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Squaring the Circle by Philip Fried

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God, the Busker

Fried, Philip

It’s early in the Anthropocene, late
In the Cenozoic, as the commuters travel
Incessantly through the tunnel in mechanical
Parade, no one speaking, only the scrape
Of a myriad of soles and the bittersweet 
Tones rising from the CD player behind
The “conductor”—is it orchestra-minus-one?—
His shock of white hair in a bowl cut.

Few take notice as he wields his baton.
Amid the lull of dreams, this music—Mahler’s
Das Lied von der Erde?—is a second’s distraction,
If heard at all.
          How far will a busker go
To earn a few bucks? (The gleanings in his overturned
Fedora are sparse.) Expressive to his finger-
Tips, he’s either in total control, or total
Denial:
      Descending, the baton directs
Glaciers to melt, calando, then rising, guides
The calving of icebergs double the size of Manhattan,
Maestoso ma giocoso.
                  With his left
Palm upward, he coaxes, poco a poco, now
Let sea-levels rise and the waters acidify
And warm.
            Then, flipping his palm, he wiggles knuckles
To command the eating away of coral.
                                 A lightning
Stab of his wand, furioso, summons the downpours,
The Atlantic hurricanes … 
                     He’s lost in a dream
Of mastery as the thunders, crescendo, beat
The finale, allegro con fuoco—I’ve never heard
This piece but somehow know it—
                                   We’re on our way home.

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