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Lee Marc Stein

My War on Terror

Look away from this portrait:
ashen face a scream, hands in fists,
I duck behind my wife.
The pigeons are coming for me.

They swoop down, fiery eyes
beamed at my forehead.
This time they’ll crash into me.
Gray beaks stiletto my heart,
grenade bodies explode my glasses,
hockey stick wings slap at my mouth.

My fear took root when I was two.
One stamp behind the birds I fed
launched squadrons at me, hatched
six decades of dread pecking in my brain.

My parents’ laugh track accompanied
every run of this horror film.
I fled to seek heroes of the head:
Behaviorists plotted to cage or drag me
leashed to Washington Square.
Rationalists merely stopped my drinking.
The Freudian said “pigeons are not just pigeons.”
One therapist gambled, swearing
“They’ll never fly up in your face.”
His lie rendered the terror truer.
Pigeons hit people in Siena, Vienna,
on the streets of old San Juan.
They are coming for me.

Let’s map this geography of fear:
San Fran’s wharves, St. Marks’ Square,
London, Lucerne—here’s me paralyzed.
In the Greek isles, in ports of Sicily,
I cowered before the battle began,
tranquilizers erasing all feeling
—here’s my love paralyzed.

Some day soon I’ll win this war,
walk Buddha-like down Broadway
mindful of the birds, aware
they could fly up at me, but blasé
as a blue sky gathering white clouds.

Portrait of the Artist as PR Genius

What jumps out of Las Meninas
is Velazquez as Señor Narcissus
who realizes his eye and brush stroke
will render him immortal
above his divine-righteous monarchs.

Wielding the power of his oils,
he insinuates himself
as conquistador of frozen time and space,
relegates king and queen
to postage stamps on the studio’s wall,
dismisses the chamberlain,
anesthetizes the royal pooch,
exposes the Infanta’s imperial ennui,
depicts how her innocent beauty
dwarfs the dwarf’s homeliness.
The gentleman and lady in waiting
whisper in awe of his artistry.

Spin doctor Don Diego
portrays himself as prince of the court
only he can see through,
steps back from the gargantuan canvas
delighted to know he is Prado-bound.

©2010 by Lee Marc Stein

Lee Marc Stein is a retired marketing consultant living in East Setauket, Long Island. His poems have appeared in Miller's Pond Poetry Magazine, Still Crazy, and Cynic Online, and his humorous essays have been published in Still Crazy and Senior Citizen.

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