Consecration

The man in the yellow hard hat,
the one with the mask
across his nose and mouth,

pulls the lever that turns
the great arm of the crane up
and over and sideways

toward the earth;
then the wrecking ball
dangles crazily,

so delicately, like a silver fob
loosened from a waistcoat pocket:
shocking to see

the dust fly up and the timber
sail up, then so slowly
down, how the summer air

bristles with a hundred splinters
and the smallest is a splintered flame,
for it takes so many lengthening

erratic movements to tear away
what stands between the sidewalk
and the bell tower,

where the pigeons now rise
in grand indignant waves
at such poor timing, such

a deaf ear toward the music;
in this way the silence

between hand and lever is turned
into a ragged and sorely lifted
wing: the wrecking ball lurches
in a narrowing arc until only

the dust resists—the rest
comes down, story by story,
and is hauled off in flatbed trucks.

Meanwhile the pedestrians come
and go, now and then glancing
at their accurate watches.

Gradually, the dust
becomes the rose light
of autumn.

But one evening a woman
loses her way as she’s
swept into a passing wave

of commuters and she
looks up toward the perfectly
empty rectangle

now hanging between
the rutted mud and the sky.
There along the sides

of the adjacent building,
like a set for a simple
elementary school play,

like the gestures of the dead
in her children’s faces,
she sees the flowered paper

of her parents’ bedroom,
the pink stripes leading
up the stairs to the attic,

and the outline of the claw-
footed bathtub, font
of the lost cathedral of childhood.

Susan Stewart, “Consecration” from The Hive. Copyright © 1987 by Susan Stewart. Reprinted with the permission of The University of Georgia Press.
Source: The Hive (University of Georgia Press, 1987)
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