The Elevated Falls

The elevated is coming down.
All summer, one by one
the girders are gently
laid on truck beds.
Far away from where I am now
standing, the fire of its disassembly
intermittently, innocently rains

I have been closer to such things
than I am now.  Nearby, those firefalls
are not silent,
not at all;
nor is their sound innocent.

One knows,
watching a waterfall, the sound
of something going where it must.
One knows it will get there.
One may be permitted to hear
in that roar of water some
anticipation of final serenity.

Approach this destruction, though...
(You know this is only a trolley track,
you can remember looking down from it
yourself, months ago, leaving your work
in the evening, waiting, morning-shivering
at City Square, the urine-stained wood
and the ninety-seven iterations of 'Bach'
on the walls, windows, and girders.
You remember that this is only a trolley track:
last winter you huddled and stamped up there,
cursing time and the drivers.)  Now number
93 picks carefully through stumps
and barrels, in single file traffic, approaching
the destruction, the firefall.

And through the traffic, the air, the evanescent
evening, heavier than you knew, opaque, itself
impenetrable, that sound flows towards you through its own
channels, the interstices of the night, the little holes
between familiar sounds.  Moths at the back of your neck;
still, you know (but how much longer) that this is only
a bridge, your usual bus, an old line you hated ---
that doesn't matter.  Fire should not sound like
marching boots.  From Haymarket
you could have thought you were seeing
a celebration of something -- a saint, maybe,
fried dough and a tenfoot ferris wheel.

Yes, I have been closer to such destruction than I am now.
The liquefaction by fire of things as solid as this
does not frighten me, even metaphysically.
I have sat up, alone, at night, waiting
to become human again; and have seen others
give up.

But the needle-bite fires of acetylene torches
have their counterparts.  The stitchery
tracing of pain in the soul -- you have seen
men brought down by it.
Not gently, not in innocent fires.  And
always, in their voices, you hear something falling
opaque and impenetrable, and the moths
settle again on the back of your neck,
iron and pitiless.

Copyright © Jim Michmerhuizen 1976