The jewelers' windows have been muted with
black felt, their crystal riot locked away
for one more night. And yet, so profligate,
so close-set is their unrelenting blaze,
that, after dark, imagination brings
its own combustion, worn to one blood-red
cabochon by the friction of its passage.                

How many hands are worn away with toil                                                        so that a single knuckle shines resplendent?                                                   Silica dust glitters and tangs the air
from somewhere high above, like snow wind-driven
across a pristine landscape of spruce tips.
But in the risky sandstone vineyards and
arbors of pomegranate finials

five storeys up, there are two midway angels
whose only thoughts are barnacled with earth.
They bring a local weather with them (rain),
although the blinking sign above them reads
AUGUST FIFTH 10:00 PM TOMORROW: FAIR.
Their oilskins whicker as they shift along
the narrow scaffold, and their arc lamps veer

madly. Their backs are to the world of sense.
They mix the common sand with water struck
from the brass bole of a standpipe. Their hands
are turned against the vegetable stone,
which holds no ransom for them anymore.
They are trying to drive their shadows from the wall.
By dawn, with filthy tears, they will succeed.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 9 Number 2, on page 51
Copyright © 2017 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com
newcriterion.com/issues/1990/10/natural-history