from Houseboat Days (1977)

        Out here on Cottage Grove it matters.  The galloping
	Wind balks at its shadow.  The carriages
	Are drawn forward under a sky of fumed oak.
	This is America calling:
	The mirroring of state to state,
	Of voice to voice on the wires,
	The force of colloquial greetings like golden
	Pollen sinking on the afternoon breeze.
	In service stairs the sweet corruption thrives;
	The page of dusk turns like a creaking revolving stage in Warren, Ohio.
        If this is the way it is let’s leave,
	They agree, and soon the slow boxcar journey begins,
	Gradually accelerating until the gyrating fans of suburbs
	Enfolding the darkness of cities are remembered
	Only as a recurring tic.  And midway
	We meet the disappointed, returning ones, without its
	Being able to stop us in the headlong night
	Toward the nothing of the coast.  At Bolinas
	The houses doze and seem to wonder why through the
	Pacific haze, and the dreams alternately glow and grow dull.
	Why be hanging on here?  Like kites, circling,
	Slipping on a ramp of air, but always circling?
        But the variable cloudiness is pouring it on,
	Flooding back to you like the meaning of a joke.
	The land wasn’t immediately appealing; we built it
	Partly over with fake ruins, in the image of ourselves:
	An arch that terminates in mid-keystone, a crumbling stone pier
	For laundresses, an open-air theater, never completed
	And only partially designed.  How are we to inhabit
	This space from which the fourth wall is invariably missing,
	As in a stage-set or dollhouse, except by staying as we are,
	In lost profile, facing the stars, with dozens of as yet
	Unrealized projects, and a strict sense
	Of time running out, of evening presenting
	The tactfully folded-over bill?  And we fit
	Rather too easily into it, become transparent,
	Almost ghosts.  One day
	The birds and animals in the pasture have absorbed
	The color, the density of the surroundings,
	The leaves are alive, and too heavy with life.
        A long period of adjustment followed.
	In the cities at the turn of the century they knew about it
	But were careful not to let on as the iceman and the milkman
	Disappeared down the block and the postman shouted
	His daily rounds.  The children under the tree knew it
	But all the fathers returning home
	On streetcars after a satisfying day at the office undid it:
	The climate was still floral and all the wallpaper
	In a million homes all over the land conspired to hide it.
	One day we thought of painted furniture, of how
	It just slightly changes everything in the room
	And in the yard outside, and how, if we were going
	To be able to write the history of our time, starting with today,
	It would be necessary to model all these unimportant details
	So as to be able to include them; otherwise the narrative
	Would have that flat, sandpapered look the sky gets
	Out in the middle west toward the end of summer,
	The look of wanting to back out before the argument
	Has been resolved, and at the same time to save appearances
	So that tomorrow will be pure.  Therefore, since we have to do our business
	In spite of things, why not make it in spite of everything?
	That way, maybe the feeble lakes and swamps
	Of the back country will get plugged into the circuit
	And not just the major events but the whole incredible
	Mass of everything happening simultaneously and pairing off,
	Channeling itself into history, will unroll
	As carefully and as casually as a conversation in the next room,
	And the purity of today will invest us like a breeze,
	Only be hard, spare, ironical: something one can
	Tip one’s hat to and still get some use out of.
        The parade is turning into our street.
	My stars, the burnished uniforms and prismatic
	Features of this instant belong here.  The land
	Is pulling away from the magic, glittering coastal towns
	To an aforementioned rendezvous with August and December.
	The hunch is it will always be this way,
	The look, the way things first scared you
	In the night light, and later turned out to be,
	Yet still capable, all the same, of a narrow fidelity
	To what you and they wanted to become:
	No sighs like Russian music, only a vast unravelling
	Out toward the junctions and to the darkness beyond
	To these bare fields, built at today’s expense.