Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
Five minutes before a cold midnight in January,
World was still as a still-life, indoors and out.
Out it was white, the snow. Black the poles, hedges,
Houses where the falling snow had not thickened.
Inside, the room, the living-room, the front room,
Slept in leafy curtains. Watercolors and broadloom.
In through the four windows fell the enormous
All dark on dark, silence on silence. Floor,
Said floor. Walls rise. Walk upon me. The bottom
Would drop out of everything if I were not floor.
In the night cold he cracked, to assert himself.
Brass made a quiet remark. Shine. Pewter, too.
Where are they, where are they? cried winter flowers,
The marigolds and small chrysanthemums in crystal,
Watching their many-petaled heads by moonlight
Exaggerated and beautifully distorted on the carpet.
Where are they? said the magazines to the books,
Said the wood-cut to the portrait, where are they?
We all came downstairs at half-past seven. Here
We are, the four of us said, did you think we'd
Forgotten you? Not that that's really what we said.
But hum, the clock remarked, yes, it's about time.
Floor was the one most relieved to have us back,
And lay there level as a floor, square-cornered, same.
Flowers in the glass brightened, and the chairs
Seemed to say, Sit in me, as if they were old stories
Saying, Read me. Stories in the shelved books.
The window-glass called, Look, look through me
At sky you know is there always because of me.
We called to one another, Look, look at the sky.
Then in the kitchen we made breakfast. Eat it here,
Said the front room, in the sunlight, with flowers.
And we brought the green plates, the cups, and silver,
Sat on the chairs, taking our food from the small tables,
In the room made of morning, curtains moving at windows.
Then went away, each to our necessity. Said room,
Wait, then. The books pressed against one another, left
And right, and were there, waiting. Pictures faced pictures.
The sails of the ship-model curved to a wind from east.
Only the copper-wire fish, the hung mobile, moved
In their balance. Wait. It is almost, clock said, noon.
They are coming. Wait. They are coming. Wait. Soon.