Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Mark Levine
I didn’t watch the State of the Union, so I’m not sure what kind of crap was unloaded from the president’s mouth tonight, but I’m sure it was nice-sounding crap.
Instead, I went with my kids to a bookstore. And at that bookstore, I found a book of poems by Mark Levine titled Debt (Quill, 1993).
And in that book of poems, I found this one, titled ABSTRACT POEM. Enjoy!
On one side of the plaza we build a replica
of the Holy Ruins, spraying the sand
with white paint. Across the way
some younger men trace a ring of orange ditches
by lamplight. Twice daily at the edge of the woods
the spokesman issues denials, clarifications,
detailed booklets printed on textured paper.
The radio plays chamber music and dance-hall songs.
Breakfast is biscuits and coffee.
There are times when it seems best to stay
outside the plan. I’d rather not know
what it is I’m doing. It’s very quiet here now
that the road is paved and the road crew taken
off the job. Even the sky is quiet.
Trucks coming through at night don’t stop.
The air from the west smells like vinegar.
Powdery white spots have begun to appear on us.
We don’t care.
We go to our tents, we smoke, we wash our shirts, we
chase rabbits through the snow, we get tired.
I’m tired of counting. How many is enough?
How many fingers drumming on metal plates?
I can’t shut the timer off.
They’ll wait—won’t they? I’ll never finish the counting.
How many chalk marks on the blue slate now?
The field where we cut down the trees
is filling with snow.