The Decline Of The City Of Light
You and the woman you love get in her roadster.
A brief squeal of pain from the tires and
The beige cottage with roses loosely stitched
Through a home-made picket fence, dwindles,
Vanishes in a row of pines. You cannot believe
What has happened. The concreteness of cities,
Leningrad, Boston, Peking, Istanbul . . . each word
How its own sound unfolds a unique postcard
Understanding of streets, flocks of honking cars,
Buildings and vast crowds, how difficult
To comprehend news of their destruction,
How the mind draws the same blank on each attempt
Like someone who watches a white screen waiting
For the projector to be fixed, the film to begin.
Instead you click off the frantic radio, and
With the same hand admire her red hair flurry
In the wind like a flame. The car too is a kind
Of flame, burning its trail into the White
Mountains like a long fuse, the tach needle
Which trembles like a white-gloved finger
Pointing up: the only way left to go. The road
Finishes in a clearing, flat edge hammered
Into cliff, below, New Hampshire forest. Nowhere
Are the bright exclamations of war, the tour
De force of light and sound, paradoxical herald
Of darkness and silence. The sun is leaving for
The day, perhaps for good. A crowd of thrumming
Warblers flashes past, followed by the launch of
Geese, their fading honks, and only the oaks are left;
They creak like the gates of an ancient palace.
You build a fire. The flame is so white, someone,
If there is someone, might think a star smashed
On the ridge. This is your house, and around it, first
And maybe last, now declining, the city of light.