Thursday, December 30, 2010

Official Use Only

A man named Mohammad wears an American flag
"freedom is not free" t-shirt, and nowhere
is that sentiment more true than at the DMV,
the closest thing to prison most people ever see,
and if they don't navigate successfully its convoluted queues
some may stay inside forever, clutching at the paper
proof of their existence, praying for that magic combo-
nation of lines between proof, test, payment and photo.
The rest just conclude if they stay in one place long enough
an angel will take pity on them and open the gate,
so they wait, with the patiences of saints, the same people who,
when they are in vehicles, honk at cars that stop for pedestrians,
accelerate to reach red lights, pass slower cars with fingers.
Here, young and old, rich and poor stand together
spinning their invisible yo-yo's, staring at the yellowed travel posters
that aren't there, and wandering with eyes all a-glaze through
the vast honeycombs of things they should and shouldn't have done
today, this week, this year, their entire lives. Some break out
in half-hearted conversations, in Urdu or Farsi or Cantonese,
like a black market where access to bureaucrats is traded.
New pilgrims come in, continuously, alive with impossible optimism
while newly-minted citizens drag their wretchedly bitter
carcasses outside, to be washed clean of time once again.
They look so ordinary, these people behind the counters,
wearing glasses and happy new year antlers, with barely a hint
they're our Gods for the day, stamping our visas of infinite possibility.