O Wise Rat of Venice, Come
Time was I rode up to the edge of cool
ultraconfident in a minigondola
strutted about in whiskers and cape
casino nights, chinchilla babes
stint as a Rodent Scholar
Now what? Monks come and go
dismal with prayer
chant “Pathway Through the Grand Canal.”
A bacterial storm is brewing
left and right I’m throwing up gruel.
Please think of me
next time you see a dying rat.
Like you I thought I was a somebody
because I knew how to work a telescope
and watched the newborn stars.
The Wise Rat of Venice
gnaws open my cell.
Is this it? Help!
But who can reason with Him?
As he slits down my middle
innards worm out artfully slow.
Wise Rat prettifies this act with words
Thus we rise from refuse and nest
scamper through ignorance, expire in shame
intones the promises—
soon I’ll be trying to smooch
with a Hamster Lady always out of reach
soon, soon I’ll become my own Fury
tumbling through a rush of canal.
Pacem in Terris
The flayed cadavers of urchins
hung upside down in the square
by the Monument to World Peace.
A charwoman sobbed by the wishing fountain.
Bedbugs sensed and targeted me
mined into my very thoughts.
(said the underground paper)
would not confess even after
they coaxed his innards out
then tied them to a maypole.
Tourists were shown
(said the official press)
lovely Old Tamerlane Street
and the Temple to Silicon VII
and sat in cafés scribbling on postcards
“Why this here is a very cool town.”
I saw the high wall and ran.
I ran at the recommended speed.
It was outrageous how I ran.
I ran past anger corpsmen
and dignity clubs
past vendors and pedicabs and goons
I climbed and felt a hand lifting me
a hand one hundred percent a source
of wisdom and charity—
I leaked blood right and left
but had strength to ask
“Is this private land I’m on?
Where have I come? Am I of flesh?
Is this freedom or am I by the East Sea
with a bath of sea-foam
running sheep down my eyes?”
But If There Is No God, Then Must We Submit to Oriana Grand?
Alexander de Grote perished from a lack of Twitter fans
on the nineteen-hundredth night of his beauty.
Like most of us he lived for all kinds of likes
in the flamelight of his machines.
Alex was a diamond worker
in the very mouth of Rome.
He died at the feet of Invictissimus King H—
or a statue of Such in the town center.
A sect of astrologers spotted the corpse,
got a load of students to help.
“It’s a shame,” they said,
“but who the hell was he?”
A sullen crowd attended
in front of the College of Prosperity.
Ten men-to-be-ordained, passing by,
beheld an image they called “the true sunshine at night”
and took it as a sign for this old stumble world.
The sirens bloated, the polyglot crowd thinned out.
They clearly didn’t give a Bronx dollar.
A dog of some sort came to sit on the corpse
and, crying, formed a miniature oasis of respect.
Some said it knew the corpse.
Some said it was just crying for the sirens.
A few translations claim this story ended there.
Most others say that two blocks north
a parade of Oriana Grand fanatics
happened to come marching in boisterous tribute.
It was fifty-two million souls strong,
including heads of industry
and many other members of the Game.
No amount of soldiery could contain such a horde.
God was only Prime Minister
for the first eighty-five seconds of this Earth,
but Oriana—in kimono and heels, she sat in a sedan chair
held aloft by girls and men and the axis of life,
a moment nineteen thousand years in the making.
People held phones and chanted for Oriana
and it was beautiful for a long time.
*Alejo Rovira Goldner left Spain in 1995 to make his home in Los Angeles. For many years he taught in the barrio and now lives quietly in the Highland Park area. He was once known as “Marcel J. Frankel” and is usually still known as “Alex M. Frankel.”