19+ Best Amy Lowell Poems You Should Read

Amy Lawrence Lowell was an American poet of the imagist school from Brookline, Massachusetts. She posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926.

If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of best known Mark Strand poems, most famous Sappho poems and selected Robert Hayden poems.

Famous Amy Lowell poems

Fringed Gentians

Near where I live there is a lake
As blue as blue can be, winds make
It dance as they go blowing by.
I think it curtseys to the sky.

It’s just a lake of lovely flowers
And my Mamma says they are ours;
But they are not like those we grow
To be our very own, you know.

We have a splendid garden, there
Are lots of flowers everywhere;
Roses, and pinks, and four o’clocks
And hollyhocks, and evening stocks.

Mamma lets us pick them, but never
Must we pick any gentians — ever!
For if we carried them away
They’d die of homesickness that day.

The Road To Avignon

A Minstrel stands on a marble stair,
Blown by the bright wind, debonair;
Below lies the sea, a sapphire floor,
Above on the terrace a turret door
Frames a lady, listless and wan,
But fair for the eye to rest upon.
The minstrel plucks at his silver strings,
And looking up to the lady, sings: —
Down the road to Avignon,
The long, long road to Avignon,
Across the bridge to Avignon,
One morning in the spring.

The octagon tower casts a shade
Cool and gray like a cutlass blade;
In sun-baked vines the cicalas spin,
The little green lizards run out and in.
A sail dips over the ocean’s rim,
And bubbles rise to the fountain’s brim.
The minstrel touches his silver strings,
And gazing up to the lady, sings: —
Down the road to Avignon,
The long, long road to Avignon,
Across the bridge to Avignon,
One morning in the spring.

Slowly she walks to the balustrade,
Idly notes how the blossoms fade
In the sun’s caress; then crosses where
The shadow shelters a carven chair.
Within its curve, supine she lies,
And wearily closes her tired eyes.
The minstrel beseeches his silver strings,
And holding the lady spellbound, sings: —
Down the road to Avignon,
The long, long road to Avignon,
Across the bridge to Avignon,
One morning in the spring.

Clouds sail over the distant trees,
Petals are shaken down by the breeze,
They fall on the terrace tiles like snow;
The sighing of waves sounds, far below.
A humming-bird kisses the lips of a rose
Then laden with honey and love he goes.
The minstrel woos with his silver strings,
And climbing up to the lady, sings: —
Down the road to Avignon,
The long, long road to Avignon,
Across the bridge to Avignon,
One morning in the spring.

Step by step, and he comes to her,
Fearful lest she suddenly stir.
Sunshine and silence, and each to each,
The lute and his singing their only speech;
He leans above her, her eyes unclose,
The humming-bird enters another rose.
The minstrel hushes his silver strings.
Hark! The beating of humming-birds’ wings!
Down the road to Avignon,
The long, long road to Avignon,
Across the bridge to Avignon,
One morning in the spring.

Convalescence

From out the dragging vastness of the sea,
Wave-fettered, bound in sinuous, seaweed strands,
He toils toward the rounding beach, and stands
One moment, white and dripping, silently,
Cut like a cameo in lazuli,
Then falls, betrayed by shifting shells, and lands
Prone in the jeering water, and his hands
Clutch for support where no support can be.
So up, and down, and forward, inch by inch,
He gains upon the shore, where poppies glow
And sandflies dance their little lives away.
The sucking waves retard, and tighter clinch
The weeds about him, but the land-winds blow,
And in the sky there blooms the sun of May.

Clear, With Light, Variable Winds

The fountain bent and straightened itself
In the night wind,
Blowing like a flower.
It gleamed and glittered,
A tall white lily,
Under the eye of the golden moon.
From a stone seat,
Beneath a blossoming lime,
The man watched it.
And the spray pattered
On the dim grass at his feet.

The fountain tossed its water,
Up and up, like silver marbles.
Is that an arm he sees?
And for one moment
Does he catch the moving curve
Of a thigh?
The fountain gurgled and splashed,
And the man’s face was wet.

Is it singing that he hears?
A song of playing at ball?
The moonlight shines on the straight column of water,
And through it he sees a woman,
Tossing the water-balls.
Her breasts point outwards,
And the nipples are like buds of peonies.
Her flanks ripple as she plays,
And the water is not more undulating
Than the lines of her body.

‘Come,’ she sings, ‘Poet!
Am I not more worth than your day ladies,
Covered with awkward stuffs,
Unreal, unbeautiful?
What do you fear in taking me?
Is not the night for poets?
I am your dream,
Recurrent as water,
Gemmed with the moon!’

