The trick in all of this is to build well–
I’m thinking of Siracusa with Ted and Patty,
taking pictures of a 9th century church built atop
Roman baths, our children wilting in the heat,
or the place we took refuge—into the Ear of Dionysious I,
the rock quarry where we let loose with a tri-chord,
our voices carrying to where the cruel king is said to have
listened to the screams of his prisoners,
or the Greek Teatro: carpenters banging away
with improvements (acoustics so fine
tuned you can hear them dickering over measurements
for a new staging of Sophocles). The place
predates Hannibal, the Han Dynasty,
Euclid, the calculation of the earth’s circumference,
the Rosetta Stone, Adam and Eve–
it resists erasure, i.e., there’s no rusting rebar.
If you want it to last, build it in stone.
There’s a lot to live up to in a place, in a poem.
Back from Sicily, down Radipole Road—Saturday,
a sunny disposition in the London sky,
the clouds of John Constable passing by,
I find a bank machine, a pound of coffee,
walk again into the sun, and, now quite turned around,
spend part of the morning getting to know Fulham’s
(you have to admit) confusion of intersecting
diagonal streets, white row houses repeating
into the middle distance, except for places that got bombed,
in which case there’s something lastingly brutal
thrown up that you hadn’t noticed the first time,
or even the second or third time,
with groceries in a plastic sack–
for all the world like a man having just completed
a morning’s errand, and heading back.
Live long enough and everything’s emblematic—
except for the work of Damien Hirst, perhaps, or my
life-long preoccupation with sex. There’s an art
to the thoughts we might have had, Jean Paul Sartre!
I’m kidding about Hirst, though.
I walked into his retrospective thinking, This guy’s a charlatan,
but I left thinking, This guy’s a charlatan
and Wow, I love the cathedral butterflies.
I love the black disc of dead flies,
I don’t love the pharmaceutical cabinets,
I do love the pills and the cigarettes, and I do love
the formaldehyded shark and sawed-in-half calf, and the dove.
At the center something beautiful and brutal in all we love,
something Kali-like and fucked-up at the center—
something stupid and hateful at the center of all we love.
I’m with my nephew and son among the throngs at Turbine Hall
We stand on a bridge for a moment,
as below a flash mob of “pedestrians”
in a grid, without touching or bumping, emphatic
in three-second intervals, take their silent steps—
Live long enough and everything’s emblematic.