Origin of Language
The Lord hummed quietly and hated Adam
singing out stupid names for the animals.
Shore Town, Winter
Now that it's January
in Victorian New Jersey,
the aqua and magenta
gingerbread of triple-deckers
is past incongruous, way past forlorn
and all the way to the Grand Canyon's
the loud absence
of the forces of improbable scale and precision
that must have made this
(and what a job to paint it!)
for their very own,
then flip-flopped down the boardwalk
and out of the galaxy,
leaving the sea,
pretty calm this evening,
the tide trending in,
the moon and sun, this winter twilight,
just about equally dim.
When Matthew Arnold settled one elegiac hand
on a pale shoulder, gesturing out
over the Channel, he saw France
quietly letting go its light.
This is America, we see nothing
but size, sky and ocean
working on gray-green
not much of anything,
though in this later century
we, also, hear the grating roar,
mixed maybe with a syringe or two
and indestructible packing, but never mind,
the hiss and click
of calciferous debris that Arnold heard
Sophocles hear as human misery.
Waves in themselves, turning to her
he whispered (and I whisper)
are huge but powerless.
collapsing on a single shell
leave it unfazed,
but hardness of touch, quickness of suspicion,
the quickening step
shells break, we break, each other.
Ah love, etcetera.
Weary of detail,
Arnold's particular deity
has chilled out to think about the Big Picture,
and on his darkling plain
they've closed the stores,
as if in a day or two
his sun will go red giant
and scrape the planet down to the stone.
But the Sea of Faiths
in the broadest sense is doing
just fine, thank you. Endlessly it reproduces
Taco Bells and Jiffy Lubes
along our hardening arterials.
Not a day goes by
without the world recording
zillions of world records,
no day that our collective résumés
fail to add a zillion lines,
and those who declare
for Higher Things enrich
in desert compounds the uranium
of Zeal's white glare.
Over and over,
just when it seems we're blessedly
running out of gas,
figure out how to make money
from going on just as before.
Ah love, the news is old
that the wind slides through carless lots
and slaps flat on chainlink:
more than a century,
now, it's been the end of the world.
and this long, long twilight,
this last Alas, has lost its power
either to frighten or console.
On a similar shore
You and I are old, Ulysses crooned
but then again
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
We call it a day,
heading for Parkway North,
not too downcast to be lifted
by a car absurdly loud with teens
and a music that drowns ours
as they pass us, entering
this paused flick
of dark hotels and meters on Expired
hoping for solace and a Sign! a Sign!
and sure, if anything is sure, to find
both less and more than we have found
on a winter Sunday
in the flickering neon
of this new old new old world
that says No Vacancy and means
We are empty, and we plan to stay that way.