from This Broken Symmetry

(Screen)

This flicker-shimmer in the cave’s wide dark: a figure lifts,
The little tramp born days before the Fuhrer, dead ringer
In The Great Dictator; though now in Modern Times, Simone,

Entranced, watches Chaplin, frenetic on the assembly line,
Wrench tight the speeding widgets as they madly pass apace.
And now he’s riding the conveyor, cog born to implement

The single feature of his job inside the great machine until
He’s swallowed down this hungry one of many rote mouths
Into the gear works, one of the yield, wheels within wheels

Ingesting him then reversing, spewing him back out again
Along the belt onto factory floor, so he sees everywhere
Only bolts to tighten on bodies, faces—human material,

Fleshly commodity. She leaves the theatre. Paris, summer.
Before Anschluss, Berchtesgaden. Before a crooked cross
Hangs inside the keyhole parabola of the Arc de Triomphe…

“Only Chaplin understands the worker’s plight in our time,
Civilization broken, uprooted, with the spirituality of work,
Good broken, scattered, hell itself nothing but false infinity.”

The counter mechanism? The mustard seed, least of seeds,
Rising upward by consuming itself, “irresistibly ascending,
Attaining light”—analogy that makes this world, darkly,

In another Image—as the Great One swirls balloon globes
In his arms, and the overture wends ahead, and he dances,
Dancer, dance, around the flat blank country of the screen…

Daniel Tobin

Daniel Tobin

Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, most recently From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award, The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and Blood Labors.He is author of the critical studies Awake in America, Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and On Serious Earth. Tobin is also editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola Ridge, Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Arts (with Pimone Triplett) and To the Many: Collected Early Poems of Lola Ridge. His poetry has won the "The Discovery/The Nation Award," The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors.
Daniel Tobin

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Author: Daniel Tobin

Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, most recently From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award, The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and Blood Labors. He is author of the critical studies Awake in America, Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and On Serious Earth. Tobin is also editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola Ridge, Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Arts (with Pimone Triplett) and To the Many: Collected Early Poems of Lola Ridge. His poetry has won the "The Discovery/The Nation Award," The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors.