Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Our revered bell …

Sixth and Market

Ninety-one degrees, summer without mercy; a tourist
Line slugged and slumped and smelled like a sock. Oozed
Among pictures, 1915, of crowds rushing to touch
The Liberty Bell, on tour by train and dolly to towns
All over, a nation thirsty for symbols. Black arms,
Black hands, fixed forever, reached until you thought
Tendons snapped, bones split.

“My people,”
He said to his friend, the one who wanted to see
The damn bell, “came to Georgia, 1820, good luck
A man like him finding work except he knew how
To go up the town tower, set the time. Everybody
Needed that, keep the bell ringing good.” “Told them
When to get up, go to church,” his friend said, “come
In from the fields.” “When war was over,” the first said,
“When to be happy.”

Some hold-up at the front of
The line. Weeping, it sounded like, the whole world
Wanting a selfie with the damn bell. The line?
Clogged. Dead snake. Slack whip. Air conditioning
Busted. Stalled, he and his friend; all around, hands,
Black, arms, black, outreach, uproar, hopeless
Cries of hope.

“I wonder,” he said,

“If anybody knows just what a strange place this is.”
His friend: “They tell you it’s the best place ever, so,
No, I suspect not.” Images: bodies pressing as if

To merge and one body of them all embrace
The bell. “I hope,” the first one said, “they don’t mess up
The God in this place.” His friend: “They do,
God’ll step aside, let us eat each other.” The first:
“That’s what you call God not forgiving us.” His friend:
Swollen and swelling, that line, mercury shoved
Up a tube. The two stayed behind with pictures: crowds,
Bodies aching for touch, as if copper mixed with tin,
Arsenic, bronze sang a hard choir of rescue.
They whispered, “Don’t give me
Any of this world-as-it-really-is. Who’s that
Talking? Your teacher? Your boss? Your politician? No
Bell rings unless hands of need forged it first. All
The world you have is claps of meaning against
Soul juddering at the blow. It wasn’t the bell they
Were reaching for,” they whispered. “They knew
There was no rescue for them. They were reaching for
What isn’t here yet, their sons and daughters,
Their kids and their kids and theirs, a garden
Of pain passed, promises kept. For that, you know
They surged like death.” Don’t know if the two
Ever reached the bell. (They don’t let you touch it,
Anyway.) Maybe they just stayed behind,
Mumbling among images:

Bodies cried out for no rescue but to lay it all down
Tired, cracked, their whole lives ringing.”

— John Timpane

No comments:

Post a Comment