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By George Starbuck

Virgin, sappy, gorgeous, the right-now

Flutters its huge prosthetics at us, flung

To the spotlights, frozen in motion, center-ice.


And the first rows, shaken with an afterslice

That’s bowled them into their seats like a big wet ciao.

O daffy panoply O rare device


O flashing leg-iron at a whopping price

Whipping us into ecstasies and how,

The whole galumphing Garden swung and swung,


A rescue helicopter’s bottom rung

Glinting and spinning off, a scud of fluff,

A slash of petals up against the bough,


A juggler’s avalanche of silken stuff

Gushing in white-hot verticals among

Camels and axels and pyramids, oh wow,


Bewilderment is parachute enough.

We jolt. A sidewise stutterstep in chorus.

The other billboards flicker by before us.


Gone! with a budded petulance that stung.

So talented! So targeted! So young!

Such concentration on the bottom line!


We vanish down the IRT. A shine.

A glimmer. Something. Nothing. To think twice

Was to have lost the trick of paradise.


George Starbuck, “Sign” from The Works: Poems Selected from Five Decades. Copyright © 2003 by University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). Reprinted with the permission of The University of Alabama Press.

Source: The Works: Poems Selected from Five Decades (2003)

Poet Bio

George Starbuck
George Starbuck was born in Columbus, Ohio. He attended the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University. Starbuck spent two years as a corporal in the Military Police Corps before working at various universities. Starbuck was also a contributor to numerous periodicals including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Poetry magazine. He died in 1996 after a twenty-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. See More By This Poet

More By This Poet