The head revolves.
In rising wind, a frozen face gazes blankly back at mountains,
ridges diminishing upward into uncertain whiteness,
and swings slowly forward to the unknown abyss.
If those bronze lips were to magically murmur,
oiled by the pressure of entropy in the waning century,
the mystic mechanism clicking, unseen metal meshing,
they might speak of the past in dead languages,
of long-gone gardens where distorted figures flickered
and vanished across the mirrored surface of a gazing-ball.
The head reflects;
face to vase to face within the boxwood labyrinth.
Recollection crystallizes inside the gleaming skull.
The tale of Once upon flows through remembrance;
one hand on the thread unwinding, one hand holds the weapon,
stalking the beast of beginnings through the maze of time,
back to the long-ago lair at the heart of the world.
Time is past.
The head regrets.
Rain trickles down the tarnished visage.
Is it too late for reversal, too late for renunciation?
Might the scholar yet recant, even as the machinery looms,
the magician remove the spell, with the millennium upon us?
In the alchemist’s laboratory, we gaze again into the glass sphere.
On the other side of the mirror, in the aquarium of eternity,
schools of sparkling possibilities scatter through the murky liquid.
Time will be.
The head reveals
our brazen lies for what they are:
the past perfect, preserved in ice, its distant peaks vanishing in cloud;
the immense glacier of time grinding down the present;
the future flawed, falling into dark waters.
The ticking automaton counts down to zero.
Reminiscence and premonition explode;
infinity awaits reincarnation.
©1999 F.J. Bergmann
"Bronze Age" won the 2000 Mississipi Valley Poetry Contest Millennium Award and appeared in the Fall 2001 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Museletter
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