The gibbons are gone now. No more
River dolphins in the Yangtze—
Turns out Nature’s ephemeral
As any dynasty. Landscapes
Aren’t eternal, although this land
Still answers to authority.
What if we’ve made something lasting,
Having invented polities?
The particular emperors
Always go under, and their tombs
Are always plundered, but maybe
Culture has mastered Nature’s art
Of generating wave on wave
To break against the obdurate
Limits of existence, the craft
Of conquering by attrition.
What if we’re not going away
Anytime soon? Oh, you and I,
Certainly, our authorities,
Any given hegemony—
We’re all breaking, any time now.
We’re always breaking, all the time.
But what if it won’t be mountains
And rivers around our ruins
Left to meditate on the past—
Just more cities, more centuries,
The mountains and rivers ruined,
And instead of the cicadas
Carrying on, sounding mournful
To the poets projecting loss,
It’s just more poets, the crickets
Of culture, singing to ourselves?