Battery Park: High Noon

by Ben Belitt

Ben Belitt

Battery park: high noon
Suddenly the old fancy has me!
Between flint and glitter, the leant leaf,
The formal blueness blooming over slate,
Struck into glass and plate,
The public tulips, treading meridian glare In bronze and whalebone by the statue-bases—
Elude the Battery square,
Turn, with a southern gesture, in remembered air,
And claim a loved identity, like faces....


Compute the season out of height and heat;
Cubes in the poised shaft dwindle; tackle moves;
Descending diners paddle into grooves And burst from bolts and belts upon the street.
Summer deploys upon the brims of hats,
Affirms the May in colored soda-drinks,
And mimic dogwood, machinal in inks,
Lifts Albemarle in streamers and cravats.
Here thoroughfares are blind upon the sea—
Enter the packed paths, where the lanes converge That drop the derelict stragglers by the surge,
Like targets in a shooting gallery:
In middle sleep, below the list of bells That turn soft answers to a barge’s brass,
These take their length in quarantines of grass,
Among the pigeons and the peanut shells.

Their capbrims crush out day.
Fulfillments leap,
Sudden as bludgeons, in a vacuum:
They answer to the pricking of a thumb,
And serve him more than slumber, who would sleep.
(A stricter sleep I guess, with double dread,
Who waken now, and dream these sleepers dead—
And yet, these are my dream that dream the lie,
And keep their dream more deathfully than I.)
Bend then to seaward.
The element you ask Rarer than sea is, wantoner than time;
You bear it on you, strangely, like a mask,
And dream the sailing in a pantomime:
The element is blood; tired voyager, turn: The reckoning you take is yet to learn.
Somber, at fullest flood, the continents ride And break their beaches in a sleeper’s side.


Follow the loll of smoke, fallow over water,
The expense of power in percussive stone,
Where the barge takes the ripple with an organ tone—
Over water, over roof, over catchpenny green,
Into time-to-come and what-has-been:
Into the wells of chimneys, into the smother of cisterns,
Resin and dust-gout shed upon foliate flame:
Into the quick of the burning, combustion’s vehement heart,
Flying the summery floor,
Beating its pure pulse on the violet core—
Into the million years’ flowering ... the ageless green....
The sunken frond,
The charmed marine:
Time’s incorruptible, biding, through char and pulp,
The ceaseless diamond.

0 lost and mythic scene,
Move vet within this frame! This is that angel, whether gem or flower-Leaven and gum and flint—
Recalled from carbon in implicit power,
Whose massive slumber wears the pure impress Of old renewal and first fruitfulness,
Pledging the fern’s shape in primordial tinder,
Sealing, in herb and mint,
The healing in the cinder.
Measure again the ruinous floor of the world Beyond the parkpath and the seaward paling,
The equal faces, stunned with light and void,
Tranced as in surmise, lost between myth and mood,
Derelict, decoyed,
In some astonished dream of sailing....

Last updated September 22, 2022