Nebraska 27: ‘Wild Dreams of a New Beginning’ by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

There’s a breathless hush on the freeway tonight
Beyond the ledges of concrete
Restaurants fall into dreams
With candlelight couples
Lost Alexandria still burns
In a billion lightbulbs
Lives cross lives
Idling at stoplights
Beyond the clover leaf turnoffs
‘Souls eat souls in general emptiness’
A piano concerto comes out a kitchen window
A yogi speaks at Ojai
‘It’s all taking place in one mind’
On the lawn among the trees
Lovers are listening
For the master to tell them they are one
With the universe
Eyes smell flowers and become them
There’s a deathless hush
On the freeway tonight
As a Pacific tidal wave a mile high
Sweeps in
Los Angeles breathes its last gas
And sinks into the sea like the Titanic all lights lit
Nine minutes later Willa Cather’s Nebraska
Sinks with it
The sea comes in over Utah
Mormon tabernacles washed away like barnacles
Coyotes are confounded and swim nowhere
An orchestra onstage in Omaha
Keeps on playing Handel’s Water Music
Horns fill with water
And bass players float away on their instruments
Clutching them like lovers horizontal
Chicago’s loop becomes a rollercoaster
Skyscrapers filled like water glasses
Great Lakes mixed with Buddhist brine
Great books watered down in Evanston
Milwaukee beer topped with sea foam
Beau Fleuve of Buffalo suddenly becomes salt
Manhattan Island swept clean in sixteen seconds
Buried masts of Amsterdam arise
As the great wave sweeps on Eastward
To wash away over-age Camembert Europe
Mannhatta steaming in sea-vines
The washed land awakes again to wilderness
The only sound a vast thrumming of crickets
A cry of seabirds high over
In empty eternity
As the Hudson retakes its thickets
And Indians reclaim their canoes

© Lawrence Ferlinghetti

In this fine poem, Nebraska is a rural everyperson to contrast with the urbanite reality, but it too is swept away and ultimately the poem is about change everywhere and questions humanity’s survival/renewal.

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