Gary Counsil – Excavating

Gary Counsil


Once again I’m up here looking out on the city.
Directly below me a bulldozer and a backhoe

sit among the piles of earth pushed up and pushed
around.  A cat moves like liquid across the

undulating construction site, and a pipe as mangled
and twisted as a tree root protrudes several feet

above the ground like a periscope with a screwball eye
taking it all in.  At the eastern edge, an old foundation,

like a memory, has been unearthed.  Cars–even at
this late hour–gather and fire like pinballs across the

Williamsburg Bridge, and below a tug boat, its emerald
light flashing, tows garbage upstream.  And farther

still, Manhattan.  Why does it all seem to promise answers
to so many questions, and yet tonight, as is the case on so

many nights, it reveals nothing?  I am here and it is there with
only darkness in between, but still I am standing here

searching, combing the site, looking for a sign.  It’s
the search, I guess, that provides the solace.  Beckett says

“We fail, we fail again, and then we fail better.”  But
while I knowingly laugh, I am incapable of committing

to that perspective for long.  I like the destabilizing
effect of placing the horizon line high on a landscape

painting, but without one the picture would be too
oppressive.  In a few hours they will be back, like

I am now, moving a pile here, stopping to survey things,
contemplating the horizon before moving on to whatever is

next.  Leaving behind, of course, the relics of a former
struggle so that others may know of it and be comforted by it.

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