Ballad and Proposition
after Alice Oswald Take away my engine and I shall engineless go to find you. Take away my bees and I will flowerless walk the vectors of sweet nothings until I’m face to face with Monsanto. In my doomed town where small mechanic skills make the evenings strung out and shrill with compressors and vapors, I listen for crows and wrens to overdub our nation’s ills which are forgetting and further forgetting so I don’t recognize my hand, the length of rope, the knot, the limb I throw it over, the aid and abetting of the body, the shadow spans from Senegal to my doomed town where Mrs. White cuts off a limb that drops its intractable leaves in menacing random and illegal patterns on her lawn. The proposition is to each cut off a limb, a sacrifice to prevent destructions more terrible in the future as did the Sioux. Because I lack imagination somebody, a Christ, a boy in custody, dies each evening. Three days wait and I forget the undertaking, the uprising, that way of life with redemption. I forget the lies modified by art. I forget the ongoing story of love tending toward catastrophe, the oblique, gaped, murderous corridos ending in the underworld and unknowing.
Copyright © 2017 Bruce Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017