Today's poem is by Roger Fanning

The Middle Age

Between TV and computer screens
counterfeiting a dragon glow in our mouths agog
and fundamentalists dreaming up real
fire and smoke to transmogrify the U.S.A.,

we may be on our way to something else,
as people in the Middle Ages sensed the decay
of the feudal system. Little orange mushrooms
sprouted from castle mortar and lilies

festered, till BOOM, the Gutenberg Bible
blew the roof off the church. The big party
(individualism) began, and the bare naked
rodeo we now call the Renaissance

gave us—let's face it—the best art ever;
In 1620 F. Bacon posited three
inventions as the high tech hocus-pocus
behind society's sea change: printing, gunpowder,

and the magnet. That's right, the magnet.
Used in compasses, it made heavenly bodies
obsolete, thus exploration of the New
World easy as pie. I mention in passing

Columbus's packs of mastiffs and greyhounds
trained on human flesh (brown), but the main
needle that guides my life is the needle
of debt. True North: My Mortgage. I find myself

thinking of Las Vegas, where I might
bathe in lilac neon and wander
palaces, tickled by the bickering
roulette wheels and the final clicks.

And get free drinks. And catch a lion act.
And I would turn my back on all that,
sagely, and walk out in the desert,
letting my crow's feet crinkle ironically.

Out in the desert at sunset
the wind must sequin up a sandgrain
or two, and the prodigal prune-face moon
appear above a dune. Beautiful.

Poignant as hell. And I bet you can hear,
far-off, barking Lotto numbers
the Beast of the Apocalypse. Yes, yes,
a Vegas vacation might be just the thing. Yes,

but I recall my childhood most keenly:
Hansel and Gretel's predicament: luminous
breadcrumbs one by one blinking out, a bird
too dark to be seen.

Copyright © 2004 Roger Fanning All rights reserved
from Kenyon Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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