Outside, everything must be discovered,
The time from the tower clock. I think
I have a memory of some spectacular
Purchase, but it is spring in the shop
Windows, summer at the curbstone;
Ruined leaves fall upon the statues.
So I am walking--what always happens?
I mark a refuge in wide open doorways,
Because the streets are not amusing,
Wide, infinite, ruinous, the progress
Of the long avenues . . .
This is a very popular sport, spending
One’s presence briefly among the crowds;
It is a constant leaving, thinking even
The sun is thus harassed and chased
Or made to wait beyond the skyline,
As the factories pile up on the city
Beach, where the wind is kneeling,
Where the thieves make startling entry
Into the abandoned railroad cars,
Admidst the cargo and the fugitive birds--
We would not have thought the river
Contained such a world of floating debris,
Or could linger so
In the neighborhood of such heights;
But exotic flowers spring from the mud,
Airplanes wait behind the tall buildings,
The railroad cars are rusted, orange,
In the air and the light--a picture
Of exhaustion, to supply the local traveller
With visions rare enough.
I would journey toward those windows,
Windows piled against the horizon.
And I keep turning, jumping onto the sidewalk,
And strolling through wide open doorways;
I keep going outside, leaving by the alley
Whose stones broaden in the slow dusk,
Opening onto a courtyard, a stairway,
A department elevator, a sudden rooftop--
Or a quiet streetcorner where a globelamp
Hangs, like the moon, near my shoulder.
Then I encounter the broad afternoon,
The sourceless daylight, white,
Flooding the air, just adventuring a step
Toward the avenue--
It is present to my thought,
Or if I stop to confer with the reflected
View possible in the gleaming facade
Front the closed shop.
There is nowhere to proceed without
Serving the plan of this great errand.
One can experience infinite pain,
Danger, ora colossus of memory,
The crisis here finds only simplicity
In the regress of one’s casual footing
Along the neutral walk.
Simple entrances are best.
The building, when chosen, is wild,
Featureless, its material is stolen,
The rooms progress in a faint narrative;
There are distant murals, black swirls
In the linoleum at my feet, canvases out
Of reach, indecipherable mappings--
Hanging curtains conceal the deft hammers,
The continuous and idle working,
And I turn, going inward, only halted
At the brink of a far gallery.
The auditorium is trained upon the empty
Stage, filled with people
Sunken in velvet chairs.
And I have come in very late;
I am formal, strict in my expectations,
Attired in a suit of black and white--
Wrong, but exact; punctual, late--
I have the whole scene in view,
And the actual stage is very far away--
Whole buildings or city blocks it seems,
Because the city is just interior space.
I have nothing with me but the story
Of a long affiliation,
Only the proportions of the city,
The stage beyond the gallery of seats,
The aisles, the distance, the orange light
And painted dome, the sun I am letting
Fall, lag, or plunge from its local summit
Into this deep circuit, where it rises
Again, again already seen, in my trouble gaze--
Flooding the air with realizations,
Seizing the event
Removed to a remote and central room--
There!, transfixed in a beam of dusty
Light, near a table and chair and
Glass of water (a simple exhibit),
Isolated in the orange arena,
Hardly material, just standing there
Is a sad, aging man, arrested in the glare.
Why do our performances take on the
Character of some great need,
A long planned eloquence, some buried
Grief or wholly personal theme?
Why do we resist all forms of knowledge,
Wanting to maintain a stance
Or strict naivete? . . . rather than seize
From the raised hands of the ladies
In the balcony the iconographic program,
The directions to the lobby . . .
So eager to phrase the episode anew,
Its literary content, its actual meaning,
Its place in the serial drama of the evening.
The speaker is the only one who is not
Deluded. He is well-lit, but wandering
Alone, slightly turned away, addressing
The Table, the light, and the chair,
Resurrecting with a flying hand
His immediate setting, the painter floor,
And referring by pauses and gestures
To the audience that is not distinguished
From the the hordes of dust spinning toward him
In the beam of light from the far ceiling.
He reads in a clear, credulous tone
A black script from a gleaming paper.
Everything is a lesson in rhetoric,
Not a thing said, but a style unveiled,
A terminology becoming ironclad--
Sometimes the whole gesture will remain
When the thought is gone;
The wind is playing on the city beach
With a scrap of light tin;
And these studies these cruel equivalencies
That seem to victimize him.
Dark is the population before him--
The longer he speaks, the more truthful
He seems. he is making admissions;
He is not even saved
By the moment of his passing before
The dead silence audience, some audience
That to him is not quite a fulfillment,
But a tenuous throng, a sudden flock,
A large duplicate, is all, to the
Scene he staged long ago when alone.,
When he teeming, interminable pen
And a brave gaze past chaotic papers
Made the dark vacuity all of necessity.
Such is his residence on this stage;
So doubtful an driven--self-confessed.
He hardly has the time to study this,
Another great and pitiful image:
The audience, some audience!,
Luring and likened
When he catches their massive grumbling
To the thunder that jostles him working--
The burst of applause all mistaken
For a sharp breath, alone in his study;
The gallery filled, notified of his presence,
But his cause, so ancient, remaining blind;
Only a general beseeching, a needing,
A company or souls in ironic parlance,
Some draft of inexpressible emotion
Invoked and known
By the loud demands of his solitude.
I am distant, a spectator, aligned in
Remoteness-- I am tentative, hardly apprised
Of the description, seeking to locate
Reality, flourishing, in the secret city.