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Capriccio of the Imaginary Prison

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After Piranesi

The faded remains of ancient advertising — 
captives on parade in native costume.
Now the whangam, that imaginary animal
led by Wharfinger, keeper of the wharf.
And you, my puce, sitting between the paws
of the mechanical lion, his brittle heart of glass.
The regiments of holiday shoppers,
in formations two-by-two, are borne
along the sliding pavements between displays
into the Pavilion of the Encrusted Compass.
O hub of panopticon, each moment on display,
from the central monitor there is no escape.
This is all accomplished, even the symphonic
wrecking of the antique locomotive, in silence.
I have misplaced my whipcat and whinstone.
I try to recall something that I know.
A westing is a space of distance westward.
Wheep: the sound of steel drawn from a sheath.
What was the name of the Babylonian sidekick
of Sir Thomas More’s lead warren?
Time for the steam-driven, slow reckoning,
for the chains and block and tackle dangling
from the eternally unfinished dome, the chrome-
plated waterfall and the ascension
into the arcades, the arcades and their broken promises.

Source: Poetry (March 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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Capriccio of the Imaginary Prison

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