machines

"Homage to Mary Hamilton"
by Tom Sleigh
from The New Yorker (here)

I’m driving past discarded tires,
   the all-night car wash dreams
near Green-wood Cemetery where
   the otherworld of Queens

puts out trash—trash of murder, Inc.,
   trash of heartbeat
in recycled newspapers where
   Romeo and Juliet meet.

So much thorny underbrush,
   so much ice overgrowing
my windshield until frost shields a buck
   behind a billboard forest

selling someone’s half-dressed daughter.
   She melts into the defroster
roaring like the rich guys’ helicopters
   at the Wall Street heliport,

rooting down through skyscrapers
   where torch-song lipstick smears
onto a handkerchief and starched collar.
   But in my face snow blizzards

up from sixteen-wheelers and
   three crows clot against limbs
downswooping, omen of the augurs
   that steers the desperate lovers

to a crossroads, right here. And where mobsters
   and suicides lie buried
and the radio breaks into a ballad
   of Mary Hamilton’s fair body,

but who’s tied it in her apron
   and thrown it in the sea,
I’m the quake and short-lived quiver,
   the laughter and fractured tale

of her night in the laigh cellar
   with the hichest Stewart of a’.
Oh, she’s washed the Queen’s feet
   and gently laid her down

but a’ the thanks she’s gotten this night’s
   to be hanged in Edinbro town.
I’m sitting behind the wheel
   of our mutual desire

when the heel comes off her shoe
   on the Parliament stair
and lang or she cam down again
   she was condemned to dee:

but the instant the news comes on
   and drones spy down
on our compulsions, her hands
   under my hands wrestle

on the wheel as my foot taps
   the brakes, her foot the gas
when out of the gliding dark
   I spot his velvet rack.

Last night there were four Toms,
   today they’ll be but three:
there was Tom Fool, Sweet Tooth Tom,
   Tom the Bomb, and me.

-Tom Sleigh

Notes:

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