Nature or Civilization

by Robert Gibbons

I'm going to force this poem to start with the image of all colors gathering
in the sky erecting the arc of a black rainbow. With luck,
close it, with a bolt of lightning
from a dream.
Clouds accentuate the greatness of the world.
It's not that I want to see them,
the rows of immobile mobile homes by the side of the railroad track.
From the windows of the new fast train
one has to wonder
whether these structures, their inhabitants
aren't closer to nature
than civilization?
The attractive contours of the architecture of the poor
have disappeared since William Carlos Williams noted them.
Soon the sandy Rhode Island soil,
scrub pines, all the way down
to New London osprey,
red-winged blackbirds, the smidgen
of sea.
Those homes stay in my head, returning
uncanny, metamorphosed into anthills, wasp nests.
The residents,
whose relationship to the train is one of avoiding
intermittent noise, without movement, change, wandering…
Sudden feeling of thankfulness to America which allows this bare-bones subsistence
with a shake its huge head & lack of compassion, not wanting
to know a single soul
in the trailer park, their pain, or pain any one of them could inflict
on each other in such tight quarters,
& do.
Kandinsky felt all means sacred
called forth by inner necessity.
My own lack of compassion for those dwelling there
is in stark contrast to anything sacred. Make it compulsory
that everyone in America
who makes more than
one-hundred & fifty-nine thousand
four-hundred & twenty-three dollars & sixty-three cents
a year, clean
the grease off at least one trailer-park stove
a year, thoroughly!
By New Rochelle it's all
barbed wire & drums
of toxic waste, high rises low
rises, & no one on the street. The dream
of April 5th says, The tall virtues are patience,
mercy, & immediacy
By Wilmington the sign reads
Guaranteed Destruction of Personal Records.
I wonder
what was going on with me
when, forgetting my monthly rail pass
I said to myself, "I forgot
my past today."
In Washington my favorite trees,
the ones that bloom first
because of the sun's reflection
against I.M.Pei's East Wing, the ones
illuminating Jean Arp's steel sculptures,
are in flower.
& because the curator
doesn't show
at the appointed time
I find the Senufo wooden bowl
& the Dogon stool at Miya Gallery
on E Street. Greetings, Vernard Gray.
The sky in the most recent dream, little different than yesterday
or today's
with sheets of rain threatening in the distance,
yet only the dream sky induces
the flash of lightning
to materialize. We run for cover.
I find a series of caves, first stone, then snow, then wood, a kind of oak veneer
in an old room.
I want to make love to her in each one,
but we move on too fast, or the dream moves on
too fast to satisfy my desire.
Only upon waking does the dream
come true, within the cave
of her flesh bolt upright.
So, with good fortune, or Fate
the dream lightning is not the end
of the poem, but denouement.

©2001 by Robert Gibbons

Robert Gibbons currently has online work in Stirring, Exquisite Corpse, pith, and The Fox in the Snow. Recently, Gargoyle Daily featured a 101 word story as part of its Literary Lights series. His prose poems appeared in the Winter and Spring issues of The Drunken Boat. More of his work is forthcoming from Conspire, Frank, from the online magazine published by the Dublin Writers' Workshop, and from Electric Acorn. A third chapbook of prose poems, This Vanishing Architecture, will be published this summer by Innerer Klang Press, Charlestown, MA.
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