Someone Is Harshly Coughing As Before - Poem by Delmore Schwartz
Someone is harshly coughing on the next floor,
Sudden excitement catching the flesh of his throat:
Who is the sick one?
Who will knock at the door,
Ask what is wrong and sweetly pay attention,
The shy withdrawal of the sensitive face
Embarrassing both, but double shame is tender
--We will mind our ignorant business, keep our place.
But it is God, who has caught cold again,
Wandering helplessly in the world once more,
Now he is phthisic, and he is, poor Keats
(Pardon, O Father, unknowable Dear, this word,
Only the cartoon is lucid, only the curse is heard),
Longing for Eden, afraid of the coming war.
The past, a giant shadow like the twilight,
The moving street on which the autos slide,
The buildings' heights, like broken teeth,
Repeat necessity on every side,
The age requires death and is not denied,
He has come as a young man to be hanged once more!
Another exile bare his complex care,
(When smoke in silence curves
from every fallen side)
Pity and Peace return, padding the broken floor
With heavy feet.
Their linen hands will hide
In the stupid opiate the exhausted war.
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