She steps to the edge of the pool
And the water runs, rustling, down her sides.
She stretches out her arms,
And the fountain streams behind her
Like an opened veil.


In the morning the gardeners came to their work.
‘There is something in the fountain,’ said one.
They shuddered as they laid their dead master
On the grass.
‘I will close his eyes,’ said the head gardener,
‘It is uncanny to see a dead man staring at the sun.’

Bullion

MY thoughts
Chink against my ribs
And roll about like silver hail-stones.
I should like to spill them out,
And pour them, all shining,
Over you.
But my heart is shut upon them
And holds them straitly.
Come, You! and open my heart;
That my thoughts torment me no longer,
But glitter in your hair.

Reaping

You want to know what’s the matter with me, do yer?
My! ain’t men blinder’n moles?
It ain’t nothin’ new, be sure o’ that.
Why, ef you’d had eyes you’d ha’ seed
Me changin’ under your very nose,
Each day a little diff’rent.
But you never see nothin’, you don’t.
Don’t touch me, Jake,
Don’t you dars’t to touch me,
I ain’t in no humour.
That’s what’s come over me;
Jest a change clear through.
You lay still, an’ I’ll tell yer,
I’ve had it on my mind to tell yer
Fer some time.
It’s a strain livin’ a lie from mornin’ till night,
An’ I’m goin’ to put an end to it right now.
An’ don’t make any mistake about one thing,
When I married yer I loved yer.
Why, your voice ‘ud make
Me go hot and cold all over,
An’ your kisses most stopped my heart from beatin’.
Lord! I was a silly fool.
But that’s the way ’twas.
Well, I married yer
An’ thought Heav’n was comin’
To set on the door-step.
Heav’n didn’t do no settin’,
Though the first year warn’t so bad.
The baby’s fever threw you off some, I guess,
An’ then I took her death real hard,
An’ a mopey wife kind o’ disgusts a man.
I ain’t blamin’ yer exactly.
But that’s how ’twas.
Do lay quiet,
I know I’m slow, but it’s harder to say ‘n I thought.
There come a time when I got to be
More wife agin than mother.
The mother part was sort of a waste
When we didn’t have no other child.
But you’d got used ter lots o’ things,
An’ you was all took up with the farm.
Many’s the time I’ve laid awake
Watchin’ the moon go clear through the elm-tree,
Out o’ sight.
I’d foller yer around like a dog,
An’ set in the chair you’d be’n settin’ in,
Jest to feel its arms around me,
So long’s I didn’t have yours.
It preyed on me, I guess,
Longin’ and longin’
While you was busy all day, and snorin’ all night.
Yes, I know you’re wide awake now,
But now ain’t then,
An’ I guess you’ll think diff’rent
When I’m done.
Do you mind the day you went to Hadrock?
I didn’t want to stay home for reasons,
But you said someone ‘d have to be here
‘Cause Elmer was comin’ to see t’ th’ telephone.
An’ you never see why I was so set on goin’ with yer,
Our married life hadn’t be’n any great shakes,
Still marriage is marriage, an’ I was raised God-fearin’.
But, Lord, you didn’t notice nothin’,
An’ Elmer hangin’ around all Winter!
‘Twas a lovely mornin’.
The apple-trees was jest elegant
With their blossoms all flared out,
An’ there warn’t a cloud in the sky.
You went, you wouldn’t pay no ‘tention to what I said,
An’ I heard the Ford chuggin’ for most a mile,
The air was so still.
Then Elmer come.
It’s no use your frettin’, Jake,
I’ll tell you all about it.
I know what I’m doin’,
An’ what’s worse, I know what I done.
Elmer fixed th’ telephone in about two minits,
An’ he didn’t seem in no hurry to go,
An’ I don’t know as I wanted him to go either,
I was awful mad at your not takin’ me with yer,
An’ I was tired o’ wishin’ and wishin’
An’ gittin’ no comfort.
I guess it ain’t necessary to tell yer all the things.
He stayed to dinner,
An’ he helped me do the dishes,
An’ he said a home was a fine thing,
An’ I said dishes warn’t a home
Nor yet the room they’re in.
He said a lot o’ things,
An’ I fended him off at first,
But he got talkin’ all around me,
Clost up to the things I’d be’n thinkin’,
What’s the use o’ me goin’ on, Jake,
You know.
He got all he wanted,
An’ I give it to him,
An’ what’s more, I’m glad!
I ain’t dead, anyway,
An’ somebody thinks I’m somethin’.
Keep away, Jake,
You can kill me to-morrer if you want to,
But I’m goin’ to have my say.
Funny thing! Guess I ain’t made to hold a man.
Elmer ain’t be’n here for mor’n two months.
I don’t want to pretend nothin’,
Mebbe if he’d be’n lately
I shouldn’t have told yer.
I’ll go away in the mornin’, o’ course.
What you want the light fer?
I don’t look no diff’rent.
Ain’t the moon bright enough
To look at a woman that’s deceived yer by?
Don’t, Jake, don’t, you can’t love me now!
It ain’t a question of forgiveness.
Why! I’d be thinkin’ o’ Elmer ev’ry minute;
It ain’t decent.
Oh, my God! It ain’t decent any more either way!

