Commotion of the Birds

from Commotion of the Birds (2016)

        We’re moving right along through the seventeenth century.
	The latter part is fine, much more modern
	than the earlier part.  Now we have Restoration Comedy.
	Webster and Shakespeare and Corneille were fine
	for their time but not modern enough,
	though an improvement over the sixteenth century
	of Henry VIII, Lassus and Petrus Christus, who, paradoxically,
	seem more modern than their immediate successors,
	Tyndale, Moroni, and Luca Marenzio among them.
	Often it’s a question of seeming rather than being modern.
	Seeming is almost as good as being, sometimes,
	and occasionally just as good.  Whether it can ever be better
	is a question best left to philosophers
	and others of their ilk, who know things
	in a way others cannot, even though the things
	are often almost the same as the things we know.
	We know, for instance, how Carissimi influenced Charpentier,
	measured propositions with a loop at the end of them
	that brings things back to the beginning, only a little
	higher up.  The loop is Italian,
	imported to the court of France and first despised,
	then accepted without any acknowledgment of where
	it came from, as the French are wont to do.
	It may be that some recognize it
	in its new guise—that can be put off
	till another century, when historians
	will claim it all happened normally, as a result of history.
	(The baroque has a way of tumbling out at us
	when we thought it had been safely stowed away.
	The classical ignores it, or doesn’t mind too much.
	It has other things on its mind, of lesser import,
	It turns out.)  Still, we are right to grow with it,
	looking forward impatiently to modernism, when
	everything will work out for the better, somehow.
	Until then it’s better to indulge our tastes
	in whatever feels right for them: this shoe,
	that strap, will come to seem useful one day
	when modernism’s thoughtful presence is installed
	all around, like the remnants of a construction project.
	It’s good to be modern if you can stand it.
	It’s like being left out in the rain, and coming
	to understand that you were always this way: modern,
	wet, abandoned, though with that special intuition
	that makes you realize you weren’t meant to be
	somebody else, for whom the makers
	of modernism will stand inspection
	even as they wither and fade in today’s glare.