Unbelievable Ends

This entry is part 46 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

On the edge of winter, every branch and twig
will soon grow white with rime; and every feeble
plant go under. Not one voice of protest

will we hear when sheets of snow and ice descend,
imperial in their judgment. Which makes me wonder,
in 258 when Emperor Valerian ordered the execution

of the deacon we know as St. Lawrence, what sounds
did the martyr make, roasted alive on a gridiron?
And how far beyond the olive orchards did the smell

of his charred flesh travel? What end?- asks a famous
poem: choose ice, or fire. In most cases it really
isn’t a matter of choice, even when sufficient

will’s involved. Take the graceful Isadora, who danced
barefoot, loved improvisation, and led a troupe of
young pupils called Isadorables— she died

of a broken neck when her long silk scarf
caught in the wheel of a car. What I didn’t know
was that her two young children drowned in the river

with their nanny, when their French driver forgot
to set the parking brake and the car rolled down
the Boulevard Bordon. I doubt any of them

thought this was curtains, fini, the end—
Not even the Kabuki actor who claimed immunity
to puffer-fish poison and asked the fugu chef

for four; or the American statesman who expired
from sticking a piece of whale bone through
his urinary tract to remove a blockage.

Not poor Franz Reichelt, the tailor excited to test
his brilliant invention of an overcoat parachute
(like a cloak with voluminous folds and a hood)

from the first deck of the Tour Eiffel in 1912—
captured on grainy film falling to his death below.

And certainly not the nine people killed in the London
Beer Flood of 1814, when 323,000 imperial gallons
of beer burst out of their vats at the Meux

& Company Brewery. That sudden amber sea,
flecked with foam, gushed into the streets of St.
Giles Parish: destroying homes, knocking down walls,

filling the basements where poor families lived. And they
took the brewery to court, but as in the case of hurricanes
that whirl overhead and ice that hails from the sky,

the jury simply ruled that this was an act of God.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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