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Contemplation in Two Keys

ISSUE:  Spring 1953


Summer makes incandescent the common street,
Sending through narrow yards the flame of grass
And roses to burn along a sagging fence.
Time itself catches in the heat,
Casting shadows on the remembering sense
Of years that pass.

Voices of Negroes talking in a house,
Their postures of resignation on a porch,
The primary colors of a Negress’ dress
Cause memory, like an awakened cat, to stretch and rouse.
Time has no stop; this old distress
Starts blazing as a resinous torch.

Tall candelabra of horse chestnut blooms
Hang splendor within the dignity of leaves,
Banked cone by luminous white cone
Like lights in closed remembered rooms
Where an insistent music grieves:
“The years are gone but what is done.”


Only on such a day
Of space-exploring light
Would tall clouds gather in just this way—
Against clean blue such heaven-ascending white.
Alien here, they blow
From some pellucid South,
Shaping as they gather and grow
Images of a world in its youth
Where a cloud-white dome
Rocks on a sea of leaves
And the heart in its dream is at home,
Where all that is sentient perceives
Through the shimmer of heat
Which shifts with the shadow and light
That dapples the street
A dazzle of wonder
Then hears the hush as dense foliage heaves
And a sound of awe in the thunder.
Wisps only remain
Of the great altering mass.
These vanish; others will take momentous shape again,
Tower, disperse, and pass
As though, through gathering and dispersal,
The clouds are sent
In a rehearsal
Of some unending vast event.


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