Flags flying, flags posted, flagella whip liquid broth,
Paramecia, whisking their way through an ocean in a raindrop, a tear.
A royal baker leaves ashes in a haystack in Pudding Lane–
raise the flag! The Lord Mayor will come, but we will not knock down
houses for fear of paying their owners– let them burn!
Half-masted flags hanging in memoriam, the Little Ice Age is gone,
and with it, Frost fairs, Sasha, Frost, fair and gray, sitting on a stone wall,
flagrare [burning] favors fyre, fences, how matter once-living sparks!
The cause could be the pineapple they were going to sit on old St. Paul’s,
better a dome that Wren, that lover of the epicyclic, would place
a pillar in its center, which almost touched the dome.
The support was needed to protect the prayerful from hermetic science.
Conflagration, 65, 66, violence, spiraling from an unknown cause,
a flea riding the back of a rat, baccarat wheel turning, the wind blowing through a flag,
flapping loosely, a piece of cut sod spreading, from plague to a great fire in a year,
London, home of Frost fair on the river Thames only a decade earlier.
Five days later, the fire is over, and Milton is safe in the country.
Evelyn, Hooke, and Wren clamber through the ruins, the smoking trash,
lost in ruins, burning the soles of their shoes, conceiving a plan.
Luckily, only six are dead, or so they said.
Evelyn and Wren dream the city will become as orderly as a cantonment
with gridlike street patterns and hard angled regularity,
and Hooke wants to stamp fast a Cartesian grid of squares.
Did you hear Milton and Newton are safe in the country?
Milton is dreaming of the victory of a flaming sword over the fallen angels.
Newton sees other worlds in his bedroom, his Mother’s orchard, anywhere.
Apple falls– no snake, no Eve, no Adam—an occult force, deployed in an inverse square.
Gravity is that force that breathes no life, but no life without it.
Against its bending, springs recoil, and wooden steeples scratch the sky sharp as spruce.
How empty the streets feel, so many poor and sick there, full of sores!
One cries he cannot breathe as pneumonic plague puts him under its grasp.
As I walk, I overhear many sad stories, everyone talking of the dead,
so many in this place, and so many in that. I hear in Westminster
there is never a doctor, and but one pharmacist left, all being dead.
There are great hopes of a great decrease this week, said Pepys.
Milton is glaucomatous in the country, unable to see this plight.
A year later, Pepys braves ash, smoke, and fallen brick to find a feline
taken out of a hole in the chimney with the hair all burned
off the body, and yet alive. Let us call that cat, London.
Carousels of horses, eyes watching the Thames,
the Lord Mayor at last orders lost buildings destroyed
close to the fire only to see them engulfed
before they could be cleared away.
Imagine all the broken roof tiles on the ground
as Pepys and Wren made their masked walks through the pyre.
A mask could not hide the Lord Mayor’s shame.
After a fire, most people find in ashes melted objects
to remind them of their cremated dreams.
Milton took a revolution written by amanuenses,
and Newton brought visions of prismatic color and a force so weak
only through starlight and torsion pendula can it be revealed.
After the plague, a young astronomer named Halley
visited Hooke to ask if he had an inverse square law for gravity.
He promised him he would find it in his papers.
Halley asked Newton if he had one, and he did.
Now we do not know Hooke’s face
since Newton destroyed his only portrait in anger.
Hooke said he had invented Newton’s law.
One can fathom human wrath,
but when the lifeless murderer strikes us
with the whip of an almost weightless Paramecium,
and we are left to burn in frosted space,
drowning in our lungs,
as a nurse in a spacesuit
holds a phone to our face
with our beloved saying farewell,
we could be an astronaut
leaving a set of prisms on the moon,
so a laser wielding scientist
could measure how it traces across the sky.
As we descend into the ocean
as we descend into our tears
will a Stradivarius play a tune?
That violin is made of special wood
from a Little Ice Age when spruce
grew more slowly, their rings
thinned, whose string vibrates
sonorous as the Alpine air,
the cool summers of Cremona long ago.
Will the Messiah play for us?
Kirk Greenway (b. 1961, Michigan) has written poetry off and on in one form or another since he was in second grade due to a school assignment. Three years later, he was first exposed to the French language and the violin, and both have intimately influenced him ever since that year. In the language, he found poetry, and in the instrument, fire. In 1983, he saw London for the first time, and his love for that city has remained. His AM paper in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, “A Metadiscourse on London Office of Works Discourse during the Surveyorship of Sir Christopher Wren,” was a sprawling historical monologue one inch thick concerning the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666, a work very different than that of T.F. Reddaway. He lives in a small blue house in Washington Grove, Maryland, with his wife of 19 years, Misook, with whom he shares two sons and clutches of wild birds.