I wonder if anyone ever thought
to tell time with them     know where their shadow
tipped on 3 o'clock    which floor   which parking spot
from a window desk    or if they ever
stood completely over their own shade's dot
that moment they had no metered footprint;
a peek-a-boo we now find ticketed
as a before and an after    an either
side of a space the zero pulls into,
its long reserve wheel of nothing there.
Yet here a gnomon of absence bears its shadow
placement on some dial of brevity and cold
about life       about the footprint we may leave
empty of light    empty of even point to it.

Here it's flat and densely packed with people
unlike the empty open of the plain;
here our expanse    the grown over dumpsite
of the meadowlands wetlands or the shore
is corps of engineered   the bulldozer-beetle's
ball of dung shines in it       and somewhere the body
hidden in our shit to fake us innocent...
one of our jokes sometimes      things rise and float.
                                                               We in the morning
catch, from the train, in the green garbage runoff,
sight of white herons and the cormorants.
When they’re there in the evening, we safely
assume the world hasn’t gone anywhere;
a take of bearings       the same the next morning
when we’d see the lit towers on the island
we were headed for      we see now the hour.

From the Jersey side we take a bearing, as
on mountains from the vantage of the plain,
on the towers from the vantage of the
dirt-stiffened, unyielding, tarmac of marsh
grass     gray like steel grayed a vegetable steel
from blur and the exhausts of the turnpike.

Position with regard to surrounding objects
here is unlike in the mountains which give
a bearing even from deep within them, let you
see them from inside their formation.

Climbing to the high plateau of the street
from the subway, we check the peaks downtown
or midtown    skyscrapers for direction.
Walk a few doors up the block    they parallax
eclipsed by the postcard we no more see.


There was a deep well lit its entire depth
at noon on the solstice       light without shadow:

so with an in-line position with regard
to the sun       any cast line of shadow

would indicate a curve; the distance between
one and not,   an arc of circumference.

That phrase of the psalm says death’s shadow is
as deep as that valley which is our grave;

its length is the same cast everywhere       as deep;
no one’s is further from death than another’s;

death surrounds us       is our uncurbed circumference.
We map our way with only the bearing

of surrounding life      itself borderless
uncontrolled by the surface of our self.

The bridge towers of the Verrazano
are so far apart they tilt away from
each other on the curve of the earth   factored in.

I wonder if from the distance apart
of the The Towers you could figure that reach
‘round of the world with this method of shadow?

The shadow of flesh casts how deep and far
a landscape of perspective?       how round
a circumference enough to fit the living

world   does a single life turning to its labor spin?
Take each story of a building as the radius
of expansion      we make of the earth,

concentric spheres       on Turtle Island,
the hundred ten circumferences go nova

So high a reach of vision set on so short
a perspective       the world on the turtle's back:
at top, the wake of star formation    at base, the animal

god.     the jealous Need,    a stomach
of feet       trying to stand through this.

What can we say of our own that stand
in Newark say       so far adrift from a chance

to wash      that the dirt on her feet cracks
into sores the skin of her soles    and steps her in
one more shit infection she has to kick,

one more occupation of her body by
her monkey rulers she will have to throw off
into space       off her back       burned out but clear

of starring habit.       Of her destroyed sun    say
it endows the landfill       on which to build a
new development       “We are the stuff of stars,” Sagan says.

Ed Roberson, "Eclogue" from City Eclogue. Copyright © 2006 by Ed Roberson. Reprinted by permission of Ed Roberson.
Source: City Eclogue (Atelos, 2006)
More Poems by Ed Roberson