Friday, May 18, 2007

The United States

Here's a C. K. Williams poem that struck me:

The United States
by C. K. Williams, The New Yorker, April 16, 2007

The rusting, decomposing hulk of the United States
is moored across Columbus Boulevard from Ikea,
rearing weirdly over the old municipal pier
on the mostly derelict docks in Philadelphia.

I’d forgotten how immense it is: I can’t imagine
which of the hundreds of portholes looked in
on the four-man cabin five flights down
I shared that first time I ran away to France.

We were told we were the fastest thing afloat,
and we surely were; even from the tiny deck
where passengers from tourist were allowed
our wake boiled ever vaster out behind.

That such a monster could be lifted by mere waves
and in the storm that hit us halfway across
tossed left and right until we vomited
seemed a violation of some natural law.

At Le Havre we were out of scale with everything;
when a swarm of tiny tugs nudged like piglets
at the teat the towering mass of us in place,
all the continent of Europe looked small.

Now, behind its ravelling chain-link fence,
the ship’s a somnolent carcass, cables lashed
like lilliputian leashes to its prow, its pocking,
once pure paint discoloring to blood.

Upstream, the shells of long-abandoned factories
crouch for miles beneath the interstate;
the other way the bridge named after Whitman
hums with traffic toward the suburbs past his grave;

and “America’s mighty flagship” waits here,
to be auctioned, I suppose, stripped of anything
it might still have of worth, and towed away
and torched to pieces on a beach in Bangladesh.

No comments: