Monday, August 29, 2011

Undertown

Undertown

The town beneath the town,
the flattened record of what happens
up there. As a tabletop remembers
what is placed on it, the finish vanishing
under heat, or circles appearing
where glasses lingered, the undertown
holds the underside of decisions,
to put a building here and then to rip it up,
to plant a bigger building there.
This stippling indicates plows and barns,
horsehooves, and this compressed
valley means a bulldozer, a road, cars.
The undertown feels no emotional
attachment to being trampled or dabbed at.
All movements carry consequences
on their backs. And if not that scar, then
it would be this one. The undertown
absorbs whatever we give it,
does not require any recognition or praise
in keeping track of us for us.

8 comments

  1. Oooo. Also makes me think of the undertown in scifi stories I read this summer by Cordwainer Smith!

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  2. You're obviously visiting Phoenix!

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  3. When I first read the title I read "undertow" then did a double take. I love this poem, it's a poem for archeologists!

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  4. Every so often in Georgetown (in D.C.), old buildings are uncovered when new excavation occurs. It's always fascinating to see what is discovered and learned about the "undertown".

    Good poem!

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  5. "This stippling indicates plows and barns,
    horsehooves, and this compressed
    valley means a bulldozer, a road, cars.
    The undertown feels no emotional
    attachment to being trampled or dabbed at.
    All movements carry consequences
    on their backs."

    The rhythm--and the short "a"--build a fantastic flow.

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  6. Wow...maybe it teaches us humility.

    I visited an undertown discovered in Israel_ a whole prison city covered under another city....the layers of life...so incredible that you thought of this.

    I loved every line! xo

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  7. I love this subject and your handling of it, esp. the last two lines (do I always say that?).

    Isn't the undertown supposed to be esp. spectacular in Istanbul? But your readers have already thought of others as well.

    I think you're also seeing how this applies to individuals as well as cities or civilizations? The town of Me before/underneath/holding/embracing/undermining/earthquaking the town of Me you see today?

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  8. The undertown? Another Hannah original. It seems kind of like an inanimate mule of some sort, uncomplainingly carrying what is set upon it.

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