All night long I hear the sleepers toss
Between the darkened window and the wall.
The madman's whimper and the lover's voice,
Something old and tyrannical burning there,
(Not like a wood fire which is only
The end of summer, or a life)
Sirs, when you are in your last extremity,
When your admirals are drowning in the grass-green sea,
When your generals are preparing the total catastrophe—
I just want you to know how you can not count on me.
In the chill rains of the early winter I hear something—
A puling anger, a cold wind stiffened by flying bone—
Out of the north ...
and remember, then, what's up there:
for Don and Henrie Gordon
Forty-odd years ago—
Headlines in the snow—
The jobless scrawled a text for mutineers;
The birds have flown their summer skies to the south,
And the flower-money is drying in the banks of bent grass
Which the bumble bee has abandoned. We wait for a winter lion,
Body of ice-crystals and sombrero of dead leaves.
I see him moving, in his legendary fleece,
Between the superhighway and an Algonquin stone axe;
Between the wild tribes, in their lost heat,
And the dark blizzard of my Grandfather's coat;
Before you, I was living on an island
And all around the seas of that lonely coast
Cast up their imitation jewels, cast
Their fables and enigmas, questioning, sly.
Baton Rouge, 1940
These are savannas bluer than your dreams
Where other loves are fashioned to older music,
And the romantic in his light boat
At two thousand feet the sea wrinkles like an old man's hand.
Closer, in a monotone of peristalsis,
Its fugue-like swells create and recreate
One image in an idiot concentration.