Howard Nemerov

(29 February 1920 – 5 July 1991 / New York City, New York)

Fugue


You see them vanish in their speeding cars,
The many people hastening through the world,
And wonder what they would have done before
This time of time speed distance, random streams
Of molecules hastened by what rising heat?
Was there never a world where people just sat still?

Yet they might be all of them contemplatives
Of a timeless now, drivers and passengers
In the moving cars all facing to the front
Which is the future, which is destiny,
Which is desire and desire's end -
What are they doing but just sitting still?

And still at speed they fly away, as still
As the road paid out beneath them as it flows
Moment by moment into the mirrored past;
They spread in their wake the parading fields of food,
The windowless works where who is making what,
The grey towns where the wishes and the fears are done.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Fugue by Howard Nemerov )

  • Rookie - 29 Points Robert Howard (1/30/2007 10:09:00 AM)

    A fascinating title. A fugue is an intricate contrapuntal musical form that Nemerov has compared to the complex interweaving of traffic. The original meaning of the word, 'fugue', is 'flight' which applies equally to the missions of the drivers. (Report) Reply

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