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?
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Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam
I will tell you why she rarely ventured from her house.
It happened like this:
One day she took the train to Boston,
made her way to the darkened room,
put her name down in cursive script
and waited her turn.
When they read her name...
For the Feral Splendor That Remains
sometimes I strain