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The Invisible Man’s Electric Bill

—after Ralph Ellison

Old and figured over from a life in the basement,

he sat under the judge, deaf to paper shuffling, jabs

from the jury, the thousand flashes of cameras,


holding his figurine, a dancing Sambo he made

in the long hours after he forgot what day meant to night,

how the evening sounds of street life became the swirl


and slosh of puddles in a city under the metropolis,

a summary of his dreams of shuffling about from glad

hand to glad hand until he fell down the looking glass


into surrender. The day they came to tear down his

shack of books and marked spaces in reason, he asked

if he could see these things he had heard so much about


from those who went up on the streets from time

to time, these machines that did everything, that had

made keyboards an entry into a dream of the mind,


and they showed him a laptop with a bright apple

on the cover, he in turn gave them a figurine, 

a favorite one of a watermelon he had made, as big


as his hand, with Go down Moses carved in cursive

the way they used to do in grade school with practice paper.

Old and figured over from a life in the basement,


he had taken time to study gratitude, smiling when he

handed them the fruit, breaking the perfection of this space

made from the invisible energy, the light that made light,


and he was led off to face years of stealing from ConEd,

to pay his bill finally, to make the accounts balanced,

found out as he was by these little machines, these


minds inside the mind made real by the imprint of an apple

meant to say paradise had been made violate for greater

good, for the lost trumpet sounds of feet in rivers below,


rivers above, glad moments in wires crisscrossing the heart.