Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Day in the Boiler Room

You know the days are growing short by how little you see inside,
the sun outside nudging aside the clouds inside, how much light
survives divided by the number of dreams you cannot remember,
the spurious sleep, the moment unprepared for, the wild clamber
to the top of the rock where the goats look up, their legs restless
to climb higher but the sea washes against rock and it all erodes.

Machines fail. A being has been, we say. Burial is more humane,
I am told, than the furnace. How do we know? How do you know
it is not? Our human ways conflict, the power rush, the long turn
over, the short sprint now, breath growing shorter, harder to draw,
. . . The word is out: It’s over, the hope, the glory, the American
feeling. Now we settle down to our long night of going backward.

Yet reason keeps on making sense by multiplying the brain waves
intersecting with flesh and bones down there walking a body home.
I would understand, the philosopher says, what is good by goodness
if evil were absent, and that being not the case I gauge evil by loss.
The philosopher walks away to think through a thought like this
and comes back chortling, believing he’s broken through, he’s free

to keep going out and coming back, to making love and dying little
deaths one at a time and with short spaces between bodies touching
and parting and joining again only to spend themselves together,
or do they spin until they stop? Is that what making love was here?
where small creatures appeared near the end of a year to languish
never, so alive were they, the little storms in their body’s cells . . .

All this I was remembering before I ended my shift with a shovel
in the boiler room under the ground floor where all the footfalls
occur all day and all those with white shirts and ties stay above
the fray. I keep motioning to the shadows to spell me, my name
begins disappearing into the mist of sweat and grime. I’m blind
with love. I’m happy to have no appearances to salvage from loss.

If the machine failed it was only to give my heart fresh quickening.
If the seagoat ended on top it was only because rain was turning
rock slick, hooves sliding akimbo, time to stop and breathe the air
for breath itself. And if there were no sky there would be no rain.
And if there were no rain, there would be no water to sate a thirst
impossible to quench forever. And if I could not write what’s to read?

Don’t Faulkner me my Melville. I don’t need a grass-growing mood.
I have Hawthornes everywhere to dedicate my master work to, no
need to keep on incessantly attempting to fill the emptiness of words
when so many speak so well and even learn to think words through.
Else the poet make his story’s stand a stalemate, a moment of crisis
Aristotle may have understood but not Moby Dick or Light in August.

In the car the motor propels us into a heaven of human imagination
where gas is free and speed no factor in how fast we get from here
to there. In the room where we end memory of life in the boiler room
disappears, the shovel leans against one wall, the furnace is consumed
from the outside in, and I have cautioned those I know to go their own
way out or in, or stay and learn to put in a day of work the long way.

(30 September 2010)

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