By Daniel Rigney (with apologies to Carl Sandburg, “Chicago,” 1916)
Carbon dealer to the world,
Launcher, shipper, creator and healer of cancers.
Power player, gerrymanderer, engineer of inequalities.
Sprawling, storming, steaming, warming
City of the Big Fortunes.
They tell me you are acquisitive and I believe them,
for I have seen your Nieman-Marxists.
They tell me you’re hard-working, and I believe them,
for I have seen your highways choked with driven drivers
burning oil in search of gold.
They tell me you are soulless and my reply is:
On the faces of the trafficked and the traffickers I’ve seen the marks of mammon.
They say your deepest thought is positive thinking,
your sacred creed commercial boosterism,
your summum bonum Growth,
and corporate life your only ‘real world.’
(But what about our opera? Our ballet? Our haute cuisine and our investment art?)
And having answered so, I turn to those who sneer and say I’ll show you a city whose architectural erections dwarf the mighty towers of Dallas.
Where West and Old Confederacy met, a city stands
whose gated opportunities attract a world elite from every continent.
And so the world comes to us and becomes us.
“Where do we come from?" Gaugin asks. “What are we? Where are we going?”
To these three questions Houston adds a fourth:
“How are these questions profitable?”
Some may scorn a city that spells success with dollar signs,
and can't imagine any other way.
But Houston is a city that means business --
wagering big and bold on buried fossils,
doubling down against the laws of nature and its prophets,
who foretell the doom of carbonomics
and extinction of the petrosaurs.
At sunrise, the carbon right
will not go gently into that renewing light,
but fume and rage in vain against the passing of the gaslit night.