Elizabeth Bishop (8 February 1911 – 6 October 1979 / Worcester, Massachusetts)
Love Lies Sleeping
Earliest morning, switching all the tracks
that cross the sky from cinder star to star,
coupling the ends of streets
to trains of light.
now draw us into daylight in our beds;
and clear away what presses on the brain:
put out the neon shapes
that float and swell and glare
down the gray avenue between the eyes
in pinks and yellows, letters and twitching signs.
Hang-over moons, wane, wane!
From the window I see
an immense city, carefully revealed,
made delicate by over-workmanship,
detail upon detail,
cornice upon facade,
reaching up so languidly up into
a weak white sky, it seems to waver there.
(Where it has slowly grown
in skies of water-glass
from fused beads of iron and copper crystals,
the little chemical "garden" in a jar
trembles and stands again,
pale blue, blue-green, and brick.)
The sparrows hurriedly begin their play.
Then, in the West, "Boom!" and a cloud of smoke.
"Boom!" and the exploding ball
of blossom blooms again.
(And all the employees who work in a plants
where such a sound says "Danger," or once said "Death,"
turn in their sleep and feel
the short hairs bristling
on backs of necks.) The cloud of smoke moves off.
A shirt is taken of a threadlike clothes-line.
Along the street below
the water-wagon comes
throwing its hissing, snowy fan across
peelings and newspapers. The water dries
light-dry, dark-wet, the pattern
of the cool watermelon.
I hear the day-springs of the morning strike
from stony walls and halls and iron beds,
scattered or grouped cascades,
alarms for the expected:
queer cupids of all persons getting up,
whose evening meal they will prepare all day,
you will dine well
on his heart, on his, and his,
so send them about your business affectionately,
dragging in the streets their unique loves.
Scourge them with roses only,
be light as helium,
for always to one, or several, morning comes
whose head has fallen over the edge of his bed,
whose face is turned
so that the image of
the city grows down into his open eyes
inverted and distorted. No. I mean
distorted and revealed,
if he sees it at all.
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