Slave to the Rhythm

Photograph by Jose Padua
I. [Balloon]
I’m too long-winded to attempt a haiku that explains my feelings.
My song is called 99 ass balloons and is sung by Udo Kier.
Haikus should have clear imagery, otherwise they stray too far from form.
I’m always surprised when I find out what it is I’m really thinking.
Udo Kier dedicates his singing of this song to Count Dracula.
When you see trees in morning light I’m the shadow that hides the details.
There is no poetic rule that I’m unwilling to rebel against.
The 99 ass balloons made us want to shoot guns at each other.
When I close my eyes I like to listen to birds and flying insects.
I don’t know how to accomplish what I want to say in a haiku.
My mind’s images are much too dry to relate what happens inside.
My pop protest poem is called dead ad executives and it is mine.
Rhythm builds with time and number until the pattern is established.
Nature’s half of language is in the grunt, creation is a whisper.
Number gives way to rhythm until the ass is set into motion.
This sentence contains seventeen syllables about love and power.
No angel treads upon my ass, no machine can push me to the edge.

II. [Business]
When Grace Jones met Udo Kier they didn’t know
whether to kill each other or to love each other. They
didn’t know whether to drink one another’s blood or
to drink everyone else’s blood, together like a family
(here’s to your health). There was no poetic rule they
were unwilling to rebel against or break. Grace meet
Udo, Udo meet Grace. Past meet future, future meet
a past full of explosions, past meet a future full of
inconclusive results. The business is grapes, on the
vine, to be picked and sold. The business is glass to
cover and contain and keep our watch. The business
is axe and wood and chain. The business is machines
and power lines connecting machines. The business
is communication, management, and is made up of
levels and threads and strings. The business operates
in all regions and all regions are nether regions. The
business is music, the business is film, the business
is literature, the art is the business of disappearing.

III. [Bomb]
Rhythm is a condition of having a soul. Whosoever has a soul has a rhythm that stretches alongside one’s long and short steps toward everything that is deep and everything that is blue, that fills the holes that drift between continents as it makes a clanging sound like an old piano echoing in a twenty storey stairwell. The beats are the slap that awakens the sleeping hero near the end of popular films. The beats are the clock whose motor hums in the background on Saturday nights drowning out the white noise of a billion televisions. Rhythm is what the enemy tries to stop or steal—the rhythm of the heart in the act of escaping, the rhythm of the brain creating new language, making daily escapes from the gravity of mountains and planets. Rhythm is revenge upon the oppressors. Rhythm is slave to no one, slave to nothing. It survived when the bomb exploded, blowing us up into a million poems that are slave to no one, slave to nothing but the rhythm that surrounds this room each time we stop to catch our breath, before we open the door, before we grind stones into wet streets, before we rise and push and plummet and rise, before we move ahead into the living, changing air with these steps of epic grace.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua. “Slave to the Rhythm” was first published as part of The New Guard review’s Bang! series.

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