Language of the City: A Sestina

Go to where they began, above the fertile ground
where hewn trees first felt tooth of iron
and ramparts were raised on relics of bone;
go and touch the heavy gates, hung on columns
of oak—from outside the pulse of life will lie
in the savage, who shall find no passage.

The merchant reads to his children, a passage
from some sacred text, and with words made of ground
hawthorn, gallnuts and wine, engender the lie
that King Thamus reproved in the rise of iron
ages, when the pagans bloomed, the columns
grew flutings, and temples shown like marbled bone.

Witness the cities blinded to the bone-
fire of goddess moon and her passage
across the old sky, when spirits rode columns
of flame from heaven down into dense ground.
What is left behind when the veins of iron
are scaled through forges, no longer to lie

hidden in bowels of earth, no more to lie
placid in hills? Now they can cleave bone
simply, and peen a surface smooth as iron
so progress might roll frictionless, its passage
fleet, without rhythm of horse pounding the ground,
or Communes heaving with ropes the columns.

The businessman wakes, and life is stamped in columns
to extort, as the pagan’s skin is left to lie
where infidels rise like seedlings from ground,
and dauntless the blame is etched on their bones,
as their tradition is crammed down passage
and into cells where scapegoats hang in iron.

Await the mineral redress, when the iron
gall-ink actuates, and feasts upon the columns
and the fat of language, for justice finds passage
through the fiber of stone, and even the lie
will be trialed in violence, the crooked bone
splintered like a ship’s spar run a-ground.

Keep rhythmic the passage of enfleshed bone;
when iron grows blunt and is ground to flinders,
then the lie will topple from its columns.

(c) Seth Grube