What Comes of It: A Poem

What Comes of It–

by Joel E. Jacobson

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat, and snicker
And in short, I was afraid.”

from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

1.

Because 90 percent of me is drowning.
Because the remaining  ten percent bobs and gasps.
Because all of me worries–
like coarse sandpaper on a wood block
like zebra mussels anchored on a wood dock
like sour salt on a raw tongue–
when all I have to do is float in the current
like a lobster in warming water
or simply stand up and get out.
I am still what I–.

2.

Over a hundred years, an oak tree
develops roots like a subway system
intertwined beneath city foundations.
Watered with change and pre-paid passes
civilization sprouts, scrapes intto the sky,
etches away the blue hues
and peels up fields like a worker
preparing an orange for lunch.

No oak can withstand the steel
stampede, the urban sprawl,
so it gets chopped from the top
down—an umbrella stripped to spire.
Chain the base. With the fire-power
of a big rig, rip it out. Don’t worry
about the treehouses or tire swings—
children need to grow up anyways.

Cut it down.
Is it, then,
still a tree?

3.

Model Airplanes: caged in plastic molds
even a young child can hold
and crack apart, just to paste the halves
back together, differently.  The gobbed glue
and wrinkled decals beg for empathy
or pride and the entire thing is either a good
first try or a failure.  Whether it falls apart
or not (it happens over time: the paint chips,
the missiles fall off and sometimes a wing),
what comes of it—a dream or a man?

4.

These pieces fit like painted
manikins and man-he-cants
filling wombs and elastic tombs
and entire tubes of sand-seconds
in between the bulbs of earth’s
hourglass. Maybe I can still muster fistfuls
of splintered hope, thread each one
into each sun, waiting for every
worry to become shallow and undone.

___

This is the seventh installment of the Storyteller project. Here are the other five: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Those familiar with my work will notice that this is not a new poem, but a major revision of an old one that needed (need?) work. Comments are always welcome!

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