Poem of the Week | September 28, 2010

This week we are delighted to feature “Why you can’t build a city quite fast enough” by Kent Shaw. The poem is previously unpublished. Kent Shaw’s first book, Calenture, was published by University of Tampa Press in 2008. New work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, AGNI Online, and elsewhere. He lives in Houston, TX.

Author’s note: “Even after living in Houston for four years, the city still opens new and interesting facts to me. A few months before starting this poem, I learned that the Chase Tower, located downtown, is the tallest building west of the Mississippi. It seemed like such a charming statistic. I didn’t think people would still quote things as being ‘west of the Mississippi’ or ‘east of the Mississippi.'”

Why you can’t build a city quite fast enough

The tallest building west of the Mississippi is in love, children, with little toy
with all the pastures spread far and wide.
How tall is a building? Tall! It would fill a classroom, one with too many
and they’re all different age groups, climbing on top of each other
to pretend they’re a building, too, they’re taller than the West, or the

But children,
I’m talking the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
And, of course, when you’re falling in love you are taller,
the airplanes are coming in for a landing,
more than two airplanes at a time even. Everyone’s busy, and all for you,
      for your benefit.

Children, this state is more greatness than most nations or countries.
The state is tall. The whole building is tall.

Do you understand the anatomy of a crucible? Sculptures of esophagi,
transistors. Do you understand internal organs in general?
Excitement is and is around is even. Conjunctions, skipped conjunctions.
I can’t even finish. I shouldn’t.
I was going to tell you about an afternoon, I was alone on a porch.
I was holding chrysanthemums and daisies, when it finally stopped

And something took over.
I wasn’t going to let myself hold anything, because of the sun shining.
Can you blame me? There is a building invented by some wise and
      sympathetic and passionate motion.
It was put in this city. They made it in love.
And it was so tall they had to make a river
hundreds of miles away. The river is the Mississippi.
And from the top of the tallest building, to the east,
you can see it all. The river. Shining beneath it, that sun.

Why is falling in love so tall? I don’t know. I can see the Mississippi easing
      south, though.
It’s not really that far away.