". . . 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. Reprinted by permission of The Ecco Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.