The Laurel in Ashes
by William Doreski
Despite a cease-and-desist order,
excavation continues across
the road, an orange power shovel
gnashing while a Caterpillar
dozer shoves dirt from here to there.
Erosion, lack of culverts, steep slopes
and an awkwardly angled driveway
should have condemned this building site
according to our land use laws.
Propertius wrote, “Now cease the wheels
whirled to the magic chant, altar fire
dead and the laurel in ashes.”
Whether directive or obser-
vation, these lines from Elegy
Twenty-Seven, spoken aloud,
halt the steel clatter. Engines
cough and die. Have they heard me,
the scrawny tattooed henchmen
of polluting diesel machines?
Have I issued a cease-and-desist
more emphatic than town government’s?
Propertius with his broader view
notes that the moon will refuse
to descend from heaven and the bird
of night will sing a death-song.
In remarking this prophecy
I note a hard rain’s falling now,
slashing at the savaged plot
and running filthy rivulets down
the faces of those sweating men,
who’ve never taken time to learn
whose earth they’re stripping bare.
Copyright © 2008 by William Doreski.