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Delmore Schwartz

(8 December 1913 - 11 July 1966 / Brooklyn / New York / United States)

All Night, All Night


"I have been one acquainted with the night" - Robert Frost


Rode in the train all night, in the sick light. A bird
Flew parallel with a singular will. In daydream's moods and
attitudes
The other passengers slumped, dozed, slept, read,
Waiting, and waiting for place to be displaced
On the exact track of safety or the rack of accident.

Looked out at the night, unable to distinguish
Lights in the towns of passage from the yellow lights
Numb on the ceiling. And the bird flew parallel and still
As the train shot forth the straight line of its whistle,
Forward on the taut tracks, piercing empty, familiar --

The bored center of this vision and condition looked and
looked
Down through the slick pages of the magazine (seeking
The seen and the unseen) and his gaze fell down the well
Of the great darkness under the slick glitter,
And he was only one among eight million riders and
readers.

And all the while under his empty smile the shaking drum
Of the long determined passage passed through him
By his body mimicked and echoed. And then the train
Like a suddenly storming rain, began to rush and thresh--
The silent or passive night, pressing and impressing
The patients' foreheads with a tightening-like image
Of the rushing engine proceeded by a shaft of light
Piercing the dark, changing and transforming the silence
Into a violence of foam, sound, smoke and succession.

A bored child went to get a cup of water,
And crushed the cup because the water too was
Boring and merely boredom's struggle.
The child, returning, looked over the shoulder
Of a man reading until he annoyed the shoulder.
A fat woman yawned and felt the liquid drops
Drip down the fleece of many dinners.

And the bird flew parallel and parallel flew
The black pencil lines of telephone posts, crucified,
At regular intervals, post after post
Of thrice crossed, blue-belled, anonymous trees.

And then the bird cried as if to all of us:

0 your life, your lonely life
What have you ever done with it,
And done with the great gift of consciousness?
What will you ever do with your life before death's
knife
Provides the answer ultimate and appropriate?

As I for my part felt in my heart as one who falls,
Falls in a parachute, falls endlessly, and feel the vast
Draft of the abyss sucking him down and down,
An endlessly helplessly falling and appalled clown:

This is the way that night passes by, this
Is the overnight endless trip to the famous unfathomable
abyss.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Read poems about / on: night, child, water, sick, lonely, silence, woman, light, rain, smile, dark, death, life, children, change, tree, sleep, women

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  • Rookie Not a member No 4 (11/14/2006 2:34:00 PM)

    A nightmare journey to hell, or anywhere - a lacerating portrayal of the human condition - conjured up perfectly. A haunting sequence of visions tied together by that disturbing questioning: 'O your life, your lonely life
    What have you ever done with it...' etc. I'm trying in vain to think of a worthy answer! ! (Report) Reply

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