Nuit Blanche

I want no horns to rouse me up to-night,
And trumpets make too clamorous a ring
To fit my mood, it is so weary white
I have no wish for doing any thing.

A music coaxed from humming strings would please;
Not plucked, but drawn in creeping cadences
Across a sunset wall where some Marquise
Picks a pale rose amid strange silences.

Ghostly and vaporous her gown sweeps by
The twilight dusking wall, I hear her feet
Delaying on the gravel, and a sigh,
Briefly permitted, touches the air like sleet

And it is dark, I hear her feet no more.
A red moon leers beyond the lily-tank.
A drunken moon ogling a sycamore,
Running long fingers down its shining flank.

A lurching moon, as nimble as a clown,
Cuddling the flowers and trees which burn like glass.
Red, kissing lips, I feel you on my gown—
Kiss me, red lips, and then pass—pass.

Music, you are pitiless to-night.
And I so old, so cold, so languorously white.

The Exeter Road

Panels of claret and blue which shine
Under the moon like lees of wine.
A coronet done in a golden scroll,
And wheels which blunder and creak as they roll
Through the muddy ruts of a moorland track.
They daren’t look back!

They are whipping and cursing the horses. Lord!
What brutes men are when they think they’re scored.
Behind, my bay gelding gallops with me,
In a steaming sweat, it is fine to see
That coach, all claret, and gold, and blue,
Hop about and slue.

They are scared half out of their wits, poor souls.
For my lord has a casket full of rolls
Of minted sovereigns, and silver bars.
I laugh to think how he’ll show his scars
In London to-morrow. He whines with rage
In his varnished cage.

My lady has shoved her rings over her toes.
‘Tis an ancient trick every night-rider knows.
But I shall relieve her of them yet,
When I see she limps in the minuet
I must beg to celebrate this night,
And the green moonlight.

There’s nothing to hurry about, the plain
Is hours long, and the mud’s a strain.
My gelding’s uncommonly strong in the loins,
In half an hour I’ll bag the coins.
‘Tis a clear, sweet night on the turn of Spring.
The chase is the thing!

How the coach flashes and wobbles, the moon
Dripping down so quietly on it. A tune
Is beating out of the curses and screams,
And the cracking all through the painted seams.
Steady, old horse, we’ll keep it in sight.
‘Tis a rare fine night!

There’s a clump of trees on the dip of the down,
And the sky shimmers where it hangs over the town.
It seems a shame to break the air
In two with this pistol, but I’ve my share
Of drudgery like other men.
His hat? Amen!

Hold up, you beast, now what the devil!
Confound this moor for a pockholed, evil,
Rotten marsh. My right leg’s snapped.
‘Tis a mercy he’s rolled, but I’m nicely capped.
A broken-legged man and a broken-legged horse!
They’ll get me, of course.

The cursed coach will reach the town
And they’ll all come out, every loafer grown
A lion to handcuff a man that’s down.
What’s that? Oh, the coachman’s bulleted hat!
I’ll give it a head to fit it pat.
Thank you! No cravat.

~They handcuffed the body just for style,
And they hung him in chains for the volatile
Wind to scour him flesh from bones.
Way out on the moor you can hear the groans
His gibbet makes when it blows a gale.
‘Tis a common tale.

The Pond

Cold, wet leaves
Floatingon moss-coloured water,
And the croaking of frogs-
Cracked bell-notes in the twilight.

Francis Ii, King Of Naples

Written after reading Trevelyan’s “Garibaldi and the making of Italy”

Poor foolish monarch, vacillating, vain,
Decaying victim of a race of kings,
Swift Destiny shook out her purple wings
And caught him in their shadow; not again
Could furtive plotting smear another stain
Across his tarnished honour. Smoulderings
Of sacrificial fires burst their rings
And blotted out in smoke his lost domain.
Bereft of courtiers, only with his queen,
From empty palace down to empty quay.
No challenge screamed from hostile carabine.
A single vessel waited, shadowy;
All night she ploughed her solitary way
Beneath the stars, and through a tranquil sea.

