[“A Grammar of Things” appeared originally Museum of Americana 22, along with slightly earlier iterations of “Song of the Open Road” and “The Language of Smoke,” which are also included in Voice to Voice in the Dark.  The full set can be accessed by clicking on the journal’s name.]

A Grammar of Things

Things survive past their time, or rather persist
in their iterations of use: a kitchen table, now retro
or simply cheap, bought new, say 1951 or ’52,
for a two-bedroom tract house: the chrome
banding a formica top of swirled resin, lime green

and polished like stone, only better, because it says new,
says now; just as dacron and rayon and nylon say now,
say different than the cotton she wore as a girl before the war
or even the silk ladies wore then, the ones whose men had money.
Even more it says future,

as if then were a dream no longer dreamed—a long ago
the war erased, and even the war itself put away, mostly
forgotten, like ration books and war bonds, like silk
parachutes instead of stockings, because now
is a formica table bought on time.