Visiting a Dead Man on a Summer Day by Marge Piercy
In flat America, in Chicago, Graceland cemetery on the German North Side. Forty feet of Corinthian candle celebrate Pullman embedded lonely raisin in a cake of concrete. The Potter Palmers float in an island parthenon. Barons of hogfat, railroads and wheat are postmarked with angels and lambs.
But the Getty tomb: white, snow patterned in a triangle of trees swims dappled with leaf shadow, sketched light arch within arch delicate as fingernail moons.
The green doors should not be locked. Doors of fern and flower should not be shut. Louis Sullivan, I sit on your grave. It is not now good weather for prophets. Sun eddies on the steelsmoke air like sinking honey.
On the inner green door of the Getty tomb (a thighbone's throw from your stone) a marvel of growing, blooming, thrusting into seed: how all living wreathe and insinuate in the circlet of repetition that never repeats: ever new birth never rebirth. Each tide pool microcosm spiraling from your hand.
Sullivan, you had another five years when your society would give you work. Thirty years with want crackling in your hands. Thirty after years with cities flowering and turning grey in your beard.
All poets are unemployed nowadays. My country marches in its sleep. The past structures a heavy mausoleum hiding its iron frame in masonry. Men burn like grass while armies grow.
Thirty years in the vast rumbling gut of this society you stormed to be used, screamed no louder than any other breaking voice. The waste of a good man bleeds the future that's come in Chicago, in flat America, where the poor still bleed from the teeth, housed in sewers and filing cabinets, where prophets may spit into the wind till anger sleets their eyes shut, where this house that dances the seasons and the braid of all living and the joy of a man making his new good thing is strange, irrelevant as a meteor, in Chicago, in flat America in this year of our burning.