Robert Lowell - For the Union Dead
"Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam."
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.
my hand tingled
to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the cowed, compliant fish.
for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom
of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,
I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized
yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting
as they cropped up tons of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens' shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage's earthquake.
half the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.
in the city's throat.
Its Colonel is as lean
as a compass-needle.
a greyhound's gentle tautness;
he seems to wince at pleasure,
and suffocate for privacy.
peculiar power to choose life and die--
when he leads his black soldiers to death,
he cannot bend his back.
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic.
grow slimmer and younger each year--
wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets
and muse through their sideburns . . .
except the ditch,
where his son's body was thrown
and lost with his "niggers."
There are no statues for the last war here;
on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling
that survived the blast. Space is nearer.
When I crouch to my television set,
the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.
is riding on his bubble,
for the blessèd break.
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.