Photograph by Ron/Comstock/Jupiterimages/Thinkstock.
There are few still standing now who remember
when they sold Prince Albert in a can.
He was beautifully dressed, a fine trope of a man,
with a beard, and a nose, and slender
As the riding crop the Queen used to punish him
when he forgot his place—inside the oblong tin
Farmers bought in country stores: imperially thin
like Richard Cory in the famous poem.*
They were near contemporaries. But you can’t imagine
the Prince Consort doing himself in.
In my mind he rides close to the hearts of men
in work-shirt pockets; he ministers to the ways
Of colonials blind to the pressure of Victoria’s corset stays.
Click the arrow on the audio player to hear T.R. Hummer read "Pandrol Jackson." You can also download the recording.
Along a derelict railroad, abandoned machinery takes
its last tour of duty toward rust. Another town is stalling.
Another house smolders with rot while a television rages.
Crows patrol banked cinders beside a landfill with a sign:
No Dumping. We were Jews in Austria. No, we spoke German
in Czechoslovakia—by order of the Alliance, we filed
Into a railroad car and died. No, we were black in Arkansas.
Here is a filthy contraption, like a grim lawn mower
With flanged iron wheels, Pandrol Jackson in blue paint
on its rotted housing: a rail grinder, used to polish steel
To brilliance, forgotten here as after the Rapture. And the carcass
of a boxcar warps just down the track, groaning with a cargo of bones.
Click the arrow on the audio player to hear T.R. Hummer read "Bloodflower Sermon." You can also download the recording.
The wind has windflowers, the sea anemones,
death its endless procession of white bouquets.
We homeless ones circle a field in the guise of nightshade,
absent our own blossoming. We nameless ones drop
No petals on the sandstone patio. A turbulent shaft of light
strips us down to our essence and beats us raw.
What chance did we ever have, Great Ones, to be anything
but planted in tilth in the end, and sentenced to calcium?
Correction, Jan. 14, 2013: Because of a production error, the poem "Imperial" originally misspelled Richard Cory's last name. (Return to the corrected verse.)
T.R. Hummer is author of 10 books of poetry. His 11th, Skandalon, is forthcoming from LSU Press.