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420. THE ROOM{*}

The room a dying poet took
at nightfall in a dead hotel
had both directories — the Book
of Heaven and the Book of Bell.
It had a mirror and a chair,
it had a window and a bed,
its ribs let in the darkness where
rain glistened and a shopsign bled.
Not tears, not terror, but a blend
of anonymity and doom,
it seemed, that room, to condescend
to imitate a normal room.
Whenever some automobile
subliminally slit the night,
the walls and ceiling would reveal
a wheeling skeleton of light.
Soon afterwards the room was mine.
A similar striped cageling, I
groped for the lamp and found the line
«Alone, unknown, unloved, I die»
in pencil, just above the bed.
It had a false quotation air.
Was it a she, wild-eyed, well-read,
or a fat man with thinning hair?
I asked a gentle Negro maid,
I asked a captain and his crew,
I asked the night clerk. Undismayed,
I asked a drunk. Nobody knew.
Perhaps when he had found the switch
he saw the picture on the wall
and cursed the red eruption which
tried to be maples in the fall?
Artistically in the style
of Mr. Churchill at his best,
those maples marched in double file
from Glen Lake to Restricted Rest.
Perhaps my text is incomplete.
A poet's death is, after all,
a question of technique, a neat
enjambment, a melodic fall.
And here a life had come apart
in darkness, and the room had grown
a ghostly thorax, with a heart
unknown, unloved — but not alone.
<13 мая> 1950; Итака

421. VOLUPTATES TACTIONUM[16]{*}

Some inevitable day
On the editorial page
Of your paper it will say,
«Tactio has come of age».
When you turn a knob, your set
Will obligingly exhale
Forms, invisible and yet
Tangible — a world in Braille.
Think of all the things that will
Really be within your reach!
Phantom bottle, dummy pill,
Limpid limbs upon a beach.
Grouped before a Magnotact,
Clubs and families will clutch
Everywhere the same compact
Paradise (in terms of touch).
Palpitating fingertips
Will caress the flossy hair
And investigate the lips
Simulated in midair.
See the schoolboy, like a blind
Lover, frantically grope
For the shape of love — and find
Nothing but the shape of soap.
<27 января> 1951

422. RESTORATION{*}

To think that any fool may tear
by chance the web of when and where.
O window in the dark! To think
that every brain is on the brink
of nameless bliss no brain can bear,
unless there be no great surprise —
as when you learn to levitate
and, hardly trying, realize
— alone, in a bright room — that weight
is but your shadow, and you rise.
My little daughter wakes in tears:
She fancies that her bed is drawn
into a dimness which appears
to be the deep of all her fears
but which, in point of fact, is dawn.
I know a poet who can strip
a William Tell or Golden Pip
in one uninterrupted peel
miraculously to reveal,
revolving on his fingertip,
a snowball. So I would unrobe,
turn inside out, pry open, probe
all matter, everything you see,
the skyline and its saddest tree,
the whole inexplicable globe,
to find the true, the ardent core
as doctors of old pictures do
when, rubbing our a distant door
or sooty curtain, they restore
the jewel of a bluish view.
9 марта 1952

423. THE POPLAR{*}

Before this house a poplar grows
Well versed in dowsing, I suppose,
But how it sighs! And every night
A boy in black, a girl in white
Beyond the brightness of my bed
Appear, and not a word is said.
On coated chair and coatless chair
They sit, one here, the other there.
I do not care to make a scene:
I read a glossy magazine.
He props upon his slender knee
A dwarfed and potted poplar tree.
And she — she seems to hold a dim
Hand mirror with an ivory rim
Framing a lawn, and her, and me
Under the prototypic tree,
Before a pillared porch, last seen
In July, nineteen seventeen.
This is the silver lining of
Pathetic fallacies: the sough
Of Populus that taps at last
Not water but the author's past.
And note: nothing is ever said.
I read a magazine in bed
Or the Home Book of Verse; and note:
This is my shirt, that is my coat.
But frailer seers I am told
Get up to rearrange a fold.
1952
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Радости осязания (лат.). — Ред.

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