First Things RSS Feed - Rob Griffith
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60The Long Roomhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/06/the-long-room
Sat, 01 Jun 2013 00:00:00 -0400 Alive in the long, deep room of the soul,
I feel, at 41, absurdly old,
a burnt-out heap of blackened greenwood
on the grate. And this despite the steady light
that fills this place and warms the burnished floors,
the leather chairs, the paintings framed in gilt.
This despite the crystal sparking on the bar,
the shelves of books like soldiers on parade,
and bottles of wine racked like mortar shells
against the walls.
And all these guests—good Lord!
They talk and talk, make toasts, and show their teeth.
They straighten steam-pressed pleats and smooth their ties,
ignoring how the sun sweeps across the room,
each candlestick and champagne flute a gnomon
scything shadows down the hall.
The day goes cold.
Soon, the servants, funereal and neat,
will ghost about the room, closing doors
and shutters against the coming night, against
desire, ambition, and all those vistas
spread across the future’s darkened landscape.
I’ve seen their knowing looks, their fox-sly smiles.
They’ll turn the locks and pocket all the keys,
and soon, I fear, they’ll set the house ablaze.
Singing to the Penguins at the Memphis Zoohttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/11/007-singing-to-the-penguins-at-the-memphis-zoo
Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400 Even before we passed the bears (who sat
Like mourners in a church, their great brown paws
Still and flat across their knees), we heard her sing,
A high, sweet echo of cathedral song.
And when we turned the corner, there she was,
A slender woman sheathed in red who leaned
Against the pool and sang a plangent song
To all the penguins swimming in the blue.
Beneath the surface they flashed, their wings
More gray than black, their too-thin bellies clean
And pale as faded whites just from the wash.
Her voice was full of grief, as if she knew
About diminishment, about the trapped.
She sang to all that’s broken, bruised, or flawed.