Why, always, this contest of who hurts the most?
(photo: George Segal’s sculpture, “The Curtain”)
Above: “Street Crossing” (1992) by the American artist George Segal (1924-2000)
Robert Pinsky’s “Genesis According to George Segal”
The Spirit brooded on the water and made
The earth, and molded us out of earth. And then
The Spirit breathed Itself into our nostrils—
And rested. What was the Spirit waiting for?
An image of Its nature, a looking glass?
Glass also made of dust, of sand and fire.
Ordinary, enigmatic, we people waiting
In the terminal. A survivor at a wire fence,
Also waiting. Behind him, a tangle of bodies
Made out of plaster, which plasterers call mud.
The apprentice hurries with a hod of mud.
Particulate sand for glass. Milled flour for bread.
What are we waiting for? The hour glass
That measures all our time in trickling dust
Is also of dust and will return to dust—
So an old poem says. Men in a bread line
Out in the dusty street are silent, waiting
At the apportioning-place of daily bread.
At an old-fashioned radio’s wooden case
A man sits listening in a wooden chair.
A woman at a butcher block waits to cut.
What are we waiting for, in clouds of dust?
Or waiting for the past, particles of being
Settled and moist with life, then brittle again.
Extra cool thing: Robert Pinsky reads this poem aloud here: