Thursday, November 04, 2004

Urban Renewal

The slums are down
the worn-out factories are down.
All that was iniquitous
in living and in working
is erased.

Teetering tenements,
which in their age-grayed walls and windows
looked less than half alive
though sheltering the teeming families within,
began dissolving months ago
(nobody knows or asks where the families went),
leaving shameless, unapologetic blanks
that yawn the city half to death.

Ancient factories --
vast wood and brick geometries where
belts, motors, wheels, and men
made life go, loud by day, subdued
under strange blue lights at night --
cascaded awesomely, once life within was gone.
(Wreckers felled them with dispatch.) Like mulch
they lie, to quicken the new town's rising.

Someone, please ask
the planners how to renovate
integrity and vision,
dismantle bigotry, build

After the Enchantment

The light wanes, the ruins cool,
and as we shift and sift the vaguening fragments,
disturbing the dark, dank air,
there mingle with the twilight mists of cannon smoke,
PT exhaust, the sweat of touch football,
and the tangy breath of books
a reek of semen, a bouquet of beauties
bedded at Pennsylvania Avenue.
We are careful how we breathe.
We pick up the broken stones
and try to see how they must fit together.
A few take certain shape,
and we mourn for a craft now lost,
design irretrievably forgotten.

Perhaps this was no Camelot, after all; might not
have been if he had lived. But we enshrined him there,
almost before the old, sun-dazzled
poet's words were done. Dazzled ourselves
by the casual elegance and the gleam of wit, warmed by the compassion of his exhortations,
we found it not too hard to dream a sun
or succored world. It was enough, perhaps,
that we could find in him these few and irreducible
nucleons of some bright substance that we needed
(as we make any god we make embody our flawed best)
and so love him as we might love whatever god it is
we make: not for what is there but for
what we imagine there must be.
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