Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DUNES OF INDIANA, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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THE DUNES OF INDIANA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Under a sky as green as a juniper berry
Last Line: Old memphis, or old bactria....
Subject(s): Indiana


Under a sky as green as a juniper berry
The yellow sands of the dunes, in clefts and curves
Run up and down, until the horizon swerves
At Michigan City, twenty miles from Gary.

Scrawls and grotesqueries of giants who laugh
At the storm's puffed cheeks, the water's pilfering hands!
Like the beat of a heart traced by a cardiograph,
Their sky-line lifts and lulls,
With the eternal pulse
Of air and the sands.

The dunes are a quilt of yellow, green and gray
Spread to the Calumet River.
Peaked by giant children who play
Circus with feet for poles. Fantastic dunes,
Protean hills, and migratory tents
Of invisible gypsies, changing with the moon's
Replenished and exhausted valleys of light.
Forests of pine and oak arise
On many a height,
And down the steep descents
Flourish and vanish from sight,
Under the restless feet of the wandering hills.
They trace in sand the changes of the skies
When the sun of evening smelts
Great towers of cloud or battlements,
And levels them, or warps
Their shapes to broken walls,
Or twisted scraps,
Or floors of emerald strewn with lion pelts....
Here there are water-falls;
Lakes bright as mercury, and pools
Green as the mosses, where hepaticas
And asters scurry before the gesturing wind;
Cool hollows, scented brakes
Of bramble, fern and cane;
Great marshes where the flags leap like green snakes,
Bordered with garish gules
Of pye-weed; over whose wastes the crane
Flaps the slow rhythm of extended wings.
And on whose reeds the blackbird sings
A quaver of blue water, March's fire.

Between the feet of the dunes and the trampling troops
Of waves along the shore the sand is pounded
Into a broad mosaic firm and smooth,
Whereon are strewn old reels, between the groups
Of blackened hut and booth.
Boats lie here where they grounded,
Like skeletons in the desert ribbed and black,
Scaled with the water's scurf.
The shore is the moat between the ruined rampart
Of the dunes, whose shifting is stayed
By splotches of thickets, trees and turf,
And the invading surf.
Here phantom mists descend, and the wrack
Of autumn clouds fade into the air when storms
Harry the water, and the sand is flayed
By the whip of the wind.
There is forever here the futile fashioning
Of hills, and their leveling;
The growth of forests and their burial;
Pools filled and rivers changed or dried
Between the spoiling winds, and the mystical
Hands of the tide!

Branches as gnarled as an ancient olive tree
Stream cherry blossoms like blown snow
Toward the blue of the lake, a hundred feet below.
They have been sand, now being blossoms drift
With the winds whose spirit cannot be
Quieted or given shrift.
By night they howl or whine
As if they asked for words, or a sign
To tell of the sand and seeds and spores
Which build and root, bear blossoms, seed,
And change the uplands and the shores;
Destroy, make over, mend
Without use, without end
In an endless cycle of sand and seed,
Of wind and the washing of waves;
They would tell why forests grow and find their graves;
And hills glide to their sepulchres,
Even as cities sink and pass away:
Old Memphis, or old Bactria....





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