offensive. He’s anchored
a band this loud, backed
by speaker-stacks canted like artillery:
he understands their passionate damage,
why survivors surge forward, embracing
or condemning the all-conquering weaponry.
They’re either ecstatic or destroyed
according to the war zone.
His privilege was imperial safety,
girls warring with absent parents
for the right to masturbate
his sweaty weapon outside Charleston.
He can only imagine Baghdad’s
sound-and-light shows, young widows rushing
machinegun emplacements powered by Hoobastank.
At some point they reach
the same barrier, elevated stage
on which the warriors perform,
armored by Kevlar or guitars,
are thrust back by roadies
or concertina wire. Robinson’s sick
of either/or, which makes no
difference. In greater Atlanta’s dark,
he hears the diminishing screams—
girls riding the Zipper, victims
of the Octopus, boys BB-machinegunning
midway bullseyes. White flatline of
jets overhead. Robinson dozes, Hoobastank’s
done. Ambulances take center stage.