Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Refinery

I knew when I started this project -- some days, some weeks would be like this...

every day for a year...

days I don't want the news -- when all I want is poetry, as this, it seems to me, is one of the ancient forms of salvation before us. In China, the Monks are caring for the people -- the victims of the storm... the people who have lost everything are swimming to find the Monks... if the news is our connection to the passing of events and of our lives, there must still be more ancient forms of communication and refining that tell a deeper truth...

The Refinery
by Robert Pinsky

". . . our language, forged in the dark by  centuries of violent

pressure, underground, out of the stuff of dead life."

Thirsty and languorous after their long black sleep

The old gods crooned and shuffled and shook their heads.

Dry, dry. By railroad they set out

Across the desert of stars to drink the world

Our mouths had soaked

In the strange sentences we made

While they were asleep: a pollen-tinted

Slurry of passion and lapsed

Intention, whose imagined

Taste made the savage deities hiss and snort.

In the lightless carriages, a smell of snake

And coarse fur, glands of lymphless breath

And ichor, the avid stenches of

Immortal bodies.

Their long train clicked and sighed

Through the gulfs of night between the planets

And came down through the evening fog

Of redwood canyons. From the train

At sunset, fiery warehouse windows

Along a wharf. Then dusk, a gash of neon:

Bar. Black pinewoods, a junction crossing, glimpses

Of sluggish surf among the rocks, a moan

Of dreamy forgotten divinity calling and fading

Against the windows of a town. Inside

The train, a flash

Of dragonfly wings, an antlered brow.

Black night again, and then

After the bridge, a palace on the water:

The great Refinery--impossible city of lights,

A million bulbs tracing its turreted

Boulevards and mazes. The castle of a person

Pronounced alive, the Corporation: a fictional

Lord real in law.

Barbicans and torches

Along the siding where the engine slows

At the central tanks, a ward

Of steel palisades, valved and chandeliered.

The muttering gods

Greedily penetrate those bright pavilions--

Libation of Benzene, Naphthalene, Asphalt,

Gasoline, Tar: syllables

Fractioned and cracked from unarticulated

Crude, the smeared keep of life that fed

On itself in pitchy darkness when the gods

Were new--inedible, volatile

And sublimated afresh to sting

Our tongues who use it, refined from oil of stone.

The gods batten on the vats, and drink up

Lovecries and memorized Chaucer, lines from movies

And songs hoarded in mortmain: exiles' charms,

The basal or desperate distillates of breath

Steeped, brewed and spent

As though we were their aphids, or their bees,

That monstered up sweetness for them while they dozed.

From The Want Bone, published by The Ecco Press. Copyright © 1990 by Robert Pinsky. And the

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