You are caught, in a moment, crossing
The room or the street, wondering
About place, you are landing on your
Feet, the memory of life is sudden
Enchantment, when shafts of light fly
Back toward the open sky, drawn back
Through the rough geometry of the windows.
You have some idea of the sun, pulling up
To a stop in its running course, some idea
Of the night, flooding in from the shadows
Crossing your path-- This must be a
Hallmark in time, such memories of life,
Of light, flying down the open street,
Past dangerous alleys . . .
These ideas are mixed, irretrievably,
In burned spots on the oak paneling,
On the lampshade arched above the
Aged book, swirling, as you take a
Consummate glance at the world . . .
Should I begin, tamely and rationally
Again, to list for you the natural rumors
That plague and besiege our poor city--?
We are settling down for another evening
With everything once again at hand;
I am mindful of your simple inquiry.
I would introduce torrential affections,
Violent weather into our painted rooms,
Purple designs mottled on the lampshade,
Rough hands overturning the china . . .
And outside, too, a tremendous chaos,
Cuffed and collared shadows running at you.
Can I practice again this conscious amusement?
When you walk you see the ordering
Of the towers, the algebra of the lights--
You would suffer an exquisite pleasure
In such an open life;
Far too many topics or attractions
Commingling in the mind of an attentive
Listener--high comedy in the thought
Of the printed matter, problems, danger,
The population swarming upon the ground,
The difficulty of the traffic at dawn--
Mere coercions of will,
Resulting in so much literal junk,
Like overturned treasures in the river,
Clocks and statuettes on the mantle,
Poetry in the moment of things observed.
You have collected much arcane debris,
All the images alive in the clashing city.
My famous visit, later, to the newsstand
At the corner trapped by the weather,
Is all destined-- What destiny finds
Is the rudiments of an idyll, workers
Shouting to one another, newsprint
In bundles, thrown from passing trucks . . .
The dawn will touch the minor scaffolding--
The city is hardly there at all, when your
Footsteps alight on the grey and pink
Pavement. Then, walking, the night begins.
Who can question the greatness of the setting?
You can walk all night, laden with suitcases,
And never find an exit;
You rest at the corner, trapped by the weather.
Knowledge is sad--
Ruined men sit in the parks all night,
In the green shadows, by ineffectual lamps.
I am going to explain the purpose of reading,
Or the experience of the street.
It is to implant specific dangers--
Serious thoughts, which do not cohere;
It is an armament against an empty fear.
Eventually I am sent, in naive wanderings,
To the cheap food shop, or coffee stand
That never closes (that is eternally closed
To my view of my contemplation, while some
One of the owners is always sweeping
The aisles or corners), directly behind
The awesome printing factory, in the lost
Center of the city--
But fronting for the public walker
(Who is a common joke on the interior)
The pearled and grimy avenue
Rearing and fading
According to a thousand seasons that make
A calendar impossible in this region,
So that I can never enter, at my leisure,
But am caught, in sudden weather, below
The fading shopsign, in the fugitive breeze.
It is better-advisable--to find the side door,
Where the workers themselves
Enter and leave from the printing factory
Night and day; they go in and out,
They are putting away tremendous sandwiches,
And equal rounds and coffee and beer
Which are made here in limitless quantities,
Flowing from tubs. The deliveries are coming in
Quite directly to the kitchen, the kitchen
Help there is versed in a kind of swearing,
Which the customers are trading--trafficking
In polite talk. The exit light,
Beyond the dancing television and smoke
Settling over the pool tables, is blinking;
And everyone is here, no one is staying;
It is the middle of the night--
These are the other men,
Whom I am required to misunderstand, to
Whom it is mere vanity to speak.
They are non-existent, between us, you know,
Hardly a gesture of pity could dislodge
Them from their seats.
The lighting is bad here, the murals on
The walls are vague, like mythologies--
Representing an age of brutish leisure.
Never has firelight greased the flesh
Of men so rudely awake, stained with ink
Amid the childishly whirring machines,
Interested, solely, in meat, cook with
Iron tongs upon a beastly fire
Until it is rubber, like the rubber belts
From which they hand, over the machines
Until in a moment of great surprise
Distant whistles release them to another errand.
Quick exits are made,
And blue vans cruise the dawn.
And hardly have I returned to sleep,
When suddenly the dawn in happening.
To think of a language as severe
As the clanging hello, the doubled fist;
This drawing of nature is easy, and
False-- I had a mission to complete;
I went outside, and the city was unfinished.
This was a kind of nature, dreaming itself.
Nature never likes the sidling intellect,
It is busy blasting holes in the sand,
Sliding vaulting doors in mountains of rubble,
Burying the tiny communities.
The workers sit, exhausted, in the street.
These are the other men! What a
Fearsome lot, with what unwieldy toys.
It is hard to defeat the cowardice of
Our poetry, its simpering tones, its
Universal empathy. It’s granting to
Mere colossus of form, lost intensities.
Are you reading this? The city was built
At night, the city is being built, it is
Night when you walk with large steps
Like an architect through the
Rough geometry of the air,
Avoiding the black holes in the ground,
The ladders that hold aloft high towers
That disappear in a sharpened gaze
To implume the night with glittering dust.
It is better to buy, hurriedly from stalls,
Food, clothes, random furnishings,
Than die, subtle, in the electric light
Advertised the magazine swimming overhead.
Step, once again, aside to assert
A large window in a three story dwelling--
A figure at first too boldly outlined,
Come to dwell within the idle shadows;
It is these shadows you must accept--
The city is absolute farce of shadows.
Jump, at the sight of the streetlamp
And its narrow definitions,
hurriedly, to buy a pack of cigarettes
In the incredible world.