The Town Dump
Nemerov, Howard (1920-)

             "The art of our necessities is strange,
              That can make vile things precious."

  A mile out in the marshes, under a sky
  Which seems to be always going away
  In a hurry, on that Venetian land threaded
  With hidden canals, you will find the city
  Which seconds ours (so cemeteries, too,
  Reflect a town from hillsides out of town),
  Where Being most Becomingly ends up
  Becoming some more.  From cardboard tenements,
  Windowed with cellophane, or simply tenting
  In paper bags, the angry mackerel eyes
  Glare at you out of stove-in, sunken heads
  Far from the sea;  the lobster, also, lifts
  An empty claw in his most minatory
  Of gestures;  oyster, crab, and mussel shells
  Lie here in heaps, savage as money hurled
  Away at the gate of hell.  If you want results,
  These are results.
                               Objects of value or virtue,
  However, are also to be picked up here,
  Though rarely, lying with bones and rotten meat,
  Eggshells and mouldy bread, banana peels
  No one will skid on, apple cores that caused
  Neither the fall of man nor a theory
  Of gravitation.  People do throw out 
  The family pearls by accident, sometimes,
  Not often;  I've known dealers in antiques
  To prowl this place by night, with flashlights, on
  The off-chance of somebody's having left
  Derelict chairs which will turn out to be
  By Hepplewhite, a perfect set of six
  Going to show, I guess, that in any sty
  Someone's heaven may open and shower down
  Riches responsive to the right dream;  though
  It is a small chance, certainly, that sends
  The ghostly dealer, heavy with fly-netting
  Over his head, across these hills in darkness,
  Stumbling in cut-glass goblets, lacquered cups,
  And other products of his dreamy midden
  Penciled with light and guarded by the flies.

  For there are flies, of course.  A dynamo
  Composed, by thousands, of our ancient black
  Retainers, hums here day and night, steady
  As someone telling beads, the hum becoming
  A high whine at any disturbance;  then,
  Settled again, they shine under the sun
  Like oil-drops, or are invisible as night,
  By night.
                  All this continually smoulders,
  Crackles, and smokes with mostly invisible fires
  Which, working deep, rarely flash out and flare,
  And never finish.  Nothing finishes;
  The flies, feeling the heat, keep on the move.

  Among the flies, the purifying fires,
  The hunters by night, acquainted with the art
  Of our necessities, and the new deposits
  That each day wastes with treasure, you may say
  There should be ratios.  You may sum up
  The results, if you want results.  But I will add
  That wild birds, drawn to the carrion and flies,
  Assemble in some numbers here, their wings
  Shining with light, their flight enviably free,
  Their music marvelous, though sad, and strange.

Chief Modern Poets of England and America, 4th Ed (Sanders, Nelson & Rosenthal)