After Noguchi and Other Poems


After Noguchi

Fountain for Reader’s Digest Building, 1951, iron

That time and water can make metal look charred:
             the fountain—rust-crusted, osseous—has been dry
for half a century. From here, it’s as if someone
             burned the cloth off an umbrella, the flesh
from an arm. I sit on an immaculate lawn under
             the shadows of shirring maples, the silver cross
of a 747, and watch a dragonfly score the sky.
             Each airborne thing thrums the same frequency,
distant octaves: from this angle they threaten
             to collide. The fountain was machined by the artist
years after he chose the camp (celebrated,
             patronized, he would have been exempt). Later,
it was flown across the Pacific to this city
             named for the saint who had to be blinded
to believe. It’s a feat to wring from wrought iron
             both fluid and heat. The air swims thick
with lilac, sweat’s lingering vinegar. To burn the cloth
             from an umbrella, the face from a name. We are
the products of one another’s imaginations,

             he intoned into a lens, decades past the desert’s
barbed wire. For products, hear failures. For imagination,
             see the dust, the barracks, the light between
the leaves through which the dragonfly has vanished.

At the Grave of Herbert Norman

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