Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Steeple-Jack

by Marianne Moore

Dürer would have seen a reason for living
in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
on a fine day, from water etched
with waves as formal as the scales
on a fish.
One by one, in two's, in three's, the seagulls keep
flying back and forth over the town clock,
or sailing around the lighthouse without moving their
rising steadily with a slight
quiver of the body--or flock
mewing where

a sea the purple of the peacock's neck is
paled to greenish azure as Dürer changed
the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea
grey. You can see a twenty-five-
pound lobster and fish-nets arranged
to dry. The

whirlwind fife-and-drum of the storm bends the salt
marsh grass, disturbs stars in the sky and the
star on the steeple; it is a privilege to see so
much confusion.

A steeple-jack in red, has let
a rope down as a spider spins a thread;
he might be part of a novel, but on the sidewalk a
sign says C.J. Poole, Steeple-Jack,
in black and white; and one in red
and white says

Danger. The church portico has four fluted
columns, each a single piece of stone, made
modester with white-wash. This would be a fit haven for
waifs, children, animals, prisoners,
and presidents who have repaid

senators by not thinking about them. One
sees a school-house, a post-office in a
store, fish-houses, hen-houses, a three-masted schooner on
the stocks. The hero, the student,
the steeple-jack, each in his way,
is at home.

It scarcely could be dangerous to be living
in a town like this, of simple people
who have a steeple-jack placing danger-signs by the church
when he is gilding the solid-
pointed star, which on a steeple
stands for hope.

Marianne Moore is one of my favorite poets, and The Steeple-Jack is a copyrighted poem owned by her estate. All copyrighted work published at Dick Mac (alive!) is published without permission, and forgiveness and mercy are begged.

You can purchase The Poems of Marianne Moore at amazon.com.