The Fruit Shop

Cross-ribboned shoes; a muslin gown,
High-waisted, girdled with bright blue;
A straw poke bonnet which hid the frown
She pluckered her little brows into
As she picked her dainty passage through
The dusty street. ‘Ah, Mademoiselle,
A dirty pathway, we need rain,
My poor fruits suffer, and the shell
Of this nut’s too big for its kernel, lain
Here in the sun it has shrunk again.
The baker down at the corner says
We need a battle to shake the clouds;
But I am a man of peace, my ways
Don’t look to the killing of men in crowds.
Poor fellows with guns and bayonets for shrouds!
Pray, Mademoiselle, come out of the sun.
Let me dust off that wicker chair. It’s cool
In here, for the green leaves I have run
In a curtain over the door, make a pool
Of shade. You see the pears on that stool –
The shadow keeps them plump and fair.’
Over the fruiterer’s door, the leaves
Held back the sun, a greenish flare
Quivered and sparked the shop, the sheaves
Of sunbeams, glanced from the sign on the eaves,
Shot from the golden letters, broke
And splintered to little scattered lights.
Jeanne Tourmont entered the shop, her poke
Bonnet tilted itself to rights,
And her face looked out like the moon on nights
Of flickering clouds. ‘Monsieur Popain, I
Want gooseberries, an apple or two,
Or excellent plums, but not if they’re high;
Haven’t you some which a strong wind blew?
I’ve only a couple of francs for you.’
Monsieur Popain shrugged and rubbed his hands.
What could he do, the times were sad.
A couple of francs and such demands!
And asking for fruits a little bad.
Wind-blown indeed! He never had
Anything else than the very best.
He pointed to baskets of blunted pears
With the thin skin tight like a bursting vest,
All yellow, and red, and brown, in smears.
Monsieur Popain’s voice denoted tears.
He took up a pear with tender care,
And pressed it with his hardened thumb.
‘Smell it, Mademoiselle, the perfume there
Is like lavender, and sweet thoughts come
Only from having a dish at home.
And those grapes! They melt in the mouth like wine,
Just a click of the tongue, and they burst to honey.
They’re only this morning off the vine,
And I paid for them down in silver money.
The Corporal’s widow is witness, her pony
Brought them in at sunrise to-day.
Those oranges – Gold! They’re almost red.
They seem little chips just broken away
From the sun itself. Or perhaps instead
You’d like a pomegranate, they’re rarely gay,
When you split them the seeds are like crimson spray.
Yes, they’re high, they’re high, and those Turkey figs,
They all come from the South, and Nelson’s ships
Make it a little hard for our rigs.
They must be forever giving the slips
To the cursed English, and when men clips
Through powder to bring them, why dainties mounts
A bit in price. Those almonds now,
I’ll strip off that husk, when one discounts
A life or two in a nigger row
With the man who grew them, it does seem how
They would come dear; and then the fight
At sea perhaps, our boats have heels
And mostly they sail along at night,
But once in a way they’re caught; one feels
Ivory’s not better nor finer – why peels
From an almond kernel are worth two sous.
It’s hard to sell them now,’ he sighed.
‘Purses are tight, but I shall not lose.
There’s plenty of cheaper things to choose.’
He picked some currants out of a wide
Earthen bowl. ‘They make the tongue
Almost fly out to suck them, bride
Currants they are, they were planted long
Ago for some new Marquise, among
Other great beauties, before the Chateau
Was left to rot. Now the Gardener’s wife,
He that marched off to his death at Marengo,
Sells them to me; she keeps her life
From snuffing out, with her pruning knife.
She’s a poor old thing, but she learnt the trade
When her man was young, and the young Marquis
Couldn’t have enough garden. The flowers he made
All new! And the fruits! But ’twas said that he
Was no friend to the people, and so they laid
Some charge against him, a cavalcade
Of citizens took him away; they meant
Well, but I think there was some mistake.
He just pottered round in his garden, bent
On growing things; we were so awake
In those days for the New Republic’s sake.
He’s gone, and the garden is all that’s left
Not in ruin, but the currants and apricots,
And peaches, furred and sweet, with a cleft
Full of morning dew, in those green-glazed pots,
Why, Mademoiselle, there is never an eft
Or worm among them, and as for theft,
How the old woman keeps them I cannot say,
But they’re finer than any grown this way.’
Jeanne Tourmont drew back the filigree ring
Of her striped silk purse, tipped it upside down
And shook it, two coins fell with a ding
Of striking silver, beneath her gown
One rolled, the other lay, a thing
Sparked white and sharply glistening,
In a drop of sunlight between two shades.
She jerked the purse, took its empty ends
And crumpled them toward the centre braids.
The whole collapsed to a mass of blends
Of colours and stripes. ‘Monsieur Popain, friends
We have always been. In the days before
The Great Revolution my aunt was kind
When you needed help. You need no more;
‘Tis we now who must beg at your door,
And will you refuse?’ The little man
Bustled, denied, his heart was good,
But times were hard. He went to a pan
And poured upon the counter a flood
Of pungent raspberries, tanged like wood.
He took a melon with rough green rind
And rubbed it well with his apron tip.
Then he hunted over the shop to find
Some walnuts cracking at the lip,
And added to these a barberry slip
Whose acrid, oval berries hung
Like fringe and trembled. He reached a round
Basket, with handles, from where it swung
Against the wall, laid it on the ground
And filled it, then he searched and found
The francs Jeanne Tourmont had let fall.
‘You’ll return the basket, Mademoiselle?’
She smiled, ‘The next time that I call,
Monsieur. You know that very well.’
‘Twas lightly said, but meant to tell.
Monsieur Popain bowed, somewhat abashed.
She took her basket and stepped out.
The sunlight was so bright it flashed
Her eyes to blindness, and the rout
Of the little street was all about.
Through glare and noise she stumbled, dazed.
The heavy basket was a care.
She heard a shout and almost grazed
The panels of a chaise and pair.
The postboy yelled, and an amazed
Face from the carriage window gazed.
She jumped back just in time, her heart
Beating with fear. Through whirling light
The chaise departed, but her smart
Was keen and bitter. In the white
Dust of the street she saw a bright
Streak of colours, wet and gay,
Red like blood. Crushed but fair,
Her fruit stained the cobbles of the way.
Monsieur Popain joined her there.
‘Tiens, Mademoiselle,
c’est le General Bonaparte, partant pour la Guerre!’

Towns In Colour

I

Red Slippers

Red slippers in a shop-window, and outside in the street, flaws of grey,
windy sleet!

Behind the polished glass, the slippers hang in long threads of red,
festooning from the ceiling like stalactites of blood, flooding the eyes
of passers-by with dripping colour, jamming their crimson reflections
against the windows of cabs and tram-cars, screaming their claret and salmon
into the teeth of the sleet, plopping their little round maroon lights
upon the tops of umbrellas.

The row of white, sparkling shop fronts is gashed and bleeding,
it bleeds red slippers. They spout under the electric light,
fluid and fluctuating, a hot rain – and freeze again to red slippers,
myriadly multiplied in the mirror side of the window.

They balance upon arched insteps like springing bridges of crimson lacquer;
they swing up over curved heels like whirling tanagers sucked
in a wind-pocket; they flatten out, heelless, like July ponds,
flared and burnished by red rockets.

Snap, snap, they are cracker-sparks of scarlet in the white, monotonous
block of shops.

They plunge the clangour of billions of vermilion trumpets
into the crowd outside, and echo in faint rose over the pavement.

People hurry by, for these are only shoes, and in a window, farther down,
is a big lotus bud of cardboard whose petals open every few minutes
and reveal a wax doll, with staring bead eyes and flaxen hair,
lolling awkwardly in its flower chair.

One has often seen shoes, but whoever saw a cardboard lotus bud before?

The flaws of grey, windy sleet beat on the shop-window where there are only
red slippers.

II

Thompson’s Lunch Room – Grand Central Station

Study in Whites

Wax-white –
Floor, ceiling, walls.
Ivory shadows
Over the pavement
Polished to cream surfaces
By constant sweeping.
The big room is coloured like the petals
Of a great magnolia,
And has a patina
Of flower bloom
Which makes it shine dimly
Under the electric lamps.
Chairs are ranged in rows
Like sepia seeds
Waiting fulfilment.
The chalk-white spot of a cook’s cap
Moves unglossily against the vaguely bright wall –
Dull chalk-white striking the retina like a blow
Through the wavering uncertainty of steam.
Vitreous-white of glasses with green reflections,
Ice-green carboys, shifting – greener, bluer – with the jar of moving water.
Jagged green-white bowls of pressed glass
Rearing snow-peaks of chipped sugar
Above the lighthouse-shaped castors
Of grey pepper and grey-white salt.
Grey-white placards: ‘Oyster Stew, Cornbeef Hash, Frankfurters’:
Marble slabs veined with words in meandering lines.
Dropping on the white counter like horn notes
Through a web of violins,
The flat yellow lights of oranges,
The cube-red splashes of apples,
In high plated `epergnes’.
The electric clock jerks every half-minute:
‘Coming! – Past!’
‘Three beef-steaks and a chicken-pie,’
Bawled through a slide while the clock jerks heavily.
A man carries a china mug of coffee to a distant chair.
Two rice puddings and a salmon salad
Are pushed over the counter;
The unfulfilled chairs open to receive them.
A spoon falls upon the floor with the impact of metal striking stone,
And the sound throws across the room
Sharp, invisible zigzags
Of silver.

III

An Opera House

Within the gold square of the proscenium arch,
A curtain of orange velvet hangs in stiff folds,
Its tassels jarring slightly when someone crosses the stage behind.
Gold carving edges the balconies,
Rims the boxes,
Runs up and down fluted pillars.
Little knife-stabs of gold
Shine out whenever a box door is opened.
Gold clusters
Flash in soft explosions
On the blue darkness,
Suck back to a point,
And disappear.
Hoops of gold
Circle necks, wrists, fingers,
Pierce ears,
Poise on heads
And fly up above them in coloured sparkles.
Gold!
Gold!
The opera house is a treasure-box of gold.
Gold in a broad smear across the orchestra pit:
Gold of horns, trumpets, tubas;
Gold – spun-gold, twittering-gold, snapping-gold
Of harps.
The conductor raises his baton,
The brass blares out
Crass, crude,
Parvenu, fat, powerful,
Golden.
Rich as the fat, clapping hands in the boxes.
Cymbals, gigantic, coin-shaped,
Crash.
The orange curtain parts
And the prima-donna steps forward.
One note,
A drop: transparent, iridescent,
A gold bubble,
It floats . . . floats . . .
And bursts against the lips of a bank president
In the grand tier.

IV

Afternoon Rain in State Street

Cross-hatchings of rain against grey walls,
Slant lines of black rain
In front of the up and down, wet stone sides of buildings.
Below,
Greasy, shiny, black, horizontal,
The street.
And over it, umbrellas,
Black polished dots
Struck to white
An instant,
Stream in two flat lines
Slipping past each other with the smoothness of oil.
Like a four-sided wedge
The Custom House Tower
Pokes at the low, flat sky,
Pushing it farther and farther up,
Lifting it away from the house-tops,
Lifting it in one piece as though it were a sheet of tin,
With the lever of its apex.
The cross-hatchings of rain cut the Tower obliquely,
Scratching lines of black wire across it,
Mutilating its perpendicular grey surface
With the sharp precision of tools.
The city is rigid with straight lines and angles,
A chequered table of blacks and greys.
Oblong blocks of flatness
Crawl by with low-geared engines,
And pass to short upright squares
Shrinking with distance.
A steamer in the basin blows its whistle,
And the sound shoots across the rain hatchings,
A narrow, level bar of steel.
Hard cubes of lemon
Superimpose themselves upon the fronts of buildings
As the windows light up.
But the lemon cubes are edged with angles
Upon which they cannot impinge.
Up, straight, down, straight – square.
Crumpled grey-white papers
Blow along the side-walks,
Contorted, horrible,
Without curves.
A horse steps in a puddle,
And white, glaring water spurts up
In stiff, outflaring lines,
Like the rattling stems of reeds.
The city is heraldic with angles,
A sombre escutcheon of argent and sable
And countercoloured bends of rain
Hung over a four-square civilization.
When a street lamp comes out,
I gaze at it for fully thirty seconds
To rest my brain with the suffusing, round brilliance of its globe.

