"Where Are The Stars Pristine" by Alice Fulton

Where Are The Stars Pristine

Everyone’s spending Christmas Eve adrift
in the corporal skirmish, mixing
up the darks with the lights, fending
with elbows and dirty
looks. Wet wool and down
crowd the air. Where are the stars, pristine
as great ideas? Behind clouds
the heavens saturate
with luminous dust, shuttles wearing halos
of earthdirt, light pollution
from jets fired to keep things
on course. Boys rickrack a ball off
floor and ceiling past the table
tree bubbling with giveaway
ornaments from Burger King and lights
that manage an occasional
lackadaisical flash. Showstoppers: everyone

looks every time and keeps looking
to make sure it happened.
The double frontloaders are going
like abstract TVs. And the program is important:
all about the boggling sullied
lives we’d like to hide.
But this is no place
to do so, where known
and unknown perverts come
to pirate underpants and the innocent
clutch their Cheer and Shout.
The rules are posted: only the toughest
habiliments, the superego
of raiment can take such agitation.
And only the poor are invited to endure
the sneezy powders and clean resentment.

Imagine a museum installation—
200 hypnotic washers stuffed with somersaulting
cloth. Critics could rise to the challenge,
their statements settling like coats
of gold and silver
chain mail over each machine:
“These Speed Queen pieces thrust ahead of art-
for-art’s sake to confront us
with a realism of socio-political
magnitude. The vortex-like movement
of pattern, color, and texture infuses
these works with an abundance of unconscious
bliss. The soft forms
circulate with vigor
across the screens. The viewer
is not privy
to the cause of dirt
though one is witness to the dirt’s
ablutions. The point is
we are not impeccable.”

Everyone would be happy
to know that! And so we’re forced to
scoop and pour
a fine white empathy over
the hairy flannels, snaggy nylons,
the glass front that gives
forth this light
industry, the silly tree
and jingles about blue and white
Christmases, chestnuts, sleighbells,
just as snow settles
on every unsequestered thing:

from blistered gum –
ball machines, clumsy bumpers,
crepuscular theaters with sticky floors,
to ramshackle mansions
choked with smiling
china animals where light shakes itself out
from TVs and old women
frail as walking sticks
sweep their stoops at eight a.m.
Just as snow makes the less than impeccable
classical, stroking the merely
drab or passing, quickly or slowly,
so we can count only on its
leaving, teaching
liquidity
to what seems solid.

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