Issue 6 (July 2012)

 

 

Thanatopsis

Geoffrey G. O’Brien

 

 

Here again just a few minutes to see
What we’ve done with what they let us have.
Like spring in Washington, D.C.
The way we’re taught to imagine days

As reprieves from other days, cherries snowing
Inexpressiveness, the nation’s capital
An experience of how it is to be
Caught up in pink and white again.

This year is somewhat different
In that there are very few days,
They have names like N9 and M1,
What they’ve let us do with what they can’t

Keep us from having, a stand your ground
Law to address weeks of solid rain,
The street that goes on where the way is closed
Responding to events as they spread

From each instance to the live rule
Requiring them like spring requires trees
To flower at points along their branches.
Today is M22, a private garden

And a public square, the path between them
Traced by daylight saving time
Over the freedom of George Zimmerman.
Like his ability to move in fantasy,

Certain days don’t stop but shed
New ends continuously, as though
In lifeworlds not defined by the clock
Of limited resources. Other days

Not yet here—a greater scarcity
Of water, the first of the new kind
Of arrests—already reach back
Through their inevitability

Into potentials of the present tense,
The stare of passersby as you make
A viewing party of yourself, shouting
Drop the charges stemming from N9

On the one hand, while on the other
Wanting Zimmerman in chains
Beyond the stance he’s chosen for himself.
Meanwhile the purple no one saw fall

Dotting the concrete outside my house
Like a pattern unpursued doesn’t seem
To leave the paulownia any barer,
It’s participant in day but temporarily

Immune. As the resources disappear
There will be several such readjustments
But will they be chosen or imposed? Probably
The latter then the former then both

Going on together like towers,
Working in tandem without looking up
To see what day it is or was
That they ruined time and we have it.

 

*****

 

Geoffrey G. O’Brien is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley