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The Commission

Rube Goldberg met with Cupid in an alley,

said “Look, I’ll help your broken arrow get

to where you want it. First off, let’s forget

a mountain’s any different from a valley —

we’ve never heard of obstacles. Next thing,

I’ll need a quiet place to work, some room

where I can’t hear the roaring traffic’s boom.

This attic’s perfect. Job well done. Now bring

me earplugs and a crate of beer, then scram.”

Cupid obeyed and flew back to his cloud

as Goldberg rolled his sleeves up, and a shroud

of secrecy descended…Leeks, a pram,

dining-room tables and a duck were seen

entering the attic on a pulley

while the paparazzi dutifully

cluttered the corridor where they had been.

Days passed—or were they weeks?—time was a blur

in this electric climate of creation,

just say time passed, when hoots of celebration

coming from the attic caused a stir

among the small dogs on the street below.

Goldberg got Cupid on the phone and said

“I’m going to take the top right off your head:

come quickly to my room so I can show

my latest masterpiece to you.” Quaking

with highest hopes and sheer fear, Cupid paced,

put on his darkest sunglasses and raced

into the teeming city, wings aching,

mind afire, and nerves completely raw.

He took the elevator to the ninth floor

where, beaming, Goldberg met him at the door

and let him in. And this is what he saw:

metal and feathers rose up in a narrow

shaft that ended in a triangle

part plywood and part leafy vegetable;

Goldberg had made a statue of an arrow.

Cupid knew Goldberg wasn’t serious;

the real contraption waited in the wings!

But when he realized the plain truth of things

he raised his arms and cried out, furious,

“I wanted you to steer a fragile dart

through shark-torn waters and crow-blasted skies

to where my icy-cold beloved lies,

not mock it with this stiff, this ghastly art.”

“But frozen sorrow offers such a thrill,”

Goldberg replied, “to those who caused the pain

that motion’s loss will be persuasion’s gain.

If this doesn’t melt her, nothing will.”

“Oh Goldberg, Goldberg, would that it were true.

I also used to feel deep in my gut

that works of love could cure indifference, but

I’ve given that dream up, and so should you.

I wanted rockets surging from the ground.

I wanted pyrotechnics and not planks.

Your artistry’s beyond pathetic; thanks

for a great big nothing. See you around.”

But Goldberg, not one to be silenced, spent

the next day polishing a marble bow,

and marveled at how Cupid could have so

misunderstood what moving really meant.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Poems Rachel Wetzsteon

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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