demolition :: mark doty

The intact facade’s now almost black
in the rain; all day they’ve torn at the back
of the building, “the oldest concrete structure
in New England,” the newspaper said. By afternoon,
when the backhoe claw appears above
three stories of columns and cornices,

the crowd beneath their massed umbrellas cheers.
Suddenly the stairs seem to climb down themselves,
atomized plaster billowing: dust of 1907’s
rooming house, this year’s bake shop and florist’s,
the ghosts of their signs faint above the windows
lined, last week; with loaves and blooms.

We love disasters that have nothing to do
with us: the metal scoop seems shy, tentative,
a Japanese monster tilting its yellow head
and considering what to topple next. It’s a weekday,
and those with the leisure to watch
are out of work, unemployable or academics,

joined by a thirst for watching something fall.
All summer, at loose ends, I’ve read biographies,
Wilde and Robert Lowell, and fallen asleep
over a fallen hero lurching down a Paris boulevard,
talking his way to dinner or a drink,
unable to forget the vain and stupid boy

he allowed to ruin him. And I dreamed
I was Lowell, in a manic flight of failing
and ruthless energy, and understood
how wrong I was with a passionate exactitude
which had to be like his. A month ago,
at St. Gaudens’ house, we ran from a startling downpour

into coincidence: under a loggia built
for performances on the lawn
hulked Shaw’s monument, splendid
in its plaster maquette, the ramrod-straight colonel
high above his black troops. We crouched on wet gravel
and waited out the squall; the hieratic woman

—a wingless angel?—floating horizontally
above the soldiers, her robe billowing like plaster dust,
seemed so far above us, another century’s
allegorical decor, an afterthought
who’d never descend to the purely physical
soldiers, the nearly breathing bronze ranks crushed

into a terrible compression of perspective,
as if the world hurried them into the ditch.
“The unreadable,” Wilde said, “is what occurs.”
And when the brutish metal rears
above the wall of unglazed windows—
where, in a week, the kids will skateboard

in their lovely loops, and spray their undecipherable ideograms
across the parking lot—the single standing wall
seems Roman, momentarily, an aqueduct,
all that’s left of something difficult
to understand now, something Oscar

and Bosie might have posed before, for a photograph.
Aqueducts and angels, here on Main,
seem merely souvenirs; the gaps
where the windows opened once
into transients’ rooms are pure sky.
It’s strange how much more beautiful

the sky is to us when it’s framed
by these columned openings someone meant us
to take for stone. The enormous, articulate shovel
nudges the highest row of moldings
and the whole thing wavers as though we’d dreamed it,
our black classic, and it topples all at once.

advice to a prophet :: richard wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?–
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

water at night :: marianne boruch

Not that I understand things.
Angels don’t walk toward the ship, old engraving
where moon throws
a river of light, how angels would walk the ocean
if they wanted to walk.
They don’t. They hover. A lot of space
between them and what
shines like waves. Which can’t
be a choice, for angels or
the engraver who was in fact
Gustave Doré after sleeping off
the ancient mariner Coleridge left behind under
guilt and regret and an albatross’s weight.
Which isn’t much, but they are
big animals, four feet across counting
the wind involved
and rain. Doré waking to a room not
really of wings. I guess
a stirring, something in the black expanse
he hoped to razor into
the copper plate — no, a graver,
not a razor at all.
Beauty does terrify, a bare nothing
but stop. As in angels. Abrupt.
Still, to cut them their flight on metal
takes a while. His hands stiff,
Doré under a deadline no doubt like the small
endlessly later rest of us
do what we do and do until
it’s not what we do.
Nevertheless, angels. Why did they
keep coming, one by one radiant
dark of a mind paused to
this most desolate given: water at night.
That it floods a future not
even in the picture.

darkling summer, ominous dusk, rumorous rain :: delmore schwartz

1

A tattering of rain and then the reign
Of pour and pouring-down and down,
Where in the westward gathered the filming gown
Of grey and clouding weakness, and, in the mane
Of the light’s glory and the day’s splendor, gold and vain,
Vivid, more and more vivid, scarlet, lucid and more luminous,
Then came a splatter, a prattle, a blowing rain!
And soon the hour was musical and rumorous:
A softness of a dripping lipped the isolated houses,
A gaunt grey somber softness licked the glass of hours.

2

Again, after a catbird squeaked in the special silence,
And clouding vagueness fogged the windowpane
And gathered blackness and overcast, the mane
Of light’s story and light’s glory surrendered and ended
—A pebble—a ring—a ringing on the pane,
A blowing and a blowing in: tides of the blue and cold
Moods of the great blue bay, and slates of grey
Came down upon the land’s great sea, the body of this day
—Hardly an atom of silence amid the roar
Allowed the voice to form appeal—to call:
By kindled light we thought we saw the bronze of fall.

mid-day :: h. d.

The light beats upon me.
I am startled—
a split leaf crackles on the paved floor—
I am anguished—defeated.

A slight wind shakes the seed-pods—
my thoughts are spent
as the black seeds.
My thoughts tear me,
I dread their fever.
I am scattered in its whirl.
I am scattered like
the hot shrivelled seeds.

The shrivelled seeds
are spilt on the path—
the grass bends with dust,
the grape slips
under its crackled leaf:
yet far beyond the spent seed-pods,
and the blackened stalks of mint,
the poplar is bright on the hill,
the poplar spreads out,
deep-rooted among trees.

O poplar, you are great
among the hill-stones,
while I perish on the path
among the crevices of the rocks.

blackberrying :: sylvia plath

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.

Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks—
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.

offerings :: chloë honum

I have saved my pantomime of the sky for you. Let me lie with my head in your lap. I will sing the song of the trees in the cold wind, the way they rush up like flames, their leaves rippling. I want to show you everything you might have missed. With my fingers I will emulate moonlight resting on a field of violets. I am about as convincing as the child playing the sun in the school recital. But I have rain in my hair. This much is true. Let me bring it to you.

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