two rivers (fr. Sweetheart, over____)

There are two rivers
One flows over the top of the other.

They run in opposite directions.

The first is measured by extent
Although it has depth
And although the second
Is measured by depth
It also has extent.

The effect of both is violence
But violence on a different order:

The first is the war
The second is art.

A pane of glass separates the two.

Don’t be misled into thinking
That either of them goes over our heads,

The deeper stream shuffles stones
In its bed and
Is sometimes lost from view
In the dark,

So to see it
At all,

Lit behind the glass
Like a scene,
An apartment window
From a train passing,

We are already standing in the first river.

The singular occupants
Reading papers,

A girl’s face pressed to the glass
Sitting on her mother’s lap
In a passing carriage.

You say

Below the surface of the war,
Separated by glass,
Running in the opposite direction.

You think
I could slip back in
Quite easily,

But for this
Sense of sadness
Attendant on the fugitive thoughts
That all captive images possess,
This glass…

The river above, the war,
Moves ever more slowly on.

It spreads
Exactly like a river
On a flood plain,
Dazzling, out-dazzling…

The people in the cars
In traffic are indistinguishable
From those waiting to join them.

And any sensible element
We might call individual freedom
Is lost in a vast
Mechanised waiting room.

Where oddly enough,
We are also operated upon.

On the wall a sign reads
In Case of Emergency
Break Glass.

To make you wonder,
Will the glass burst inwards
Or outwards?
While you wait.

It’s simple hydraulics to know
The glass will burst out,
Because of the greater pressure
Of the river under glass, and
Leave only splinters and shards,

Which will be caught
In the contrary flow of the first river,
On the plain,

Art can only increase the technical means
Of the long war,

The second river will be lost
Its greater pressure dissipated.

Finally, it is the ongoing emergency
Of civilization, brought down
To a single copulating couple,

Where the West may remind itself
Of the irony
Of this loss.

And in the familiar gesture
Clean its hands
And wash away the
Splinters and the shards of glass

Still clinging in the now,
Practically, motionless
Expanse of water.

(June, 2006)