“Hydraulics ” by Phil Lane


In the urban wasteland,
the indignant waves
reel and rush,
struggle to surge
beneath trestles
and tenements.
From the promontory,
we stare down
into the eddy,
we think about depth
and impact,
the mathematics
of drowning
as the factories watch
with empty eyes.

Strange:
the things we
build cities around.
Cascades and
smokestacks form
the unlikely offspring
of palisades,
piedmonts it took
a bicentennial
to corrupt.

The sordid sky
is slick as oil,
the insipid falls
crash toward
the center which,
of course,
cannot hold,
even here
in the pit
of progress.

Everything changes
like lathes spinning;
in the great grinding
millwheel, we are
microscopic cogs
in the catastrophic
industries of love
and loss,
turning and turning
in the turbine
of what some
call life,
of what I
call labor—