by John Ciardi

John Ciardi

Reveille rung on telephones awakes
The opening movement of an opening day.
Alphabets in mosaics,
Reports and rosters weigh
Some who came through, some pending, some who died,
And some delayed while oceans wait outside.

One minute now, one paperclip to pin
On one regret to tabulate and file
A finished lifetime in
(Not mine). One fraction while
The silver bubbles rise, the corpses sink
In one more minute I will stop and think

What boundary this surf makes at this shore,
What fallen statues soften in the sea,
And from a bomb-bay door
What crossed trajectory
Spatters in flak, or checks its breath to dare
The rip cord of a rent fantastic air.

(Our bombs like phallic comets scanned the air
Across the flowerfall of the tumbling chutes
That bloomed hydrangeas where
The dead in fancy suits,
All flowered in flame, heaved from the flaming ground,
And settled back like seed pods black and round.)

The other side this surf, one leap above
The ground, a single day beyond this day,
Nostalgias not completely love,
Fear never put away,
Demanded and recalled and churned our sleep
With a lead-gutted terror, dreamed and deep.

To file by rank and name (no longer ours),
Insured in triplicate, indorsed, and signed
Six days a week in office hours.
But oh the telephone is mined,
And boredom booby-traps desk, file, and wall
Where day and day destroys us after all.

Collected Poems of John Ciardi

Last updated March 01, 2023