Sunday, November 23, 2008

Voices from the Necropolis

Nature is not cruel, just sometimes clumsy
Stumbling upon new possibilities
In the slow violence of geologic time.

The streets came first, familiar names on paper
Drawn broad and straight in squares
Like razor wounds on earth
Secure high ground near water
Where rivers the colors of rust and jade
Cut through the boneless crust of clay
An Eocene shore of warm and iceless seas
Lay bare the granite ribs of sinless worlds.

Where we could not build rivers, we built streets
Our marks upon the surface, the work of men
Blind with purpose you still misunderstand
The beauty you admire, the vows that you exchange
Was not our beauty and were not our vows
Even cruelty is redefined in time.

We built streets we thought too broad to burn
For a city that would burn at the end of our age.

We built because we had to
The deep necessity of our nature
What is art but knowledge in reserve
Perhaps never useful, but used nevertheless
More than instinct, less than revelation
Our precarious urge to disturb the surface of things.

On random days in summer, the heat could kill a man
The air was hot enough to make us believe
We could not breath, and we would never be happy again
The physics of temperature and humidity
Drove us to seek the cool spaces of our creation,
Shade trees, high ceilings and porches,
Where we tried to beg or steal or trade our happiness.

What is the soul that it is so easily troubled by a happiness that cannot last?
Something shocked and saddened by constant motion
When everything is crushed like water trapped in ice
The rain of restless storms, the clouds that block the sun
The sudden and unexpected chill of unforgiving seasons.

The ages end more quickly now
The transient world reforms itself
Unconstrained by the chemistry of the past.

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