Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Uncertainties (Rehearsal in Black)

Two Uncertainties

"There is eternity to blush in," Djuna Barnes

Around the attic bird, the century is silent:
gathers utter ghosts in scattered dust displays.
Afloat in that window, not even a star approaches like a dog.
Nothing is left to desire: rain in open cars,
gasolines fires. History is ending.

We are not, however, among those voices off.
We are the ones in prose whose form
is finally shapeless, except for these constraints.
With the labor of planets turning,
please bind us to a version of ourselves.

Easy to love the short poem, so undemanding of space, so ready to give up its ghost. This work was selected by Elise Paschen to appear on Chicago buses and trains, in a poetry poster program sponsored by the Poetry Society of America. A faculty member at my former institution of higher learning asked her Introduction to Literature class to write a paper about it. One cogent response was that the poet was in error; history is not ending. But something did come to an end, didn't it, with the administration of George W. Bush, and there's a very real sense, with the death of Edward Kennedy, that we'll never see our own likes again. Remember when people spoke out with certainty on issues that really mattered, got red / read in the face? When exactly did Obama remove the troops from Afghanistan and Iraq? Like, never? All that said, it's not a political poem; rather, it shares with political poetry the mode of the prayer.


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