Magazine | May 3, 2010, Issue

Poetry

THE TRUTH OF MATERIALS

“ . . . Brancusi taught me the truth of materials.” – Isamu Noguchi

In my father’s house is a propeller,

Not a work of art, or nature, not steel

Or driftwood, but a little of each by way

Of City Hall, one blade, one of four once,

Curved like a wing, fastened along the edges

By brass studs, sitting in a corner through

Generations of judges in City Hall,

Half a corridor block from my father’s

Office, until he retired as Chief Crier

Of Quarter Sessions Court, bringing home his

Gold badge, which I can’t find, his Brancusi,

Which I’ve never lost sight of, yet no plane’s

History of military service

Or flying banners over the beaches

Of Atlantic City. It must have seen

Flight duty of some sort, but landed one

Day in the courts, and stayed for thirty years,

Cigar smoke instead of mist the only

Hazard, court officers and lawyers shouting

In marble halls like mechanics in hangars.

It didn’t move for changes in government,

Weathered political storms, since, unseen,

It was unused, an unfound work of art,

An inflected wing of polished wood,

The block attachment to the axle-shaft

A natural base on the floor of the Hall

In Philadelphia.

                        Finally he told

The President Judge he’d like to take

The blade home. Now the old court officers,

Who were so devoted to the racing

Form, wonder what it is they miss, a shape

With a familiar sweep, the politics

Of pure air. They lean on marble window

Ledges, wondering what the Chief Crier

Took home with him, two sons shouldering

Something wrapped and tied in a couple

Of discarded judges’ gowns.

Lawrence Dugan's poetry has appeared recently in Arion, National Review, The Spectator and The Threepenny Review.

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THE TRUTH OF MATERIALS “ . . . Brancusi taught me the truth of materials.” – Isamu Noguchi In my father’s house is a propeller, Not a work of art, or nature, not steel Or ...

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