Flotsam - Poem by Lola Ridge
Crass rays streaming from the vestibules;
Cafes glittering like jeweled teeth;
Blinking yellow phosphorescent eyes;
Girls in black
About the orange lights…
Nothing to guess at…
Save the darkness above
Crouching like a great cat.
In the dim-lit square,
Where dishevelled trees
Tustle with the wind—the wind like a scythe
Mowing their last leaves—
Arcs shimmering through a greenish haze—
Pale oval arcs
Like ailing virgins,
Each out of a halo circumscribed,
Figures drift upon the benches
With no more rustle than a dropped leaf settling—
Slovenly figures like untied parcels,
And papers wrapped about their knees
Huddled one to the other,
Cringing to the wind—
The sided wind,
Leaving no breach untried…
So many and all so still…
The fountain slobbering its stone basin
Is louder than They—
Flotsam of the five oceans
Here on this raft of the world.
This old man's head
Has found a woman's shoulder.
The wind juggles with her shawl
That flaps about them like a sail,
And splashes her red faded hair
Over the salt stubble of his chin.
A light foam is on his lips,
As though dreams surged in him
Breaking and ebbing away…
And the bare boughs shuffle above him
And the twigs rattle like dice…
She—diffused like a broken beetle—
Sprawls without grace,
Her face gray as asphalt,
Her jaws sagging as on loosened hinges…
Shadows ply about her mouth—
Nimble shadows out of the jigging tree,
That dances above her its dance of dry bones.
A uniformed front,
A glance like a blow,
The swing of an arm,
In metallic rhythm;
The blows of a baton,
—There is a rustling along the benches
As of dried leaves raked over…
And the old man lifts a shaking palsied hand,
Tucking the displaced paper about his knees.
And a frost under foot,
Eating through worn bootsoles.
Drab forms blur into greenish vapor.
Through boughs like cross-bones,
Pale arcs flare and shiver
Like lilies in a wind.
High over Broadway
A far-flung sign
Glitters in indigo darkness
And spurts again rhythmically,
Spraying great drops
Red as a hemorrhage.
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