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Mumford On Small Implosions (The USA Poem) (1 Viewer)

Mumford On Small Implosions
(The USA Poem)

Even a skyscraper dies; and when it does,
it raises a sudden cloud só spectacular
crowds assemble, to watch in pity & terror.
Dying begins with a sequence of small explosions.
Seemingly lacking effect, they sap strength
till insignificant sway leads to collapse.
Dirt & debris scatter. Lines of stress,
reách oút & connéct, knuckling together,
until it crumples into its own footings,
crushing assumptions that raised it. “Including its plan
to cloud the sun,” say those who cursed its shadow,
eager to flatten ambition as craven as their own
to make space for their own “worthy landmark”
equally likely to slump on its own foundation.

A small army is needed to mine a building.
Sappers deploy to critically stressful locations
in secret. Grievance is bundled & wired together.
A cynical countdown is planned, to crush the pride
of those who labored to build it, down to zero.
Parts greater than zero are first removed,
obeying the clutch of interest that forced its demise.
Carefully sculpted gargoyles, filagreed ogees,
frescos that honor work reduce to detritus.
Remains get twisted, mainly by those who never
trusted its shadow. Even the few who concede
it met its stated goal (“to inspire confidence”)
wonder how any could ever trust such a puzzle
with hope & dreams—or dare to take it for granted.

What made it apparently solid was faith conferred;
treasure bestowed on cantilevered assumptions;
workers committed to crowding sunlight with substance
in their own image. Structured patterns of order,
shaped like their makers, rose to assault the eye
with pointed, sudden emergence. Who could ignore
a sculpted hubris challenging powers Above
like an upraised finger? Motionless constellations,
noted its sudden emergence, commenced to sway,
slumped away, crashed into their basements
to make space for “a new order of ages.”
And what they built was what they were exactly—
“a new order” obsessed with a native need
to honor itself for being uniquely assertive.

“The tallest, the brashest, the freest” is what they said
in ev’ry line they erected—as if they were diff’rent
from those who had lived before them, somehow immune
to forces of nature, Forces that cause collapse.
Of course it was noble to want to challenge the heavens;
brave to free themselves from powers above them;
daring to cast “order from coast to coast.”
Deserts bloomed; trees were grafted useful;
fields yielded amber grain, waving.
But then they ignored limits: They turned rivers
to streams of poison. Hard to drink after that,
even from bottles. Hard to locate spirit
buried in rubble. Deadly hard to outwit
legions of sappers. Like all who lived before them,
they thought themselves immune to the very forces
they taught themselves to unleash. They even believed
force could grow immune to its own vacuum—

as if, once unleashed, force could prevail
without reaction! But just as sappers return
to remove shards of their labor, so does a mob,
after greeting a towering scapegoat’s demise
with glee & applause, trundle home to escape
“something noble falling to dust & ruin
through no fault of its own.” But “tragic” is not
“the collapse of something noble” or purgative pity
said to occur when we transfer terror to others.
“Tragic” is when we notice parts of ourselves
lying within the wreck of former comfort.

Rats, refusing to notice, argue for space.
Some of them say, “Ever more artful ways
of spanning weight create a need to apply
what knowledge brings.” Some boldly deny
any intrinsic good in what was razed:
“We can do better,” rats convince themselves.
But history is lost, and some is personal.
When memory gets blasted from its roots
& new complexity brings scant improvement;
when “visionary gleam” begins to dim
& lapsing particles escape their source
to disappear in dark that has no end;
when towers fall & freedom changes state,
then small implosions seal a nation’s fate.

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I love it Jim
Although I think you should stop at the end of the penultimate stanza. The last stanza descends into lecturing and undermines this fine poem.
I love it Jim
Although I think you should stop at the end of the penultimate stanza. The last stanza descends into lecturing and undermines this fine poem.
Thanks, Tim. But note the title: Mumford IS lecturing. He was a Mid-20th C, public intellectual, aka "the prophet of gloom," author of The City in History, and the poem uses his persona.

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I see. I know nothing of Mumford. Enlighten me, please. Why is this his perspective particularly, rather than James Sutton's? And why did you choose Mumford to expound on the fallout in America post 9-11?