Victory

There is no Rescue Mission where it isn’t freezing   
from the need that created it. The lost children

distill to pure chemical. Where Good is called No-Tone   
it’s the one who cries out who doesn’t get a coat.

The children fuse colors because they don’t want to   
separate. Daughters shot off of hydrants who cut

each other in the neck and gut, don’t care   
which one of them will end up later in surgery.

And drugged sons pretending to be costumes,
well, they’re not welcome to comprehension either.

Why does a wild child confuse a moon   
with a hole in his skin?

One was born soaked in gin.
His first sip was from a bottle of denial.

What can “leave me alone” mean after that?   
The system is settled, dimensions fixed.

Another one’s hand feels like a starfish.
Makes me hysterical like the word perestroika.

But they all dig the way the pepper is rosy in the vodka.   
It’s verbocity that creates jokers.

Brick and grit are the candy and frosting
where volunteers and teachers write cards that go:

“Donate books that say NOT and NO and poets
who say Urn instead of Oh.”

How do the children convert their troubles   
into hip-hop? Dunno—but it’s wonderful.

Fanny Howe, “Victory” from One Crossed Out. Copyright © 1997 by Fanny Howe. Reprinted with the permission of Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.
Source: One Crossed Out (Graywolf Press, 1997)
More Poems by Fanny Howe