Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Engine

In an eight-cylinder small block
the manifold transfers a mixture
of gasoline and air
into hollow, polished cylinders
in which blunt pistons stroking
then this liquidity compress
making it so unstable
a single electrical spark
propagates a detonation.

To oversee this hot, rapid flow
increments of change are employed
meaningless to the eye,
a thousandth of an inch,
a ten-thousandth,
alterations of sheet metal
in the engineering of which is no pale,
     radiant light,
no argument of metaphysics.

When there is a distressing vibration,
we dispatch experience to study it;
and should the mystery be unresolved,
we shall then ourselves within depart,
and dream about a new territory.

Invoke Agamemnon!
And journeying along the rim of recollection
stir awake the memory of a passion,
the sacred source and shaper of truth.
Soften our solitude with the unreal!
In which time, a bright lightness
more liquid than gas,
penetrating even what it seems not to touch,
nor ever turns around, ever,
is by an illusion reborn
in a faint rhythm,
as if a signal from the distant beach of
     a stormy gulf,
the rhythm as of an engine.
Oh, soften our solitude
with the unreality of this distant rhythm—
it is all we have!—
which makes us Agamemnon.

There, beyond the dread gulf,
beyond the edge of self,
beyond the silver mist of a fickle wind,
in a distant nowhere forlorn away,
is the rhythm as of an engine;
and a slowing down unto stillness,
not quite a stillness,
but a lilting immediacy, a mood, a silent
rejoicing. Listen! Do you hear it?

Agamemnon! Through a darkening glass we are
to the slick and oily heat of your sacrifice,
to the terrible self-importance
which encases your spine,
and to the rhythm of a distant engine
in which fuel into a mixture is metered
that is directed through a manifold to pistons
in whose slick and oily heat
is the same livid torment and liquefaction
     of violence
as in the fires you raised to Apollo
in the twilight on the beach before Troy.

It is an illusion we share:
a flicker of light in a darkening cylinder;
a compression of atmosphere as before a storm.
Imagination immeasurable.

Truth is an illusion, a mood, a meter:
Agamemnon sitting
among the black priests
beside the stormy gulf.
From twilight on a distant shore
sounds an engine,
the faint rhythm of an engine,
a small-block eight.
A crank on bearings turns
in the same slick and oily heat
as his fires of sacrifice.

Agamemnon yearning for a lost country,
a native simplicity;
a simplicity of superheated molecules
rising as do the fires illuminating
the Argive beach.

Hush, I hear an engine.
The yearning cry of a child,
Oh, Father!
Hush, I hear an engine…
it sounds like a small-block eight.

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