English poetry

Poems in English



The Steeple-Jack

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 and three’s, the seagulls keep
flying back and forth over the town clock,
Or sailing around the lighthouse without moving their wings
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
Gray. 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. Disguised by what
might seem the opposite, the sea-
Side flowers and

Trees are favored by the fog so that you have
the tropics first hand: the trumpet-vine,
Fox-glove, giant snap-dragon, a salpiglossis that has
Spots and stripes; morning-glories, gourds,
or moon-vines trained on fishing-twine
At the back door;

Cat-tails, flags, blueberries and spiderwort,
striped grass, lichens, sunflowers, asters, daisies
Yellow and crab-claw ragged sailors with green bracts toad-plant,
Petunias, ferns; pink lilies, blue
ones, tigers; poppies; black sweet-peas.
The climate

Is not right for the banyan, frangipani, or
jack-fruit trees; or for exotic serpent
Life. Ring lizard and snake-skin for the foot, if you see fit;
But here they’ve cats, not cobras, to
keep down the rats. The diffident
Little newt

With white pin-dots on black horizontal spaced-
out bands lives here; yet there is nothing that
Ambition can buy or take away. The college student
Named Ambrose sits on the hillside
with his not-native books and hat
And sees boats

At sea progress white and rigid as if in
a groove. Liking an elegance of which
The sourch is not bravado, he knows by heart the antique
Sugar-bowl shaped summer-house of
interlacing slats, and the pitch
Of the church

Spire, not true, from which a man in scarlet lets
down a rope 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 by white-wash. Theis would be a fit haven for
Waifs, children, animals, prisoners,
and presidents who have repaid
Sin-driven

Senators by not thinking about them. The
place has 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 could not be dangerous to be living
in a town like this, of simple people,
Who have a steeple-jack placing danger signs by the church
While he is gilding the solid-
pointed star, which on a steeple
Stands for hope.


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Poem The Steeple-Jack - Marianne Moore