V

An Aquarium

Streaks of green and yellow iridescence,
Silver shiftings,
Rings veering out of rings,
Silver – gold –
Grey-green opaqueness sliding down,
With sharp white bubbles
Shooting and dancing,
Flinging quickly outward.
Nosing the bubbles,
Swallowing them,
Fish.
Blue shadows against silver-saffron water,
The light rippling over them
In steel-bright tremors.
Outspread translucent fins
Flute, fold, and relapse;
The threaded light prints through them on the pebbles
In scarcely tarnished twinklings.
Curving of spotted spines,
Slow up-shifts,
Lazy convolutions:
Then a sudden swift straightening
And darting below:
Oblique grey shadows
Athwart a pale casement.
Roped and curled,
Green man-eating eels
Slumber in undulate rhythms,
With crests laid horizontal on their backs.
Barred fish,
Striped fish,
Uneven disks of fish,
Slip, slide, whirl, turn,
And never touch.
Metallic blue fish,
With fins wide and yellow and swaying
Like Oriental fans,
Hold the sun in their bellies
And glow with light:
Blue brilliance cut by black bars.
An oblong pane of straw-coloured shimmer,
Across it, in a tangent,
A smear of rose, black, silver.
Short twists and upstartings,
Rose-black, in a setting of bubbles:
Sunshine playing between red and black flowers
On a blue and gold lawn.
Shadows and polished surfaces,
Facets of mauve and purple,
A constant modulation of values.
Shaft-shaped,
With green bead eyes;
Thick-nosed,
Heliotrope-coloured;
Swift spots of chrysolite and coral;
In the midst of green, pearl, amethyst irradiations.

Outside,
A willow-tree flickers
With little white jerks,
And long blue waves
Rise steadily beyond the outer islands.

Night Clouds

The white mares of the moon rush along the sky
Beating their golden hoofs upon the glass Heavens
The white mares are all standing on their hind legs
Pawing at the green porcelain doors of the remote Heavens
Fly, mares!
Strain your utmost
Scatter the milky dust of stars
Or the tigers will leap upon you and destroy you
With one lick of his vermillion tongue

Stravinsky’s Three Pieces

First Movement

Thin-voiced, nasal pipes
Drawing sound out and out
Until it is a screeching thread,
Sharp and cutting, sharp and cutting,
It hurts.
Whee-e-e!
Bump! Bump! Tong-ti-bump!
There are drums here,
Banging,
And wooden shoes beating the round, grey stones
Of the market-place.
Whee-e-e!
Sabots slapping the worn, old stones,
And a shaking and cracking of dancing bones;
Clumsy and hard they are,
And uneven,
Losing half a beat
Because the stones are slippery.
Bump-e-ty-tong! Whee-e-e! Tong!
The thin Spring leaves
Shake to the banging of shoes.
Shoes beat, slap,
Shuffle, rap,
And the nasal pipes squeal with their pigs’ voices,
Little pigs’ voices
Weaving among the dancers,
A fine white thread
Linking up the dancers.
Bang! Bump! Tong!
Petticoats,
Stockings,
Sabots,
Delirium flapping its thigh-bones;
Red, blue, yellow,
Drunkenness steaming in colours;
Red, yellow, blue,
Colours and flesh weaving together,
In and out, with the dance,
Coarse stuffs and hot flesh weaving together.
Pigs’ cries white and tenuous,
White and painful,
White and –
Bump!
Tong!

Second Movement

Pale violin music whiffs across the moon,
A pale smoke of violin music blows over the moon,
Cherry petals fall and flutter,
And the white Pierrot,
Wreathed in the smoke of the violins,
Splashed with cherry petals falling, falling,
Claws a grave for himself in the fresh earth
With his finger-nails.

Third Movement

An organ growls in the heavy roof-groins of a church,
It wheezes and coughs.
The nave is blue with incense,
Writhing, twisting,
Snaking over the heads of the chanting priests.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine’; The priests whine their bastard Latin And the censers swing and click. The priests walk endlessly Round and round, Droning their Latin Off the key. The organ crashes out in a flaring chord, And the priests hitch their chant up half a tone. Dies illa, dies irae,
Calamitatis et miseriae,
Dies magna et amara valde.’
A wind rattles the leaded windows.
The little pear-shaped candle flames leap and flutter,
Dies illa, dies irae;’ The swaying smoke drifts over the altar, Calamitatis et miseriae;’ The shuffling priests sprinkle holy water,
Dies magna et amara valde;’ And there is a stark stillness in the midst of them Stretched upon a bier. His ears are stone to the organ, His eyes are flint to the candles, His body is ice to the water. Chant, priests, Whine, shuffle, genuflect, He will always be as rigid as he is now Until he crumbles away in a dust heap. Lacrymosa dies illa,
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.’
Above the grey pillars the roof is in darkness.

Fireworks

You hate me and I hate you,
And we are so polite, we two!

But whenever I see you, I burst apart
And scatter the sky with my blazing heart.
In spits and sparkles in stars and balls,
Buds into roses— and flares, and falls.

Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks,
Silver spirals and asterisks,
Shoot and tremble in a mist
Peppered with mauve and amethyst.

