I live in Connecticut and teach literature and writing at Yale and (in the summers) at the Bread Loaf School of English. I took up writing poetry about ten years ago, have submitted hardly any of it anywhere, and am eager for the sort of exchange Verse-Virtual seems to demand. I love counting syllables, which is what I did in Lost City.
Cities may become lost for a variety of reasons.
And as it turns out there are a hundred ways a city
can go missing more or less
But for sheer, prestidigitative annihilation
(now you see it, now you don't?)
nothing can rival
Iram, City of a Thousand Pillars, which fell into
a sinkhole and disappeared
after the cavern
it bestrode collapsed. God was to blame, they said. How else to
explain a vanishing so
final and so swift?
We know now that it was infrastructure, that decaying
vault the city engineers
should have inspected
and evidently didn't. This happened one hundred years
post-Christ. From outer space now
the camel-train roads
are visible still, the old frankincense routes converging
from the corners of the earth
around the pillared
terraces of fairest Iram. A traveller nearing it
by one of these roads might well
have seen the city
go down into the desert, posts flying, and thought nothing
of it. Only when he came
to the small pucker
in the sand, so like a navel, would he have understood
the birth that had transpired
where he stood, or seen
in his mind's eye, momentarily, the convulsions still
transpiring beneath his feet
or, if time allowed,
imagined that he heard (because there would have been no sound)
the muffled cries of the doomed
in their narrow space.
He would not have lingered long. This was the Empty Quarter,
emptier still, now Iram
had disappeared. Soon
the sun would go down, though it was yet high above his head,
the moon would rise, though he thought
it was at its ebb,
and he would find his way south by starry guide to the sea—
and then, home—if stars there were
in this unmade place.
Leave out the salt, it isn't good for you
the doctor says, and in no time you'll find
doing without is something you get used to
like contact lenses, and if you want to lose two
or three pounds, instantly, from your behind
just lose the salt. It isn't good for you.
Forget the salads, forget the anchovies too
the crackers, cheese, the olives of all kinds.
Doing without such nibbles you'll get used to.
In fact, abandon eating. Who can accuse you
of gluttony when you've left all food behind?
(And salt, of course, which isn't good for you.)
Besides, you shouldn't have to sing the blues to
a diet. It should concentrate the mind
(as well as you) and, doing without, you'll learn to
forget the mouth, with its vicissitudes too
numerous to mention. Relax, unwind.
But no salt, hear? It isn't good for you,
and doing without (believe me!) you'll get used to.
©2017 Michele Stepto
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