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GOLDEN AGE
by Timothy Steele

Even in fortunate times,
The nectar is spiked with woe.
Gods are incorrigibly
Capricious, and the needy
Beg in Nineveh or sleep
In paper-gusting plazas
Of the New World’s shopping malls.

Meantime, the tyrant battens
On conquest, while advisers,
Angling for preferment, seek
Expedient paths. Heartbroken,
The faithful advocate looks
Back on cities of the plain
And trudges into exile.

And if any era thrives,
It’s only because, somewhere,
In a plane tree’s shade, friends sketch
The dust with theorems and proofs,
Or because, instinctively,
A man puts his arm around
The shoulder of grief and walks
It (for an hour or an age)
Through all its tears and telling.
***
“Golden Age” appears in Timothy Steele’s collection Sapphics and Uncertainties: Poems 1970-1986 (University of Arkansas Press, 1995), available at Amazon.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Timothy Steele’s first collection of poems, Uncertainties and Rest, published in 1979, attracted attention for its colloquial charm and its allegiance to meter and rhyme at a time when free verse was the predominant style, especially among younger poets. Steele has published three additional collections: Sapphics Against Anger and Other Poems (1986), The Color Wheel (1994), and Toward the Winter Solstice (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2006). Steele’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Los Angeles PEN Center’s Award for Poetry, a Commonwealth Club of California Medal for Poetry, and the Robert Fitzgerald Award for Excellence in the Study of Prosody. He has held teaching appointments at Stanford, and the University of California, in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Since 1987, he has served as professor of English at California State University, Los Angeles. (Read more at poets.org.)

Painting: “Connect” by Photodream Art. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.