I shine in the window and light up the trees,
And all because I hate you, if you please.

And when you meet me, you rend asunder
And go up in a flaming wonder
Of saffron cubes, and crimson moons,
And wheels all amaranths and maroons.

Golden lozenges and spades,
Arrows of malachites and jades,
Patens of copper, azure sheaves.
As you mount, you flash in the glossy leaves.

Such fireworks as we make, we two!
Because you hate me and I hate you.

The Congressional Library

The earth is a colored thing.
See the red clays, and the umbers and salt greasy of the mountains;
See the clustered and wandering greens of plains and hillsides,
The leaf-greens, bush-greens, water-plant and snow-greens
Of gardens and forests.
See the reds of flowers—hibiscus, poppy, geranium;
The rose-red of little flowers—may-flowers, primroses;
The harlequin shades of sweet-peas, orchids, pansies;
The madders, saffrons, chromes, of still waters,
The silver and star-blues, the wine-blues of seas and oceans.
Observe the stars at nighttime, name the color of them;
Count and recount the hues of clouds at sunset and at dawn.
And the colors of the races of men—
What are they?
And what are we?
We, the people without a race,
Without a language;
Of all races, and of none;
Of all tongues, and one imposed;
Of all traditions and all pasts,
With no tradition and no past.
A patchwork and an altar-piece,
Vague as sea-mist,
Myriad as forest-trees,
Living into a present,
Building a future.
Our color is the vari-colored world.
No colors clash,
All clash and change,
And, in changing, new colors come and go and dominate and remain,
And no one shall say which remain,
Since those that have vanished return,
And those no man has seen take the light and are.

Where else in all America are we so symbolized
As in this hall?
White columns polished like glass,
A dome and a dome,
A balcony and a balcony,
Stairs and the balustrades to them,
Yellow marble and red slabs of it,
All mounting, spearing, flying into color.
Color round the dome and up to it,
Color curving, kite-flying, to the second dome,
Light, dropping, pitching down upon the color,
Arrow-falling upon the glass-bright pillars,
Mingled colors spinning into a shape of white pillars,
Fusing, cooling, into balanced shafts of shrill and interthronging light.
This is America,
This vast, confused beauty,
This staring, restless speed of loveliness,
Mighty, overwhelming, crude, of all forms,
Making grandeur out of profusion,
Afraid of no incongruities,
Sublime in its audacity,
Bizarre breaker of moulds,
Laughing with strength,
Charging down on the past,
Glorious and conquering,
Destroyer, builder,
Invincible pith and marrow of the world,
An old world remaking,
Whirling into the no-world of all-colored light.

The Camellia Tree of Matsue

At Matsue,
There was a Camellia Tree of great beauty
Whose blossoms were white as honey wax
Splashed and streaked with the pink of fair coral.
At night,
When the moon rose in the sky,
The Camellia Tree would leave its place
By the gateway,
And wander up and down the garden,
Trailing its roots behind it
Like a train of rustling silk.
The people in the house,
Hearing the scrape of them upon the gravel,
Looked into the garden
And saw the tree,
With its flowers erect and peering,
Pressed against the shoji.
Many nights the tree walked about the garden,
Until the women and children
Became frightened,
And the Master of the house
Ordered that it be cut down.
But when the gardener brought his axe
And struck the trunk of the tree,
There spouted forth a stream of dark blood;
And when the stump was torn up,
The hold quivered like an open wound.

Red slippers

Red slippers in a shop-window, and outside in the
street, flaws of grey,
windy sleet!

On The Mantelpiece

A thousand years went to her making,
A thousand years of experiments in pastes and glazes.
But now she stands
In all the glory of the finest porcelain and the most delicate paint,
A Dresden china shepherdess,
Flaunted before a tall mirror
On a high mantelpiece.

‘ Beautiful shepherdess,
I love the little pink rosettes on your shoes,
The angle of your hat sets my heart a singing.
Drop me the purple rose you carry in your hand
That I may cherish it,
And that, at my death,
Which I feel is not far off,
It may lie upon my bier. ‘
So the shepherdess threw the purple rose over the mantelpiece,
But it splintered in fragments on the hearth.

Then from below there came a sound of weeping,
And the shepherdess beat her hands
And cried:
‘ My purple rose is broken,
It was the flower of my heart. ‘
And she jumped off the mantelpiece
And was instantly shattered into seven hundred and twenty pieces.
But the little brown cricket who sang so sweetly
Scuttled away into a crevice of the marble
And went on warming his toes and chirping.

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