Betsy Sholl

Design in America

Behind the art museum, the sky slips
its frame, unraveling in random clouds,
subject indeterminate, though down the block
an old man dressed in sandwich boards
shouts repent, convinced the theme is ruin,
and it’s his job as people pass to hiss:
Behind your pretty face–worms!
Behind your fancy car–flames!
But when he pistol-points at me: Your soul’s
a hollow brick
–it’s as if I knew
all along when I set out this morning
in a new dress to view what the art
museum says changed the future
of design in America, some nut
would shake a crooked finger, and I’d start
to crumble: one minute–content, looking
at giant Marilyns, all flat and broken up
into dot matrix, the next–out on the sidewalk’s
gritty slabs, being told that below these rocks
other rocks bubble and steam in earth’s black pot.
And if this scrawny guy, slathered with
bumper stickers about doom’s invisible curtains
ready to drop, is right? Well, the ex-con
on his stool outside the coffee shop just shakes
his head and keeps on making tin foil wolves,
aluminum horses, hand-crimped trees
filled with Reynolds Wrap birds, and like a god
who can’t bear to let one sparrow drop–
what he messes up he twists into leaves,
into little wads of cocoon, slightly cracked.

Betsy Sholl
“Design in America” is from Late Psalm (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004).