{An Umbrella Special Feature}


John Foy

works as a senior financial editor at Itaú BBA Securities.

His first book is Techne’s Clearinghouse (Zoo Press, 2004). His poems have appeared in the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets (Ohio University Press, 2009), Poetry, The New Yorker, The New Criterion, Parnassus, and other journals.

He lives in New York City with his wife, son, and daughter.


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Techne’s Clearinghouse (George Washington Bridge, New York City)

Bridge out there in the big cold,
a bare location,
my storm-colored dominator

of ten million rivets
illumined in a nighttime
to which large things belong,

I want not just to speak to you,
but for you somehow to understand,
that I might make my way

a little less harrowingly
in the dispensation of things.
I’ve seen you on the long approach,

clean as a differential equation
strung between the Cloisters and the cliffs,
and I’ve fallen more than half in love

with planes of shifting light,
the diamonds in the traffic’s lit-up veins,
and the voice of your megalomania:

like the sound of trains,
a deep angelus going out
to all the equipment we’ve devised,

the F-16, the dirty winch,
the cyclohexane refinery,
and your fair sister of the other side,

thrown and fury-fused,
who knows too well this litany.
I’ve been too long among these things,

too quiet, objectified like them,
using thing to indicate
whatever does its time

in Techne’s clearinghouse,
only now to find myself
inside among machinery

and fouled with distribution.
How far have we let it go,
the estrangement,

a bad marriage to utility
blinding us to higher purpose?
It’s been too long,

this living, mute and paralyzed,
at the foot of buildings
as we’ve conceived them till now,

the windy interchangeables.
My talking to you helps allay
the fear, always with me,

that you, the sad king of induration,
may be too far gone to understand.
Lording your geometry and lights,

you’re everything I’ve always dreamed
the mineral kingdom could become.
What am I left with

when I need to speak of you,
an angle-iron deity
of arch, thrust, interval,

too big now for the name of thing,
an evacuated word. Yet if any
cleated spectacle can justify

that old capacious name, it’s you,
Mammon’s Harp, a system
for celebrating steel

while the bells ring out in pandemonium.
There is no end
to the trouble of things,

their gravity and fatigue.
Maybe I can help you in a way,
inured as I am, all my kind,

to wandering about, trying to make do
in a blizzard of phenomena.
Susceptible as I am

to every ghost of every chance,
I know that more inheres
than the trigonometric logic

you’re so terribly welded to,
my real and glittering interlocutor.
Leaving, as I must,

the fixations of the engineer,
and risking reprisal
to listen in on what goes on

way up there in the cables
and towers in the wind,
I put these words to you.

 

[Originally published in Techne’s Clearinghouse (Zoo Press, 2004).]