United Nations Building
United Nations Building
The United Nations Building,
From rusted winches and black gears and
Pulleys strapped with steel, from rusted
Gangways, broken-backed, asunder,
In the lap and low reach of the river,
From treacherous walkways, haphazard,
with weak wood, spikes and rough jumps,
From charred, broken, understructure beams
Building through moss from out of the river
And from the war and the loading of ships from the island,
At the base of the black cabin in the wreckage
Of a railroad, at the spider’s steel feet,
On the opposite bank of signs for the city,
Could be a hot-spot in a suburb of style.
It peoples its stoic porch with imaginings.
A man with an iced drink strolls to touch a lady’s chair.
Elegance keeps its secrets, fooling no one.
Faces are asunder, of course, with longing,
Love and loss and the one more imagined dance
With the night crashing into its shape.
There they would lean on the railing.
Out the open doors of smoked glass onto the veranda
Comes the tinkle and thud of a jazz combo.
Inside could be game and private dining rooms,
The curtained gambling room, austere,
The caddy-master’s son with a tray of fried dough balls
and cheese, the woman back from miscarriage.
The maestro chuckles in his domed office,
Demanding back the jewels stolen from a friend
Or a warehouse full of imported chocolates.
It all happened on television
Or on a hill in a less developed region,
Bruised with the blessings of buried dirt.
Shining traffic flows more darkly past the assembly.
This is the ruins of a railroad and the lap of a river
And the many fast-passing whirrs and flappings
Of helicopters rushing finance at the world.
This is the enduring of iron, wood and stone,
A temple of this and the last century,
As much of the past as worships still unseen
This venture petering into the river.
Here, what was across the river is here and changed.
Here the nations meet on a payday of iron.
Here gather the words that are elements
Bare to all force and enduring.
This is the Building of the General Assembly,
East of the East River.
Here, what was wished will be uttered on a dare.
It will go to its death having always died.
It will go on in sunlight and on the moon.
It will gather the peace that dances in colorful costumes.
The tribes of feathers and iron clash in laughter.
This too is assembly, shout the speakers.
Rhetoric spins the grammars back to thanks.
Warriors dizzy with display fall to sleep off the past.
They wake at once, astounded with hammers.
What will be built is no order of dismay.
Choo-choo impels the child’s caboose.
Christmas gives the virgins back their beds.
Easter does more than take a walk this time.
Censor! Look back at the approach, where you are.
On the spare, wrecked bank of the river,
Worry and prepare regardless, though
That shout changing earth course could not, could not
Even cross the river, except as odd debris.
Deliver the speech, demanding
No radioactive fervor of death,
Calling for no iron tomb as a dwelling,
Not blaming blood oath crimes of the enemy’s fathers,
Not lusting war for graves still unhonored
Or for youths brimming with blood,
Not claiming boom for final Bible completion.
I urge the assembly, Build beyond and
Out of a temple broken by the river.
(White-haired in an asylum, the modern prophet
In a hospital gown greets poets
With a quick handshake and turns their talk to
His mission: Tell the world to build the temple.
The poets are stuck with old themes,
Reduced to simple words and hospital fare.)
Go ahead and build the steel temple.
We will see what we worship there.