Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
I came there the first time late at night by
Loud subway, wet streets, long stairs to a room
Hung for all I knew in nowhere, in Brooklyn,
Walled with black windows and books in bloom.
Morning was tall in the windows when I woke,
Sounds not my morning sounds marked time.
I saw from the pillow up and outdoors such sky
As never blew by my windows waking at home.
Where? Why? Look! And I looked at Manhattan
Over across the full gray river, far and framed
Like history going on, and too much of it
To look at at once, too much of it to be named.
Begin with the near sounds, tugboats, gulls,
I said, under the heaven covering New York
Silent above this century, this high morning's
Harbor, patient with the Egyptian work of
Nobody I know with grains and grains of sand
Hurrying up and down the beautiful towers.
The far sound is a hum, a huge hollow dreaming
Murmur, a sprawled confidence of power, power.
Before me man's old animal that never sleeps
Smiled in a dream of bloody murder in his cave,
Woke to the music of museums, strode, flourished
His women in flower, to be living ruthless in love
Of ships slow up the East River, planes rising fast,
Trains in from Chicago, trouble and trade and rain
Blown in from the northeast, west, southwest,
To stir tender and terrible meanings in his brain.
Magnificent world, inexhaustible energy, there are
No words for it. It is. The hours of my day
Were tide, smoke, noon on a staggered skyline
Massive and meaningful and furious and far away.
Behind me the streets were doorways, baseball,
Leafshadow on sunwarm brick, and highschool pride,
Millions of store-fronts, bus-stops, signs, names,
Brightened and blurred in an all-day taxi ride.
History is a book I read a chapter of in Brooklyn,
Wondering out a window how to read plain words.
Time is the windy heaven changing over Brooklyn,
Cloud going, light coming, the drift of sea-birds.