Elegy (with Advertisement) Struggling to Find Its Hero

Mark Irwin

It was a century in which we touched ourselves in mirrors
over and over. It was a decade of fast yet permanent
memories. The kaleidoscope of pain

some inflicted on others seemed inexhaustible
as the positions of sex, a term
whose meaning is as hybridized as the latest orchid. Terrorism

had reached a new peak, and we gradually
didn’t give a shit which airline we got on, as long as the
pilot
was sober, and the stash of pretzels, beer, and soft drinks

remained intact. On TV, a teenage idol has just crawled, dripping
wet,
from the top of a giant Pepsi can, or maybe I imagined it,
flicking through channels where the panoply

of reality shows has begun to exorcise
the very notion of reality, for both the scrutinized actor
and the debilitated viewer who becomes confused and often reaches

into the pastel screen for his glass, while down Broadway
sirens provide a kind of glamorous chorus
for this script of history where everything is so neatly measured

in miles, pounds, or megabits. How nice it would be
to drowse in the immeasurable. How nice
it would be to escape.

                                And there’s a wobbly marble bench
                                       beneath an out-of-focus tree on the Web
                                           I like to occasion my body with.

How brief we’ve become in our speed
I think. How fast the eternal.
How desperately

we need a clearing, a place
beyond, but not necessarily
of nature. And the rain

was so deep the entire forest smelled of stone, then the sun
broke, burying the long shadows
in gold.
And the wounded

king woke in a book long since closed, and the princess
came to in a bed so large
she could never leave. How desperately

we need a new legend, one with a hero, tired
though he may be. One who has used
business to give up

business, one who has bought
with his heart what we
sold with ours.

 

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