Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In the Midwest

In the Midwest

by Edward Hirsch
Edward Hirsch
He saw the iron wings of daybreak struggling
to rise over the warehouses stacked along the river.

Rotting wharves and bulkheads. Dead tracks   
leading to railroad yards on the edge of nowhere,

the sun toiling in gray smoke on the horizon.   
As if God had crumbled bits of charcoal

in the air and dusted the earth with ashes—
Eyelids of silt, thou shalt not open!

Scourge of asphalt and carbon, of slag heaps   
and oil-stained piers, of soot and smog . . .

He was not a prophet of revision and announcement,   
not the biblical kind, like Habakkuk or Amos,

and yet he wandered through the heartland alone   
and saw the shattered spine of a bridge

collapsing in Gary; he saw the ruined breath   
and gaping windows of a factory choking

in Youngstown; he saw the stench of history   
seeping out of Sandusky and Calumet City . . .

Stops on the highway, stains on a dark map.
Foundries, industrial waste. Stripped quarries,

stripped land, what we’ve done to the sky
curdling over two drunks sleeping on an embankment

and waking up to a late day in the empire.
He kept speaking of Byzantium, of Constantinople.

He saw gulls feasting on garbage.
He saw the gouged bodies of the unborn.

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