At the Follies

Tired now, by candlelight and in the grip
Of much undoing to be done, we strip
   Away at varnish, burn old wills and deeds,
As in our work we sew, so shall we rip.

Blind to injustice, what can you stand for
Rusted and twisted your slow sword, and your
   Balance with its twin pans shot through with holes?
Astraea was a virgin. You’re a whore.

High public office, for Sam, Joe and Bill
(Our leaders) yields the same old guerdons still:
   The minor thrill of public song-and-dance,
A hand in someone’s pants, or in the till.

The Muse?—It’s not the strange gods, but the cheap
Ones she goes whoring after; yet we keep
   Her seriously chaste with knowing laughter,
Tickling her soul so she won’t fall asleep.

Faber est suae quisque fortunae (read:
“We are the shapers of our fates”) Indeed?
   That feared and courted strumpet Fortune smiles,
Parcelling us out the tools she feels we need.

Our home is burning while logicians fiddle:
The stately Law of the Excluded Middle
   Must bow out now, and leave us room to breathe
Between the mad coals and the hissing griddle.

Whose ugly effigy hangs from the rafter—
The crafty artist or the artsy crafter?
   Which of them made it? In whose image was
It fashioned? Distant Beauty dissolved in laughter

The escalator of surprise today
Only takes you to ladies’ lounjeray,
   But in the steady basement yard goods still
Can fly like words with wings and things to say.