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Overture To A Dance Of Locomotives

Overture To A Dance Of Locomotives

Men with picked voices chant the names
Of cities in a huge gallery: promises
That pull through descending stairways
To a deep rumbling.

The rubbing feet
Of those coming to be carried quicken a
Grey pavement into soft light that rocks
To and fro, under the domed ceiling,
Across and across from pale
Earthcolored walls of bare limestone.

Covertly the hands of a great clock
Go round and round! Were they to
Move quickly and at once the whole
Secret would be out and the shuffling
Of all ants be done forever.

A leaning pyramid of sunlight, narrowing
Out at a high window, moves by the clock:
Disaccordant hands straining out from
A center: inevitable postures infinitely
Repeated –
two-twofour-twoeight!
Porters in red hats run on narrow platforms.
This way ma’am!
-important not to take
The wrong train!
Lights from the concrete
Ceiling hang crooked but –
Poised horizontal
On glittering parallels the dingy cylinders
Packed with a warm glow-inviting entry –
Pull against the hour. But brakes can
Hold a fixed posture till –
The whistle!

Not twoeight. Not twofour. Two!

Gliding windows. Colored cooks sweating
In a small kitchen. Taillights –

In time: twofour!
In time: twoeight!

-rivers are tunneled: trestles
Cross oozy swampland: wheels repeating
The same gesture remain relatively
Stationary: rails forever parallel
Return on themselves infinitely.



Poem Overture To A Dance Of Locomotives - William Carlos Williams