"Grasslands kings undergo a long period of initiation
which cannot terminate successfully until one of the
king's wives gives birth to a child."
Susan Vogel and Francine N'Diaye, African Masterpieces from the Musee de l'Homme
So the trial's over. It's a boy, the king is certain
and this is the celebration. Well, not this exactly,
but the figure carved to remember and we do, at least
for a while. She holds the barely conscious suckling,
all the parts wound to one thing. Here, we're so tired
of the same jokes over and over, money for guns, and
yes, we feel bad for the poor dead suckers spread over
the news. But look at her body! You're supposed to
feel sorry for me, endlessly sorting garbage: orange
peels, half-scratched drawings, crayons, scraps all
over the floor How do those children ever learn? How
do we? It's not funny. Give the drunk a quarter, say
you've done your part. These days he's "homeless,"
a word deserving attention, and presents the "spatial
immediacy" we've learned from this art: there's
no front; the meaning arrives from every direction.
The war that brought us that sculpture was another
century, the other side of the world, names we can
barely pronounce. The king and all his children are
long gone. But hey, did you hear the one about except
I've forgotten that one too, though I laughed at the
time. The President made another deal with killers
so we can eat better. It doesn't matter whether we
believe it. That new azalea's blooming again, invitations
out for the barbecue, and everyone's coming.