Two years of cinders built up in the hearth,
the new over and over the old.
I’d made nothing for months, just consumed
or operated what others made.
Pointless to say what, but I will: frozen food,
my name on petitions to save various things,
a spray for scale on the plants,
films that streamed to me from a link,
sometimes viewed from our bed, which
either went unmade or was made so particularly
as the only task I could complete all day
that I would not let my love help
and accused him
of not knowing how.
Before this, I’d made an effort, sent it out
for judgment and could make nothing else till I heard.
But did I have to compare every breath I drew
to “an angioplasty”?
Did I have to be so sad?
Did I have to be as sad as my mother had been sad
and in the same way,
and hadn’t I lectured her before she went
not to make her sadness a burden for others,
and by others hadn’t I meant me?
A job of work was what had vexed me,
three years, or eight years, or fifty-four, depending.
The time might have wished to release to me
some money or some other boon,
but not right there or then,
the hour wasn’t right. So those things collected upriver
behind some kind of dam,
like jellies in a larder, jars of garnets I couldn’t lift from the water,
garnets from Kenya, Finland, Rajasthan, the Ural Mountains,
pomegranates, gooseberries, stones made of cinnamon, live coals.
Are you the type of person who doesn’t need approval?
Who keeps on working, no matter what?
Like God, whose throne, it is written, extends
over the heavens and the earth
and who “feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them”?
Well, good for you—right now I don’t care to lift
even the thinnest, netherest edge of the counterpane.
Nobody has yet said
we can’t afford to hold up the whole Internet forever,
but that’s right, don’t you see? We’ll have to vote
which parts to lose, which secret giant facilities
to keep cool with electricity made from burning coals.
Will it be the levels of games, the libraries, or the paths to the lonesome
That was the link from which I somehow met my love,
and now it’s all gone—click there, if you don’t believe.
Even the gate has disappeared, from when
America was Online. Now the young flood
along other routes, open to them alone.
Wasn’t it two months before the crazy old girl died
that I wrote in a letter I must have sent
TO HER HOSPITAL BED, for Christ’s sake,
that “the kindest thing anyone could do for others
is to face their own fears”? And didn’t she reply
she was “not up to being challenged on any part
of her worldview right then”? Whatever happened
to her garnet wedding band? Sweet bloody prophets and saints,
at least I turned off the screens to write this,
several days running, at least I worked.
Just how long might you be inclined
to help me lift my heavy head
off its throne of heaped and burning dung?