A Motor

By Marvin Bell b. 1937 Marvin Bell
The heavy, wet, guttural
small-plane engine
fights for air, and goes down in humid darkness   
about where the airport should be.
I take a lot for granted,
not pleased to be living under the phlegm-
soaked, gaseous, foggy and irradiated
heavens whose angels wear collars in propjets   
and live elsewhere in Clean Zones,
but figuring the air is full of sorrows.

I don’t blame
the quick use of the entire earth
on the boozy
pilot
come down to get a dose of cobalt
for his cancer. He’s got
a little life left, if
he doesn’t have to take all day to reach it.   
With the black patches
inside him, and
the scars and the streaks and the sick stomach,

his life is more and more like
that of the lowliest child chimney sweep   
in the mind of the great insensible,   
William Blake. William Blake,
the repeated one, Blake, half mad,
half remembered,
who knew his anatomy, down to
the little-observed muscle in the shoulder   
that lifts the wing.

The little London chimney sweeper
reaches up and reaches down.
In his back,
every vertebra is separated from the long
hours of stretching.
With one deep, tired breath,
the lungs go black.

By the Holiday Company crane,   
adding a level to the hospital,
on the highest land in the county,   
heavy sits the pure-white Air Care   
helicopter, with
its bulging eye.
It has kept many going, a good buy,   
something.

Now someone I know says Blake   
in anger,
angry for his brother in the factory   
and his sister on the ward,
but tonight I have no more anger   
than the muscle
that lifts my knee when I walk.

Another pleads with the ocean
that the words for
suffering and trouble
take place in a sound that will be all sounds   
and in the tidal roll
of all our lives and every event,
but I am silent by water,

and am less to such power   
than a failed lung.

And I think it is only a clever trick to know   
that one thing may be contained
in another. Hence,
Blake in the sweep, one in the ground   
in one in the air,
myself in the clinic for runaway cells,   
now and later.

Marvin Bell, “A Motor” from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org

Source: Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2000)

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Poet Marvin Bell b. 1937

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Activities, Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences, Jobs & Working

 Marvin  Bell

Biography

American poet and critic Marvin Bell "is a poet of the family. He writes of his father, his wives, his sons, and himself in a dynamic interaction of love and loss, accomplishment, and fear of alienation. These are subjects that demand maturity and constant evaluation. A complete reading of Bell's canon shows his ability to understand the durability of the human heart. Equally impressive is his accompanying technical . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Activities, Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences, Jobs & Working

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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