in the ruins

we drank in the remains
of ruined buildings 
and we sat in a cave or
wrecked houses on farms given back to the bank 
listening to men who'd been raised
in ways that were lost
and we strained to make out
the use of their news
they were crazy or passed out 
speed notched with a cross
they drank from the flask and the mouth
they came in and shook off the rain
inflamed and dismayed 
calm and arcane 
the least one seethed chanting whitman for hours 
then wept at the dregs of the fire 
foam formed at the edge of their lips
we drank and waited for something to drop  
you and I looking and sifting
for signs written in wax 
we were young we knew how to die
but not how to last 
a small man who claimed he was blake raged 
all night and probably he was
he had god in his sights  
white crosses shone in our eyes or acid mandalic 
in the ruins the men talked: 
seraphic and broken 
glowing with gnosis and rubbish 
we sorted their mad sacred words 
these dog-headed guides to the life after 
and the life after that

Related Poems

Ruin and Beauty

It's so quiet now the children have decided to stop 
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze. 
Through the open window we hear nothing-- 
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city's traffic. 
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.

The brick school at the five points crosswalk 
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets 
festooning this coastal town. 
Will the eventual forest rise up 
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement, 
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble, 
already wolves come down from the hills 
to forage among us. We are like them now, 
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.

They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow, 
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs 
in school hallways, as children they lay down 
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.

It wasn't supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century's architecture; it wasn't supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,

a man and woman collecting rain 
in old coffee tins. Darling, 
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves. 
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes. 
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure? 
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time 
doing what people have always done 
and say it was not enough?