Friday, July 30, 2010

Such an Infernal Contraption

A heavy but graceful steel frame
supported by four tiny casters.
A single big clockwork gear

and something like a ship’s wheel
of equal size. I dare you
to turn that wheel and engage

this rusty but potent machine.
What does it do? You don’t know?
Turn the wheel and the planet

shifts on its axis, tilts more
to the right. You’ll hardly notice,
but the winters will get longer

and the summers will shrivel one
or two degrees. New Zealand,
however, will warm a little,

and the Antarctic icecap shrink
by several million cubic yards.
You think this antique device

doesn’t work anymore? Try it—
go ahead, risk our grandchildren’s
future by changing the climate

with a single turn of that wheel.
You claim it won’t budge because
the rust has lingered for decades?

I’ve a quart of oil in the trunk
of the car. Let’s douse this thing
and get it working fluently;

and maybe by turning the wheel
the other way with heroic
grunts and groans we’ll reverse

the industrial revolution
and undo some terrible curse
we hadn’t known applied to us.