Austere Finale

Thinking back, your plenty was huge, massive,
the size of a gorge, a regular canyon, so green
and spectacular whole families on their last gallon,
driving on fumes, everyone silent, sticky, and leaning
into the destination, hoping not to miss it,
came to peer out over the edge
and watch the wind part your hair and ruffle your blazer
as you leaned hard for leverage
and the floodgates opened the mighty dam
that was your vast moneyflow, O

it seems the preliminary drawings
for the commemorative park, the one containing forests
and waterfalls, sluiceways and glaciers, square miles of fluvia,
were somehow misplaced
in all the hubbub and may have slipped into a shipment
of scrap metal (old TV sets) that may even now
(we think) possibly be arriving, somewhere—

in a town, say, that would make the devil weep with loneliness,
where the wind off the Sierra Madre clobbers hamlets
so poor they can’t afford their own names,
but here’s a hotel—go there, if you would.
We’re sorry if there’s nothing on the menu,
not even a plate of beans heated on a sterno,
but people still believe in miracles
even though, we regret to say, the waiter
and the waiter’s understudy
have, indeed, fled the epidemic that has emptied the town,
dropping, it seems, the glass of tap water you ordered.
Still, we offer by way of compensation
(and because it seems you need it)
this last white breath mint
that we’ve been saving for some time,
although it may or may not have
fallen, by now, through the holes
in Christ’s upturned hand.

Mark Svenvold is first and foremost a poet, working on his next collection. He has written recently about bicycle nomads for Orion Magazine; wildcat oil geology for Fortune/Small Business; and solar power and offshore wind power for The New York Times Magazine. Svenvold’s books include Big Weather (Henry Holt  Co, 2005) about tornado chasers and the culture of catastrophilia and Elmer McCurdy: The Misadventures in Life and Afterlife of an American Outlaw, (Basic Books, 2002), which unravels the bizarre career of a Long Beach, California, fun house mummy. A 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Nonfiction, he covers renewable energy for AOL’s DailyFinance. Mark teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at Seton Hall University and is actively engaged in the undergraduate literary and performance scene on campus.