Vice: New and Selected Poems
by Ai Ogawa
Publication Date: Jun 17, 2000
List Price: $21.00
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Imprint: W. W. Norton & Company
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Parent Company: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Collected here are poems from Ai’s previous five books’Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, Fate, and Greed’along with seventeen new poems. Employing her trademark ferocity, these new dramatic monologues continue to mine this award-winning poet’s "often brilliant" (Chicago Tribune) vision.
An Excerpt from Vice
Memory is a highway,
where a car is speeding into the sunset.
The man inside that car has a gun.
He says he’ll shoot himself
and be done with it, be dead,
but in the end, he doesn’t do it.
If he had, the path to the truth
would have led straight from the gate
outside his ex-wife’s house,
not end run around it,
leaving a trail of blood
the prosecution says is proof
that he used his power, his juice
to seduce death
by handing her two sacrifices,
but she promised what she would never deliver.
She left him a pair of loaded dice
and severed their connection
with one well-practiced slice.
Now in his cell,
he reads fan letters.
He doesn’t dwell on the past.
If he did, he’d tell you to always go for broke,
because a man who can’t do the distance is a joke,
is a failure.
"You can quote me on that," he says aloud,
then shocked by the sound of his own voice,
chokes back a cry.
When he looks himself in the eye,
he jsut sees a regular guy.
He sees a parade going by.
On the largest float,
the homecoming queen waves to the crowd.
She’s a statuesque blond.
He’s a football hero.
He’s also a black man,
but that is no obstacle.
It’s a license to do the impossible.
He waves back.
Maybe that isn’t really what happened,
but it’s close and he makes the most of it,
when he can see through the smoke
of his desire and rage.
In a flash
he feels the diamonds of hope,
cutting the smooth glass of his mind
into halfs and quarters,
as he runs backward in time,
a football tucked under his arm,
as he crosses the goal line,
only to find the stands are empty
and he is alone in the field.
Concealed in the ball is a bomb.
All he has to do to explode it is throw.
He listens to the silence inhaling,
then he lets go.
That’s when the crowd appears
and over the loudspeaker
he hears his coach, saying, "Buddy, come on home,"
but home is the scene of the crime,
shown on TV so many times
that the murderer and victims cease to exist,
except in peripheral vision
and in the void between goalposts,
thirty-two bits and pieces of his life.
are all that survive of the knife.
(c) 1999 by Ai. All rights reserved.