The poetry of earth is a ninety-year-old woman
in front of a slot machine in a casino in California.
She is wearing a gray dress, her sharp red lipstick
in two lines across her mouth, put there
by a daughter. Like Gertrude Stein's, her hair
is cut close. Nearby is her wheelchair, painted blue
like a boy's bicycle. It is a weekday in March,
the casino is the size of a hangar that could house
a dozen planes, but it is thousands of machines
that fill the eye, an event of light and color.
The sentences she now speaks are like the sentences
of Gertrude Stein, without the ironies of art.
Time is like a compressed accordion, the farthest
points now near, more present than the present.
Waiting, I am at the food court, reading a magazine
article about the languages the world is losing.
The languages spoken by a few remaining
people. Or by one remaining person. Or lost
totally, except for the grainy recordings in archives,
mysterious as the sounds made by extinct birds.
The reels on her machine spin, their symbols
never matching. She is playing the one-cent slots,
and her money will go far into the afternoon.
And because waiting is thinking, I am thinking
of the eternity Keats writes about in the sonnet
about the grasshopper and the cricket, ceasing never
in the hedges and meadows, in the evening stove,
the grasshopper of summer, the cricket of winter.
The Threepenny Review