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Hollyhocks in the FogAugust Kleinzahler
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Vol. 30 No. 23 · 4 December 2008
Poem

Hollyhocks in the Fog

August Kleinzahler

236 words

Every evening smoke blows in from the sea,
sea smoke, ghost vapour
of lost frigates, sunken destroyers.
It hangs over the eucalyptus grove,
cancels the hills,
curls around garbage sacks outside the lesbian bar.

And every evening the black bus arrives,
the black Information bus from down the Peninsula,
unloading the workers at the foot of the block.
They wander off, this way and that, into the fog.
Young, impassive, islanded within their tunes:
Death Cab for Cutie, Arcade Fire . . .

From this distance they seem almost suspended,
extirpated, floating creatures of exile,
as they walk past the Victorian façades
and hollyhocks in their fenced-in plots,
red purple apricot
solitary as widows or disgraced metaphysicians.

Perhaps they’re exhausted, overwhelmed by it all:
spidering the endless key words, web pages,
appetite feeding on itself:
frantic genealogists, like swarms of killer bees.
The countless, urgent inquiries:
the poor Cathars and the Siege of Carcassonne

what can these long-ago misfortunes tell us of ourselves, of life –
Epinephrine-induced response,
Ryne Duren + wild pitches + 1958 . . .
Knowledge a trembling Himalayas of rubble:
Huitzilopochtili, Chubby Checker . . .
But for now they are done, till the bus comes again tomorrow.

There is nothing further to be known.
The fog, like that animate nothingness
of Lao-Tzu’s sacred Tao,
has taken over the world, and, with night settling in,
all that had been, has ever been, is gone,
gone but for the sound of the wind.

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