Everybody Had Coup Flu
To Mikhail Gorbachev
I learned a lot that week.
I learned how to hold my breath for three whole days.
I learned how to pray without belief.
“O God,” I’d whisper,
“I don’t know if you exist or not
and normally I wouldn’t bother you
even if you did
but this is important
so if you do exist, then please, dear God,
let there be liberty!”
I learned how to read minds by consulting my own.
I’d walk up to strangers and ask, “What do you think?”
and they knew what I meant because they too had coup flu.
Everybody had coup flu.
For three whole days the world watched
the past and the future play chess.
We hovered, suspended, over the abyss.
We looked down and saw ourselves
Already there in the flaming pit
burning, fighting, dying, weeping
our nightmares plain and clear to see
and yet we did not fall; we flew.
We had no time to be afraid;
We had just long enough to bid hope good-bye
(just in case)
when suddenly the crisis was over.
The coup had fallen
the repression was repressed
the failure had failed
the negation was negated
the deaths had died
and we were alive again.
For it wasn’t just the Russians
who doubly blundered into grace;
everyone grew stronger by surviving the attack.
When the crowd toppled the spy’s huge statue
it wasn’t just their iron idol that fell.
It wasn’t even that we finally did things right;
we’re human, we never do anything right;
it’s just that we finally did things wrong right.
Days later, while driving home
under the influence of the full moon
I was still grinning, still laughing
and not at anything in particular.
The attendant at the toll plaza
had headphones on, and was dancing.