Two Poems by Michael Bazzett

The Side of the Road

I was sitting on a stone wall beneath a gently warming sun.
It was still early enough that the rock felt cool and small
birds were flitting in and out of mesquite shadow –I wondered
what kind of bird they were.  While this was occurring
I also happened to be imprisoned within a cage of my own desires.

I was waiting for a possible bus.  I wasn’t certain of its arrival,
but the stone wall and the small birds seemed enough for now.
So I paid heed to the shrinking shadows and heard the profound
silence of the road stretching out in either direction,
wondering only occasionally if a bus did happen to happen
this way whether there would be room for me as well as my cage.

It’s unwieldy and constructed in a somewhat haphazard fashion.
The bamboo joints are tied with hairy twine instead of rattan,
the pattern of the bars is uneven, but the water bottle
has an effective rubber seal and the feed tray is wired in
so securely that if I inadvertently back into it the pellets don’t
spill into the shredded paper or the cedar shavings that line my bed.

What I’m telling you – the road, the sun, the birds – all happened
under a sky that was blue enough that I can’t possibly describe it here
but there is one thing I will nonetheless try to relate, and it is unnerving:
when I stood and started walking down the empty road in one
of the two possible directions, I caught a peripheral flickering and looked
down at my shadow: it was nothing but the lean profile of a man –
arms swinging loose at his sides –  there was no outline of a cage at all.

The Bear Revolution

As we are graced now with the distance of history
is it really any wonder
they came streaming out of the hills that day?

We all agree the riots were brutal,
and stealing trucks and demanding jobs
is not exactly an innovative tactic, but even critics took note

of the visceral power of their media campaign
and if we honestly wish to understand
ourselves, as we so often claim,

why wouldn’t we contemplate what they broadcast
from that television station in Helena
in the opening days of the conflict:

remember the grainy images of mounded trash,
the grubs and the blueberries,
their own snouts smeared so obscenely thick with honey?

It was urgent work, arresting,
a compelling commentary
on the appetite demanded by a state of nearly constant consumption,

and yet we mocked it.
The montage aesthetic employed
was beyond us, we questioned their intelligence, made jokes:

What do you do if a bear throws a grenade at you?
Pull the pin and throw it back.  Yes,

I wince in recollection, and wonder how often
you, too, stood in the back of the elevator
and laughed uncomfortably with the crowd.

But we’re not here for self-abuse.
We are called here today to resist the seduction
of believing they’ve retreated like shadows into the wild.

This charade is what they would have you believe,
but I happen to have it from a well-connected source,
someone in uniform

that they’re simply lying low,
that comparisons to hibernation would not be completely inappropriate,
that they’ve worked hard to blend in,

camouflaging themselves as rugs
and coats, with a few motivated martyrs
even choosing the indignity

of riding the undersized bicycles they so despise.
Yes, they’re attaining positions of influence,
masking their accents, going to night school.

Can you not see your own face reflected in such ambition?
Who is it that you resemble
if it is not the dark and wild eyes of such an enemy?

About the author

Michael Bazzett’s fifth book of poems, The Echo Chamber, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2021. His work has appeared in The American Poetry…

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