by Sydney Lea
Feature image: Odilon Redon. Ophelia, 1906. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Our bus streaks bullet-fast by the soaring Crowne Plaza Hotel
and the sundry Hartford insurance companies’ towers
where millions of dollars are made and lost,
for all I know, in an hour.
I don’t care. I’m searching for something else as I cross
Connecticut for New York City to greet my daughter’s
newborn twins. We should think of a child
as constituting the highest form that spirit can know,
and I’m headed south to witness such spirit, twofold!
Still I’m petty, comparing myself to the mannerless
couple—young and loud—
who bellow laughter from a seat behind me, perhaps at the latest
YouTube clip. What can their futures hold?
But what, after all, of my own?
And why do I judge them—or that frantic fat man, say, who paws
through massed spreadsheets and memos, his briefcased burden?
We’re all after something. There’s WiFi. I fuss
with news from friends far distant.
This is, I understand, the world: a roaring bus,
disembodied connections, steel and carbon,
and thousands on thousands of cars.
I need to come to grips with the lifelong defect in me:
believing my thoughts alone are true and proper.
Through headphones I hear an Art Blakey CD.
I say I seek something higher,
yet I hear the music on disc, and material scalpels freed
my granddaughter painful hours after her brother
arrived in the usual way.
And material culture too is this road I travel. I labor
a moment over such fact, then tritely sigh
over Good Old Days and ruinous change
in my own usual way.
In a so-called Sport Utility Vehicle, the driver clings
like death to the wheel as she passes, her teenaged boy
jabbing a lit-up keyboard.
I can guess what he faces, I’ve seen these games, I know what’s in them:
cars and buses and towers in flames on a screen.
He chews his lip, his eyes wide open,
though not to the lovely green
planet ablaze and spinning toilsomely around him.
It revolves as well around the week-old twins
whom I’m longing to see, our children
spirit’s ultimate form, to repeat what I’ve been insisting.
Now plump, smut-darkened raindrops start to patter,
laced with poisons that should scare us stiff.
I hear the bus’s wipers,
each long as an arm, beating a languid tempo, as if
there remained all the time in the world for all us riders
to salvage things we’ve been neglecting,
to true our thoughts and behavior, to leave successors something.
Sydney Lea, a former Pulitzer finalist, recently published his thirteenth collection of poems, Here. Shortly ago, Able Muse published The Exquisite Triumph of Wormboy, a graphic mock epic in collaboration with former Vermont Cartoonist Laureate James Kochalka.