TAKING THE ELEVATOR

Otis! Bear with me as I tell the tale

Of one who, bold in pleasures, set his sail

Against the fiendish shaft and random cage

Whereby the strong among you come of age,

Shackled by the grinding belt and clanking pulleys

Of a keep o’erwhelmed by hollow bullies,

By rigid monsters of the dark and airless halls

As rend the night with joyless, buzzing calls

And tempt our bucking, young, and careless riders

To ruin at the hands of robot fighters.

 

Ohm-stressed electrons, in whose frightful centers

Sages manage to surpass their mentors,

By whose constant currents wayward ships

Loose their moorings and escape their slips,

Give me leave to, trembling, try and sing

Of one who had the insolence to bring

Against the demon all the petty hope of earth

Who sought to circumnavigate his birth,

To pit his brazen gall against the odds

Which threaten those who storm the gods,

Whose iron prisons, however frail,

Suggest our fate if we should fail,

Yet persist in spite of certain hell -

Jailed one way - the other way, as well;

 

But before the foe is tricked and fought

And our gentle cautions come to naught,

First the barbaric setting must be shown,

Lest the glass-like beast seem overblown:

Wild march and ghoulish cell no stranger

Than this Styx would be; no danger

In the deepest maw or dungeon faults

This nightmare with its rattling metal vaults,

Its mouth the gaping deep of cobalt mines

Imploding like a barque’s receding rigging lines -

 

The rushing blood grows faint with dread:

The spirit of the wood too much has bled

For night-deep, labyrinthine cubicles like this,

Inset with false luxury’s sad uselessness,

Round which the tackle limps and moans,

Paying for our fragile glory with its bones:

But here, the weight of wood and industry

Lures the hapless, seawind-crusted prodigy;

But dare I talk too freely of this truth?

This masthead-snapping hidden booth

Where all the plagues of ever-searching man

Come to rest so far from heaven’s plan,

Whose razor banks are buffeted and shrunk

By extruded cunning into iron junk,

The forest’s fresh and unencumbered graces

Reduced by commerce to such unnatural places -

 

And yet here it was that, highly strung

By pride to mount the topsail’s lofty rung,

To test the gunwhales with the fo’c’sle’s height,

As moths their passion drives to light

In darkest winter when the basest phantoms

Stalk regions where the summer never comes,

Or as the brittle gale of candied fates

Prompts desperate men to change their dates,

Breaching seas and grim with hunger and hubris,

To cross the bar and risk their lot - that is,

Wild and monstrous, keepers of the only hope

That slips the cleat and casts the rope

Alone connecting them to fortune’s shore,

To the slippery future’s thrashing store,

He, encompassed by the bouncing quarters,

Set out through the shaft’s nocturnal borders

Sheets caught aback, lines and halyards 

Castled to the crow’s nest by the birds

Where the clanking lift and tackle nimbly soars

With ratlines flailing up the shank to sail high floors

Where heart alone may never travel, where song

Itself cannot provide the ports for which we long,

Whose canopies contain the sparkling sun and stars

Far away from death-inviting cars

Whose menial darkness dulls the soul, and yet provides

The wide Elysian landing expected of such rides,

Darting flesh and sheets of fire, the wheeling play

Which gods inherit from the climb’s long day -

Godly are the man-made odds that raise

Or lower fortunes with their empty gaze,

Yet all too human are the sagas streaming from it

That justify the taking of this sudden summit,

This plateau which stars themselves must love,

Coming from the flattened earth to rise above

Where gate-like cumuli compress and then

Rush apart to show the long sky’s final glen -

So much buckle, grease, and chain unfurled

To raise man in his smallness to a higher world.