V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




                    (For Greg Delanty)

Neither that scrapped Ford Anglia skirting
Cork suburbs’ crepuscular graveyards,
Nor the rented Chevrolet Troubadour
Seanachaied with poem-talk through Vermont’s green glades,
But this hot red, sun-roofed Civic hauling
Along Route 95—watch for the cops!—
Horsepowers my compensatory metaphor
For Where We’re At; that, and the mechanic
Who hands me a discount breakfast ticket
For the Hearth ‘N Kettle while he wonks my car.

Maintenance is what the dumb machine needs.
So I take my self and my ten percent, walk
Mall-ward fifty yards along the breakdown lane
To my lone booth for the Plantation Special:
Plymouth, not Munster, nor Tara’s driven sky
Blood-brushed in Panavision with Scarlet’s raised fist—
“I’ll never be hungry again.” Not here.
My sunnysides stare benignly from their ring
Of home fries, links, those sizzling flags of bacon
With stop-motion waves, crumbling to my fork…

This is the hour of the well and duly aged,
Homing from home for a long morning’s jaunt.
Couples and cronies, shuffled shoes, walkers,
The occasional spry tandem settling in
Like contented Buddhas before their omelets.
Surely they suffered it this far gladly,
A lifetime of close calls and hard knocks,
Depressions, recessions, world and minor wars,
And the steady, blind poisoning of the planet,
To arrive here, right as new bills for the spending.

Or is it the dull and newly aged, like me
And that overweight Elvis with his girl
Up late after the last Dinner Theater show,
Slouching under Washington’s all-seeing bust?
There’s no idling icon like an icon cloned,
Though the genome has us all in the one queue
With our cousins the chimps, like the chicken
With its Tyranosaurus pedigree.
It fuels me to wonder what we might be next,
Rex now, post Rex, no longer lording it over

The thousand thousand species dithering out,
And some comical, fractional heir of us
Clucking our fate, pecking at the fractured scraps
Of what we were: worse than a Jules Verne future.
Before this bottomless coffee cup and hearth
An idealized past displays its parsed tableaux:
This mild procession from Compact to Trade—
No viral handshake at First Encounter Beach—
While the whomped Wampanoags recede like wrackline
Into a prospect of sawgrass and casinos;

The Nation’s birth ship moors beside its founding rock,
That fraught Gibraltar; over Province Lands
The Pilgrim Monument’s spire of mimic stones
Recalls a distant vista of Tuscan hills—
Ghibbeline dreams, Il Gubbio in his tower…
Below these scenes the tended tables wait
With lacquered patience for whoever comes.
And that boy staring into the gas-jetted blaze,
Can he know the traceless pipeline and its source
For the kindling of his longing?  So the eye

Engraves the insistence of its want in play,
Like your own Dan-boy with his plastic
Ninja sword, his Sato’s blade slaying all
The hoarded fears, all the armies of the night,
Fooling with his Da at the Daily Planet.
We’re each of us Daniels in our teeming Egypts,
Snookered for the road, still nel mezzo del camin,
Our sights turned to the bright, unburnable logs,
Composed, unscathed as the singers in their furnace,
While we pass, zoom, all the passing passing away.


© by Daniel Tobin


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