Universal Atlas | A Survey Of Our Wares

Sestina Five

They are on the rooftops and they have keys.
Though we are not under a constant attack
Per se, their theorizing often complicates.
There is an odor of salt, there is a train down
The river and it runs all hours patiently,
A cuneiform message shimmering in light.

The passengers squabble, decoding, light
Pouring from each carriage. The porter keys
The lock, whispers instructions, then patiently
Classifies each shift on the rails as attack,
Defense, or surrender. When much further down
The line an incongruent coin toss complicates

The timetable and route. It further complicates
The ambitions of a certain conductor. “Light
Another cigarette and by the butt we’ll be down
Near the start of the line. Divine train-womb! Keys!
Keys for the doors & then we will press, attack!”
“If she stay the course” sung in chorus, patiently

Pantomiming the shoveling of coal. Patiently
He fingers his watch-fob. That which complicates
The smooth-ride can add laceration to the attack,
A bleeding out over the iron rails. In the moon-light
A summer song adding to the crickets sharp keys.
What lyrics we sung over that tune each sun-down!

They are on the rooftops and just won’t calm down,
They won’t climb down, avoid eye contact. Patiently
The others tabulate, they codify map legends, keys
Indicating distance, time, depth, location, complicates
The fact we are on one rail, straight, and the light
From sun or moon or man – a weakness in our attack.

I saw her throw her arms in the air, “Ok, attack!”
She hollered hoarsely to no one. But then down
The line you sat with binoculars aimed at her light,
Swinging there on the back of the caboose patiently,
Gracefully swaying, a pendulum which complicates
the growing darkness. Opening, like conductor’s keys,

Intruding and unwanted keys, a malicious attack
Which for us complicates any hope to settle down.
The sun crouches patiently, holstering the ideal light.

by Laurence Lillvik & Jeffrey Enright

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