Even in my dreams, our house was in ruins.
No stars worth noticing; the lights of man
lunge road and sky ; and life is wild here: straw
puts teeth in the shore strip; the water smells and lives.
We walk our tightrope, this embankment, jewed—
no, yankeed—by the highways down to a grass lip….
Once—you weren’t born then—an iron railing,
charmless and dignified, policed this walk;
it matched the times, and had an esplanade,
stamping down grass and growth with square stone shoes;
the Charles itself, half ink, half liquid coaldust,
testified to the health of industry—
wrong times, an evil dispensation; yet who
can hope to enter heaven with clean hands?
A groan went up when the iron railing crashed.
No outward and visible sign, the sleep unbroken,
except when winds thrust through the smooth stone cube,
our bedroom, putty-gray and putty-cool….
A car or two, then none; or always none.
Roads on three levels parallel the river,
roads pace the river in a losing struggle,
forces of nature trying to breathe beneath
the jacket of lava. We lie parallel,
parallel to the river, parallel
to six roads—unmoving and awake,
awake and naked, like a line of Greeks
facing a second line of Greeks—like them,
willing to enter the battle, and not come out…
morning’s useful traffic…the unbroken snore.
oh undeserved sweetness and light,
stay by my side
i want the kind of work i had before
There was rebellion, Father, when the door slammed…
front doors were glass then…and you hove backward
into the heirlooms, screens, the sun-disk clock,
the highboy quaking to its toes…father,
I do not know how to unsay I knocked you down.
I’ve breathed the seclusion of your glass-tight den,
card laid by a card until the pack was used,
old Helios turning the arid plants to blondes,
woman’s life sentence on each step misplaced.
I have blown moondust in the mouth of the rich;
you then, further from death than I am, knew
the student ageless in a green cloud of hash,
her pad, three boxbeds half a foot of floor—-
far as her young breasts half a foot away.
If the clock had stopped in 1936
for them, or again in ‘50 and ‘54—-
they are not dead, and not until death parts us,
will I stop sucking my blood from their hurt.
They say, ‘I had my life when I was young.’
They must have…dying young in middle-age;
yet often the old grow still more beautiful,
watering out the hours, biting back their tears,
as the white of the moon streams in on them unshaded;
and women too, the tanning rose, their ebb,
neither a medical, nor agricultural problem.
I struck my father; later my apology
hardly scratched the surface of his invisible
coronary…never to be effaced.
Longer ago than we had lived till then,
before the Anchluss, the thirty or forty million
war-dead…but who knows now off hand how many?
I tasted first love gazing through your narrow
bay window at the hideous concrete dome
of M.I.T., the last blanched, hectic glow
sunset-blacked on the bay of the Esplanade:
an imperial shrine in a landscape by Claude Lorrain,
an artist out of fashion, like Nero, his Empire
of heaven-vaulting aqueducts, baths, arches,
roads, legions, plowshares beaten down to swords,
the blood of the spirit lost in veins of brickdust—-
Christ also, our only king without a sword,
turning the word forgiveness into a sword.