• The Architect's Lament

    when the cathedral of saint invidia
    woke one midseptember morning
    to find it was no longer the tallest building in the village,
    it was perturbed,
    but by no means desolate.

    this crude edifice of stone, it quipped,
    staring at the fresh town hall
    facing her across the square,
    could never compare to my beauty.
    for i have jeweled crosses and stained windows,
    and all gather to pray whispers into my bones.
    they will see the repugnance of this construction,
    and it will fall.

    but the hall remained,
    its tower casting an umbra over the cathedral’s face,
    smiling a smug pillar smile
    as raucous meetings congregated there.
    people come to you to weep and lie,
    the town hall hissed.
    and look vainly to some amorphous spirit,
    but they will come to me
    to shake hands and make ripples,
    my belly holds the future,
    my tower sees all.

    the cathedral could only shine its stained glass in disgust.
    decade after decade, this inert, waspish standoff
    could be seen for miles around.

    the distress of the two, however,
    were found equal when another structure appeared.
    scaffolding and shadows rose,
    masons disrupting churchgoers and politicians
    and soon a gilded bank stood tall before them,
    clothed in red bricks and ornate molds,
    eclipsing both in size.
    silly and archaic, both of you seem
    the bank’s golden doors sneered.
    empires fall and gods are forgotten,
    but gold never loses its luster.

    year after year,
    vaults of coins seeped into common pockets,
    and the city began to flourish,
    birthing new houses and new windows
    facing the towering high-rise.

    a hotel and casino followed suit,
    several blocks away, but easily seen.
    neon sings and flashing bulbs
    blinded the disgruntled trio.
    many vaults were emptied into its jaws,
    drunken brawlers brought before the courts,
    sinners flocking to confess the lodge’s seductions.
    what bothers you so, good friends?
    the marquee mouth grinned.
    perhaps that, despite your efforts,
    man will always choose pleasures
    over your delicate civilized ways?

    the sultry searchlights danced on undersides of clouds,
    and regardless of bearing,
    it always seemed to be in view.

    the searchlights wailed
    and the marquee gnashed in displeasure
    when a new face crept up the city’s skyline.
    glass shimmering in massive frames,
    its spire stark against the azure sky.
    this metropolis will be swept up by my kindred,
    the skyscraper mused.
    consortiums live within my skin,
    my army of steel lattice will topple all before me,
    an army of grey fingers digging into the atmosphere,
    conquering just like the orchestrations
    of the magnates whom i house.
    all will be glass and steel,
    and i will be chieftain.

    but the skyscraper could only watch in horror
    as its brethren surpassed it,
    each tower determined to be the greatest of them all
    until the streets were nothing but shade
    and the sky a forest of concrete.
    like weeds desperate for survival,
    they climbed ever higher,
    if only to glean a brief moment
    of the sun’s caress on their roofs.

    and the earth, angry at being robbed
    from seeing her sister for so long
    quaked in rage,
    trembled her stones and shook her soil,
    and one by one,
    the towers swayed and fell.
    the neon signs disintegrated,
    the bricks crumbled and the gold was buried,
    the pillars collapsed onto themselves,
    and the stained windows shattered into a thousand knives
    that sunk miles beneath the dirt.

    the horrid sound of twisting metal and bursting crystal
    reached as far as distant stars,
    and echoed back again.

    when the dust settled,
    all that remained
    were small cottages with worn porches,
    cottages with strong foundations
    that withstood a planet’s shudders.

    cottages with humble roofs
    that understood
    the sky was not theirs to claim,

    cottages that spoke of tides
    and breezes and children born within them,
    never asking
    who among them
    was the tallest.