poem index

Ruin and Beauty

Patricia Young
It's so quiet now the children have decided to stop 
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze. 
Through the open window we hear nothing-- 
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city's traffic. 
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.

The brick school at the five points crosswalk 
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets 
festooning this coastal town. 
Will the eventual forest rise up 
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement, 
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble, 
already wolves come down from the hills 
to forage among us. We are like them now, 
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.

They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow, 
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs 
in school hallways, as children they lay down 
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.

It wasn't supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century's architecture; it wasn't supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,

a man and woman collecting rain 
in old coffee tins. Darling, 
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves. 
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes. 
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure? 
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time 
doing what people have always done 
and say it was not enough?

From Ruin and Beauty by Patricia Young. Copyright © 2000 by Patricia Young. Reprinted by permission of House of Anansi Press. All rights reserved.

Patricia Young