Alas

Anne Stevenson

The way you say the world is what you get.
What’s more, you haven’t time to change or choose.
The words swim out to pin you in their net

Before you guess you’re in the TV set
Lit up and sizzling with unfriendly news.
The mind’s machine – and you invented it –

Grinds out the formulae you have to fit,
The ritual syllables you need to use
To charm the world and not be crushed by it.

This cluttered motorway, that screaming jet,
Those crouching skeletons whose eyes accuse,
O see and say them, make yourself forget

That world is vaster than the alphabet,
And profligate, and meaner than the muse.
A bauble in the universe? Or shit?

Whichever way, you say the world you get,
Although what is is always there to lose.
No crimson name redeems the poisoned rose;
The absolute’s irrelevant. And yet ...