Free Energy

(7 May - 11 June 1989) after James Russell Lowell

He wants the discovery of free energy, palladium in a jar of heavy water, a wheel that never stops spinning, but he is thinking about people starving in Africa and the Appalachians, and not about wars across the world. Others don’t even notice. They accelerate to escape, and blame their frustration on the unyielding traffic. Needing to get from here to there, trapped in his metal defense, he looks beyond the pavement edge, where a blackbird with a deformed foot pecks in the dirt, feathers stuck to a wad of gum, ants crawling from an aluminum can. We pay for freedom on the freeway, burning both past and future, never where we want to be. To widen the freeway we replace the oleander in the center with new lanes and a cement wall. After we rip out the bushes, they are nothing but poisonous leaves; you couldn’t sell them to anyone. The wind blows gently; birds scatter. He would tear out the freeways and rebuild the cities on the hills. Farms would fill the valleys with orchards and vineyards. A cataclismic change would occur. Above the traffic, birds fly toward the hills. Weeds grow beside the road. Each foxtail in the field bears many seeds. On the hill, acorns volunteer. The deer aren’t owned and pastured.