Poem of Nine A.M.
Sing for us whose troubles
are troubles we're lucky to have:
cold orange juice, and cold coffee,
corridor after corridor, as our
circadian rhythms fall into place:
work is a refuge from home, and home from work.
We have task force reports,
but no tasks, and no force,
so far removed from concrete and crisp air
we might be living anywhere,
enjoying each other's company, within bounds.
• • •
When I flew over the Grand Canyon, I loved—
who wouldn't?—to see the majestic gash in earth,
but what moved me
were the flat hints of grids
that began and ended several miles away,
tan, ecru, beige, knife-scratches on dry toast,
and then houses—some might have been trailers—so faint
and isolated next to those faint lines.
Single grains of sugar. Sesame seeds.
We should never look down
on what gives strangers comfort,
on what we learn too late that we might need.
An orange nylon collar, a scallop-shell A-cup, worn tortoiseshell
buttons that pop off a dress,
my own ...
This world is too good for us, and would be intolerable
if we could not imagine another just like it
in which we could get, and reject, another chance.
Low dandelion leaves are zoned commercial,
with their promise of puffballs to come.
Bits of dew spackle the high grass
asymmetrically; they are sleek apartment windows,
skyscrapers are weeds.
Tall sprigs of goldenrod patrol
the blown-down city line....
There is another world
in this world, but it was not made for you.
Round oniongrass stalks are old monuments
to persistence in hard times.
You could live up inside one
and learn to like it, cramped quarters,
cooking smells and all.
Two bees report on traffic, warning listeners
to the anemophily channel
as the natural disaster
of humanity comes closer
every morning. Work while you can, they say.
Copyright © 2013 by Stephen Burt
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission