There is a street in Boston where the gas lamps have been burning
For a hundred forty years; where lamplighters no longer walk
The cycle of the twenty four, since globule mantles left to glow
Were cheaper than the labor spent in dimming gas in rain and snow.
The gravestones at the Granary are sunk in mud, or shattered sheets.
The midnight ride of Paul Revere is heaps of rocks, is piles
of pennies, and a rain soaked flag or two. The Burying Ground
is older still, and the thousands share five hundred weathered stones.
A Custom House is a hotel. A macaroni bursts in yellow sculpture
Beside a Market square. A Brutalist town hall juts jaws beside
Stark glass memorials and Boston’s oldest pub. They said, “You can’t
Hear city sounds from inside Boston Common!” but they lied.
Look! — homes upon a fisher wharf, held up by mussels and stout wood,
The Charles for a cellar door and a neighbor in a sloop.
With California earthquake eyes, the pilings underneath the wharf
That hold the condominiums high are trembling on the edge of hope.
We watch the tide; the rise, the fall, the six foot gap from tall to small.
The fixity of history, the folly of infinity, the way the town believes itself
The sailing ship, the catamaran, the hackneys and velocipedes,
The ferry, horses, cabs and cars, the moving van, and the rumbling T,
Four hundred years all held as close as simultaneity.
Mistaken hills hold monuments to battles fought elsewhere,
And staid New England poets paint their copperplated iambs
In pixels on a screen, declaiming beats from Faneuil Hall.
I cast these Boston photographs to what they once called ether,
Where they may last as long as tiny mantles glow.
They are the fixity of touristry, the river banks we made by hand,
Are monuments as long as networks grow, as long as human power flows;
Are structures standing strong upon the sand.