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Sometimes the odd half acre with a precipitous grade
can be remedied with a dry-laid retaining wall
instead of having to backhoe cut and fill.
Finding ways to stop erosion should be easy
before partition, before the open slope’s divided.
Such is the innocuous nature of topography,
before the Whatzits move in with their impudent kid,
the Doughboy pool depreciates the terrace’s integrity
or, down the street, a Taco Bell and KFC
merge as one fantastical beast with crispy wings.
We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed.
I think the awful family’s name was actually White.
We did the sleepover there: burn-outs in black tees,
some bodies beginning to prosper, pelotage whorled out
into dark cowlicks, mildly offensive-smelling flowers
bunched in the night, then untucking as we rose
to the morning’s listless mother, the fest of sausages
and toaster waffles, milk moustaches,
“the carton says homo,” “homo? sick,” and belching.
Just don’t serve me no Tang, I thought.
I hated the taste of Tang.
Unsurprising what gets blocked out, reapportioned.
I say it was a rustic place, but in transition.
I say the land was sculpted,
but it was simply held back. “Held back,”
said of the White boy. Denied promotion to the tenth.
And as the grade remained the same, he worsened.
Continuation school. Vocational Ed. Juvenile detention.
The property values rose slightly; then depreciated.
The retaining walls declined in their integrity.
Not the fault of anyone, really. It was a lean half acre.
It was a mean development, no outlet,
no opportunity, except the kind that came tooling
up the street in a Vega, playing Ecstasy Passion & Pain.
I realize this might read solely as an allegory:
the peregrines that hovered there,
the Mormons and recruiters and the suck-ass school,
Vice-Principal Pervy who would paddle young behinds.
But that’s not only striped resurfacing.
It’s the entire slipshod construction: a place where
everything happened gradually;
it was so gradual, it was practically overnight.
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Reflecting on three monumental works of modernism—James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus—a hundred years on.
Both regulators and employers have embraced new technologies for on-the-job monitoring, turning a blind eye to unjust working conditions.
But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.