the varnish over this important scene turns brown,
As the bright colors are swallowed
And the linen sags,
The ball of rock and metal spins and follows
Its own vanished path around the burning sun. Dutch houses
Once so new that resin beaded on their timbers
Sag and lean, propped and braced by scaffolding;
Useful canals are merely picturesque, sunfollowing reflections.
What else is memory
But comparison, diminishment, good guess, sunflowering,
Or projection, all because
Of the ratchet-tricks of time? Swallowed. Done.
That some things were badly done and full of pain and others not
Done at all, that the wormholes in the weakened bracing twist
Back upon themselves, that the plots repeat
In other lights, rushing through change as if remembering
Their human ramifications, that oxygen burns
From artifacts: these things
Demand memory. Without memory no civilization, only
This sterile orgy of selling youth to youth
Run-over pinecones to the poor.
Lit paper curls and browns before it touches;
These or other words
Fuel fire and curl, surrender contrast
For feathers of former structure any breath
Might make forget all in a funeral snow.
Intact, though frailest carbonghost-print on a veil
Black words on a black page might still be read
Until the silken printing blows away
To leave a surface clean and referenceless,
Our breaths untraced. If, in a car, waiting,
You find this postcard whole and its scrawled ink points
To a fly on the baking dashboard, still
Iridescent in death; to noon turned evening;
To a car you steer away, its dusty hood
At every moment pointing somewhere else
Windshield full of casual infinity,
A wilderness glittering with oily glass
Or some unthought-of exit where the road gives out
And a ramp runs down to water in the dark
Where then?as our compartment fills
With a slurry of sand and the sagging map gives way,
Slopping our laps with loam
To which highways, curling, cling like bits of root?
A night apart? together? Almost both?
Before you begin to remember what we will have done,
Are about to do or notconsider, behold:
Time gives us away.
Whether we move or not,
We are leaving earth.
Tonight the sky may offer nothing but the sky
Yet still be somehow opportune, above
The museum, the hydrant, the lights coming on,
The old Dutch houses open to the street,
The people inside (in quaint modern dress)
Eating their meals and talking: let's go on.