by Christopher Merrill
And if there is no change in our condition?
Seven hang – gliders set their sights on a lodge
Boarded up since the war, twisting and floating
On an updraft that swirls them past a cliff
From which a forest ranger monitors
Lightning strikes, smoke, and wind: the stealthy progress
Of a fire spreading from a mountaintop
To a ravine and then along the dry
Fork of a river over which the gliders
May soon sail in formation, casting shadows
Dark as the clouds building on the horizon.
And if we cannot find an antidote?
The private amphitheater was full,
Although nobody knew who would perform,
Or why they had received an invitation,
In an elaborate script, to donate their time,
Not money, to a cause they had not heard of —
The restoration of a style of thought
Discovered in the War Between the States,
Secreted in a hand– sewn packet of letters
Addressed to God, and then bequeathed to those
Willing to forge, at the White Heat, a soul.
And if our final words are not recorded?
The traveler had stowed his overcoat,
Cane, and valise behind a wooden cage
(In which two sparrows, fluttering their wings
Whenever the train whistle sounded, sang
Until the other passenger in the compartment
Draped over them a curtain of black crepe),
And drifted into sleep, dreaming of silos,
And icebergs calving in Antarctica,
And pages burning in the Book of the Dead,
Including the page on which his name was entered.