By David Gullette
while you were over ogling ogives and trefoils,
chancels and bays,
the things you left behind were quietly giving up,
flying to pieces, falling apart almost together.
That grinding whine up front you thought was brakes failing?
It was, but that’s not all:
the last shred of resistance is gone from the shocks,
every bump is now like the thump of a flawed heart,
but that’s not all:
the tires have gone slick and bland in your absence,
unevenly worn like the martyr that marries a slob,
wait, there’s more:
not only can’t you stop at will, you can’t get started,
the juice is dead
some slackness in belt or disc
something not flowing
the black box caked with inertia.Listen,
you cried at the Royal Wedding and swallowed the cream,
meanwhile the tube lost its sight: snow, garbled snow in its face
and a twisting of speech unknown in Babel, O
things have been going to pot,
the paint peeling off your house,
leprous, obscene, what about that?
The food has vanished under the weed,
the path has forgotten where in the world it was headed,
the mower that might begin to set things aright
is all smoke and flame and missing parts,
shorn of its function.
Maybe you thought as you turned away toward exotic joys
the objects you’d secretly started to hate
would await your return unchanged
loyal and fixed in their whatness?
You forgot the revenge of decay, you forgot
how even immobile things, unloved, blindly careen and plummet,
how care is a constant curing,
our bulletin first last and always: Aid.
you’re back: the fat and languor are through.
The wind has shifted to pelt what’s left of the garden.
Strange birds are swarming the shorter days.
You dreamed and the world dissolved
but already the perfumes of distant sugars
begin to escape from your larder,
and you open your eyes to the list of your derelictions,
whelmed with the staggering costs of restitution.
It is time you accept your share in the damage
and spend what needs to be spent.
David Gullette’s collection of poems, Questionable Shapes, was published by Cervena Barva Press in August 2017. He is Literary Director of the Poets’ Theatre, and two of his plays based on “the poetry of polemics”—The Boston Abolitionists and Four Generations of the Adams Family—were performed in Spring 2017 at the Boston Athenaeum. He believes, “Impassioned public speech sometime rises to the level of poetry.”