Friday, November 18, 2011

"Junk" by Richard Wilbur


        Huru Welandes
                                      worc ne geswiceσ?
        monna ænigum
                                       σara σe Mimming can
        heardne gehealdan.

An axe angles
                               from my neighbor’s ashcan;
It is hell’s handiwork,
                                          the wood not hickory,
The flow of the grain
                                         not faithfully followed.
The shivered shaft
                                     rises from a shellheap
Of plastic playthings,
                                         paper plates,
And the sheer shards
                                         of shattered tumblers
That were not annealed
                                             for the time needful.
At the same curbside,
                                          a cast-off cabinet
Of wavily warped
                                    unseasoned wood
Waits to be trundled
                                        in the trash-man’s truck.
Haul them off! Hide them!
                                                 The heart winces
For junk and gimcrack,
                                            for jerrybuilt things
And the men who make them
                                                      for a little money,   
Bartering pride
                                like the bought boxer
Who pulls his punches,
                                            or the paid-off jockey   
Who in the home stretch
                                              holds in his horse.   
Yet the things themselves
                                               in thoughtless honor
Have kept composure,
                                            like captives who would not
Talk under torture.
                                      Tossed from a tailgate
Where the dump displays
                                                its random dolmens,
Its black barrows
                                    and blazing valleys,
They shall waste in the weather
                                                        toward what they were.
The sun shall glory
                                     in the glitter of glass-chips,
Foreseeing the salvage
                                            of the prisoned sand,   
And the blistering paint
                                            peel off in patches,
That the good grain
                                       be discovered again.
Then burnt, bulldozed,
                                           they shall all be buried   
To the depth of diamonds,
                                                 in the making dark
Where halt Hephaestus
                                            keeps his hammer
And Wayland’s work
                                          is worn away.

Source of the text – Richard Wilbur, Collected Poems 1943-2004.  Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2004, pp. 261-2.

TJB: Trash invective. Wilbur’s essayistic ramble in alliterative accentuals captures the hard sounds but not the fury of its Anglo-Saxon models.

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