Monday, June 11, 2012

Out of the Gutters

The Street Sweeper 
with apologies to W. B. Yeats

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.
      – MLK Jr.
Turning and turning in the narrowing gyre
The mulching lawnmower whirls the leaves
To fragments, to nourish next years grass.
But mulch piles up in windrows, chokes the lawn,
And I must rake, stuffing leaves into the city bags.
They stand in my garage, leaving no room for cars,
Nor tools, but only squat brown pillows full of leaves,
Waiting for trash day. The rain, the snow, are coming soon,
And leaves keep falling.

Surely some deliverance is at hand.
Surely the street sweeper is at hand.
The street sweeper!
Hardly are those words out when a vast image gladdens my sight
Two blocks away on leaf-strewn streets
A white shape, its brushes pitiless as frost,
Is moving its slow bulk, while all around
Reel the indignant shadows of the crows and jays.

The sweeper turns again, but now I know
That if I once but rake the leaves into the gutter
They'll disappear into the sweeper sure as heck.
Then I, my fall chores done at last,
Slouch toward the sofa to catch the news.

Patrick Cook

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