By John Haines
Facing the wind of the avenues
one spring evening in New York,
I wore under my thin jacket
a sweater given me by the wife
of a genial Manchurian.
The warmth in that sweater changed
the indifferent city block by block.
The buildings were mountains
that fled as I approached them.
The traffic became sheep and cattle
milling in muddy pastures.
I could feel around me the large
movements of men and horses.
It was spring in Siberia or Mongolia,
wherever I happened to be.
Rough but honest voices called to me
out of that solitude:
they told me we are all tired
of this coiling weight,
the oppression of a long winter;
that it was time to renew our life,
burn the expired contracts,
elect new governments.
The old Imperial sun has set,
and I must write a poem to the Emperor.
I shall speak it like the man
I should be, an inhabitant of the frontier,
clad in sweat-darkened wool,
my face stained by wind and smoke.
Surely the Emperor and his court
will want to know what a fine
and generous revolution begins tomorrow
in one of his remote provinces…
"The Sweater of Vladimir Ussachevsky". Copyright © 1993 by John Haines. Reprinted from The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Source: The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1993)
More By This Poet
Cold for so long, unable to speak,
yet your mouth seems framed
on a cry, or a stifled question.
Who placed you here, and left you
to this lonely eternity of ash and ice,
and himself returned to the dust
fields, the church and the temple?
More Poems about Social Commentaries
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
The Glories of Our Blood and State
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal...