Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Wayne Miller - The City, Our City

Wayne Miller’s new book, The City, Our City is out, and it’s a marvelous book.  Here are two poems from it. The first, he read the other night in Kansas City at the book release party, and the second is the poem that comes next in the book. The whole book is like this, a mix of fantasia, history, allegory, and memory, as it explores the idea of the city.  It’s quite effective.

Bombing the City

Some nights it was leaflets, others, incendiaries;

the citizens of the city waited patiently

for our issue. When our parachutes fluttered

pilotless to the ground, the people gathered

the silk to make stockings; when our duds

stuck in the plazas like darts, they collected them

to prop up their chairs. I was a bombardier;

I looked down the sights as if into the text

of a page. Later, beneath the canopy

of some distant truce, we dropped palettes

of food (which landed through skylights,

on street carts, on dogs—). And once,

when we opened the bays, all that came forth

was a silent billow of snow; it fell emptily

through the night. I imagined a flake

hitting the lens of somebody’s glasses—

a fleck on this world. The rest they shoveled

into banks in the gutters. By noon it was gone.


                ] I spent my childhood watching
the men repaint the chapel ceiling—

I imagined they were painting
the ceiling of civilization, imagined

their work would fill in the blue
above the roofline. [      ] I remember

chipped fire escapes, nests of wire
atop the electrical poles, clotheslines

tangled in the courtyard. [      ] Finally,
I was a grain of sand in a window.

And who was in the room behind me,
and what did they see through me? [


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