Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN EYE, by JOSEPH AUSLANDER



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AN EYE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In that pale hour taken
Last Line: And that was all.


In that pale hour taken
Only by the dense preliminary twitter
Of birds whose throats are shaken
As the dew's dust from the leaves
They shake or as the centaur heaves
His flank's dripping,
His hoof's glitter --
So I, slipping with the earth, slipping
Over the sleep-edge between sleep
And waking when the eyelids keep
The worn seams of their web from ripping,
Hung suspended in a dream
As the spider hangs, and in that station holds
Outstretched the groined arch that would seem
To hold him, held and was held in seven folds
Of a staring scheme.

I saw with the heart's throbbing centre (an Eye
That did not see so much as feel)
Tremendously the whirlpool stream
Of men and motors boiling by
Out of a cauldron of steam and steel
Into a cauldron of steel and steam;
I stood at the cross-roads of the world
And watched with my heart the street
Churn traffic like a black surf, beat
With shoes and sticks and hands and feet;
I heard the heat
And the horn's blare, the siren's scream,
The purr of rubber, the wrench of the wheel
Whistled from traffic tower to tower, hurled
Through short spasms of space, twirled
Like a spinning little top
From stop to stop.

I heard a thousand wheels wince
Under the throttle of brakes; I saw
Men and motors crash -- the splints
Of wind-shield glass, the bleeding skull, the raw
Flesh torn by the Olympian claw:
I turned my head away in sick
Recoil, but my heart was rooted still
Against its will by a massive will
That made it stick;
And I cried, "Let me go!"
Something said, "No."

And I saw rain
Thudding and swirling down
Swarthily on the insane
And splendidly terrible town. . . .
And I heard again,
Fogged by distance, twinkling as through a sieve
Of silver, the cool and tentative
Twitter of sparrow and chaffinch and lark
Splashing from wet leaves; and I smelled the dark
Smell of the steaming bark,
Pungent and novel, and the smell
Of young twigs and the yearning earth; and I heard
Bird after bird
Spill silver into a silver bell;
And I knew cattle were standing under the line
Of the living thunder,
Standing under
All the yellow lightning and the fine
White fury of water because I could smell the kine,
And my nostrils dilated, drinking the beevish wine;
And somewhere near at hand the shrill
Exultant snuffle of horses on a hill
And the good grunt of swine;
And the odour of straw
Rain-soaked, warm with dove and owl. . . .
Then suddenly I saw, or my heart saw,
Machines and men churning in a black bowl

At the cross-roads of the world, and the howl
Of men and machines struck at my face like a claw,
And I cried, "Let me go!"
And heard, "Not so."
And I looked and saw a jungle mocking
The leopard lozenged with gold who had sprung
Into a barrel's pit --
And I fell down with it;
And I heard a trigger click like a death's hand clocking
The second, and I was flung
On the trumpets of assault unlocking
The lion's lung;
And I saw the beauty of the lioness rocking
Behind green coals, bitterly blocking
The last yard to her young;
And I saw the panther when there is no help
Rolling a blind gaze on her whelp
And licking it with her tongue;
And I saw the bengal tiger charted black,
With the blonde lightning on his back
Shot down and stripped, or slung
Over a shoulder, or in the track
Of his long plunge and lone attack
Left for dung!

And the Eye in my heart glowed:
And I saw a ship in a shouldering sea
Strain at her strength,
And shudder through her length,
And spark her doom through the sky;
And I heard the metallic cry:
"Women and children first! Stand by!"
And I saw the life-boats lowered -- and smeared
Flat as you smear a fly;
And I saw some quick little fellow who feared
Shot down gurgling in his beard;
And I saw the decks cleared;
And I saw them try again and try
Again, but the seas were running high;
And I saw a-plenty jump -- and die;
And I heard the ship's orchestra strike up brave
Brass -- and the ship went down with her load
Of people and bottles and plates, leaving the wave
In that place,
Leaving the stillness to rewrite, the water to erase.

And I heard the murmuring of all the surfs on all the beaches of the world
Boom in the ear's hollow cave, and I cried
"Let me loose now! I have seen how men and ships in their pride
Have gone down and died;
I have heard their drums and seen their colours curled
Under like shells -- and then heard nothing beside,
Seen nothing but water divide
Decently and close once more and abide." . . .
And my heart's Eye was turned
In on itself and eyed
Dirty corners there that burned
With many a horned lust, livid spots
That reeked of purple and flesh-pots,
Stamped with the hooves and chariots
Of the Assyrian treachery;
And on the wall a Hand that traced
In the dust and webs the words
"Thus Belshazzar was effaced --
Though not his accusation!" . . . And
All at once a clamour of birds
Filled my heart like a hand
Filling a hole or like a ghost's
Form flowing through a room:
And I heard a sound like doom
Moving, and I knew the Host's
Breath: "Behold your puny boasts
With the worm in his lodge!
Salute your garrison of hawks!" --
And I could not stir,
I could not stir. . . .
The Voice resumed: "Place-coveter,
Apparel-coveter, look upon
The hawk-thoughts of your garrison!
You that see and hear so plain
Others in their pride and pain,
What is it that lets you kiss
The icon of your cowardice?
Think you to escape the fault
By exalting me, exalt
Your own forehead, salve your soul
With my myrrh and aureole?
You have looked and you have seen
Man the tool of his machine;
Heard the valves and pistons groan
Mute, and leave their lord -- alone
With his feeble blood and bone;
You have stared into your heart
And found your brother's counterpart:
For every stain on his head
You shall bleed as he has bled,
And the dead shall bury the dead;
Now I go -- but I release
Your heart to desperate peace!" . . .
And I heard shouting in the street
Where men and motors meet;
And my eyes followed the tall
Blur of light from window-frame to wall --
And that was all.





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