Take Down the Universe

Take down the universe bit by bit,
dismantle its brute manifestos,
cancel the President’s breakfast in the
Van Buren Room, on the Roosevelt table, by the
Zachary Taylor fireplace,
demote the ambitious CEO pinstripe by pinstripe,
unthreading his intricate
signature on checks and contracts with a
similar but reverse flourish,

call in all Greek fishing boats, with or
without catch, the handsome young
oarsmen dreaming of buxom taverna
waitresses in scoop-neck blouses, whistling,

call back all executive orders: Buy! Sell!
Liquidate! Kill!
erase that rat-like look of satisfaction in the
eyes of the slavish underlings who would
love to carry them out,

return all glasses, broken or unbroken, to
The Management, lipstick or not
on their rims, drinks finished or

let all fruits and vegetables picked for
world consumption
return to their stems,
tree boughs, stalks, branches,
twinkling again in the respectable
rawness of real sunlight,

return all zoo animals to their natural habitats,
lemurs, wild-eyed, amazed and
a little disoriented to be
back home instead of in
concrete cages with one ramp and a
single-nailed tree bough,

let the high and outrageously higher notes
return to their sopranos, their mezzo sopranos, their
coloraturas with their grueling
study and practice since childhood,
return each painstaking note to its
silent source under the larynx’s unknown
grottos and reservoirs,

return the diamonds, zirconium and
all dubious emeralds in reality true
gems back to their
earthy beds, cool to the cheek of them,
covered over again by the sediment of time,

whirl all planetary motions back and
back into the oblong serene, the
octagonal octave of undressed
joy before the unstopping gaze of firstness,
everything fresh, new, before stretching, before
first heartbeat-ticks,

it’s over, it’s time to just stand still, let all
worlds slam back into their generating
chests, heartbone
serenade, voice dumb,
mind vacant as the North Pole,
just the tiny sound of the scrunch of
clean snow underfoot, the

darkness blowing back onto our faces like the
winds of discovery when the great
explorers rounded bends and saw
Victoria Falls for the
first time, the Pacific Ocean, the
first teenage kiss on a
back porch late
September, brisk
in the chill air of oncoming winter,

let the whole thing fall back into itself, fold
up into its carrying case across
illimitable stretches of space, let

Johnny the young artilleryman carry it, carefully,
between land mines, let it
down slowly, let it very

slowly and carefully down.

12/12/1997 (from You Open a Door and it’s a Starry Night)

Categories: Poems