You Can Taste It

 in the shock and roar 

of a first, unexpected kiss.

Or in the blood in your mouth 

that instant after an accident when you realize you’re still alive. 

It blows in the wind you feel on the rooftops of a really reckless night of adventure. 

You hear it in the magic of your favorite songs, 

how they lift and transport you in ways 

that no science or psychology could ever account for. 

It might be you’ve seen evidence of it scratched into bathroom walls 

in a code without a key, 

or you’ve been able to make out a pale reflection of it 

in the movies they make to keep us entertained. 

It’s in between the words when we speak of our desires and aspirations, 

still lurking somewhere beneath the limitations of being “practical” and “realistic.”

When poets and radicals stay up until sunrise, 

wracking their brains for the perfect sequence of words or deeds

 to fill hearts (or cities) with fire, 

they’re trying to find a hidden entrance to it. 

When children escape out the window to go wandering late at night, 

or freedom fighters search for a weakness in government fortifications, 

they’re trying to sneak into it.  

They know better than us where the doors are hidden. 

When teenagers vandalize a billboard to provoke all-night chases with the police, 

or anarchists interrupt an orderly demonstration to smash the windows of a corporate chain store, 

they’re trying to storm its gates.

When you’re making love and you discover a new sensation or region of your lover’s body, 

and the two of you feel like explorers discovering a new part of the world 

the coast, say, of an unknown continent, 

as if you are the first ones to reach the north pole or the moon, 

you are charting its frontiers.

It’s not a safer place than this one — 

on the contrary, it is the sensation of danger there that brings us back to life: 

the feeling that for once, for one moment that seems to eclipse the past and future, 

there is something consequential at stake.

Maybe you stumbled into it by accident, once, amazed at what you found. 

The old world splintered behind and inside you, 

and no physician or metaphysician could put it back together again. 

Everything before became trivial, irrelevant, ridiculous as the horizons 

suddenly telescoped out around you and undreamt-of new paths offered themselves. 

And perhaps you swore that you would never return, 

that you would live out the rest of your life electrified by that urgency, 

in the thrill of discovery and transformation — but return you did.

Common sense dictates that this world can only be experienced temporarily, 

that it is just the shock of transition, and no more; 

but the myths we share around our fires tell a different story: 

we hear of women and men who stayed there for weeks, years, who never returned, 

who lived and died there as heroes. 

We know, because we feel it in that atavistic chamber of our hearts 

that holds the memory of freedom from a time before time, 

that this secret world is near, waiting for us. 

You can see it in the flash in our eyes, 

in the ecstasy of our dances and love affairs, 

in the protest or party that gets out of hand.

You’re not the only one trying to find it. 

We’re out here, too… some of us are even waiting there for you. 

And you should know that anything you’ve ever done or considered doing to get there is 

not crazy, but beautiful, noble, necessary.

Revolution is simply the idea we could enter that secret world and never return; 

or, better, that we could burn away this one, to reveal the one beneath entirely.

Richard Modiano is a native of Los Angeles. He attended the University of Hawai’i and New York University. While a resident of New York City he became active in the literary community connected to the Poetry Project where he came to know Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Ann Waldman, William S. Burroughs and Ted Berrigan.  From 2010 to 2019, he served as Executive Director of Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center. In that time he produced and curated hundreds of literary events. Richard is a rank and file member of the Industrial Workers of the World. In 2019 he was elected Vice President of the California State Poetry Society.

1 reply »

  1. I have hope when I read something so generous. This poem puts 99% of the drivel that calls itself contemporary poetry to shame. That’s because this one points to the infinite magic that true poetry is as opposed to being a cry for an ego stroke or a wordy lubricant for masterbatory virtue signalling.

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