Untitled Poem | Evan Shipman


There was a house once,
dropt between a factory and a lumber yard, 
on a perhaps street, 
crossing, with a systematic carelessness, 
the dock side of town. 
And that street knew 
frequent football in the gray of morning,
and frequent football in the gray of evening, 
and the taste of all day smoke, 
and the smell of all night rain ; 
and low conversations on corners ; 
and the sound of a Polish dance, 
two flights up, four blocks away..... 


That street was a haphazard drawing
scrawled by a tramp on a brick wall,
a thousand miles from home, 
and still going.....
For they all hit the freights
on the north side of town
bound for some place. 


And that street was as the womb
of a peasant woman :
tired of giving, 
tired of giving,
always giving.....
On to the baptismal font,
the gray procession,
encountering, merging
the always assured taunt
of listless, hovering gray above, 
and patiently calculating gray below,
goes ; 
there, mirrored in the heavens,
the laugh
blazoned eternally
above the cenotaph
of years, of men.....


Listen :
I tell you somehow was always
edging into that street
from somewhere.....


And in a house
lived a man who obeyed the whistle, 
and a woman who obeyed a man, 
and children
who played wild games on the street
at dusk
between the shadows, 
square shadows, 
sullen before the curve
of dusty winds.....


Don’t kiss five years good-bye
with a laugh, any of you ; 
Only old men boast of time
as a mistress,
only the gray ones. 
And tell me, friend : 
“Somewhere behind the precisions of today,
in the half-forgotten somewhere,
are there not momentary visions
to allay
the myriad clang of bar on bar, 
and the myriad glare
of light on light
after the going of the day?”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
But no ; the eyes are dead, 
only a laugh, only a snicker, 
from behind gray, onto gray.....
Behind : the undertakers, 
dressed in pink
between the shadows
of the lamp-posts slink.....
Before : the shriek of factory whistles
down an autumn sky. 


For they all hit the freights
on the north side of town, 
bound for some place.....
Some years ago, 
a Polish woman grew geraniums 
in a bed around the house…
where is she…
where her husband, where her children…
the wind has forgotten to mutter where. 
Perhaps moon light and early sun light
on the bay
can tell you. 
I heard a half-wit on a wharf
muttering of women
in half a hundred cities…
He ought to know,
he ought to know—
he knows the lonely cry of freights, 
skirting the aloofness of hills,
but then, he has forgotten much.....
and the geraniums are dead, 
oh yes, the geraniums are dead, 
and a year-dishevelled bicycle
sprawls, scattered foolishly, 
across the empty bed. 


The Polish woman and her husband
and children are gone…
gone somewhere,
somewhere away…
Marco Polo in a side-car, 
Abraham in a wheelbarrow…
Stop next year ; 
drop from your freight
on your way back,
if you ever come back ; 
look in on the perhaps street ambling drunkenly 
in search of water…
you may find geraniums 
growing before the door.