Poem By Ashley Ritchie
I have discovered that most of
the beauties of travel are due to
the strange hours we keep to see them:
the domes of the Church of
the Paulist Fathers in Weehawken
against a smoky dawn -- the heart stirred --
are beautiful as Saint Peters
approached after years of anticipation.
Though the operation was postponed
I saw the tall probationers
in their tan uniforms
hurrying to breakfast!
-- and from basement entries
neatly coiffed, middle aged gentlemen
with orderly moustaches and
-- and the sun, dipping into the avenues
streaking the tops of
the irregular red houselets,
the gay shadows drooping and drooping.
-- and a young horse with a green bed-quilt
on his withers shaking his head:
bared teeth and nozzle high in the air!
--and a semicircle of dirt-colored men
about a fire bursting from an old
-- and the worn,
blue car rails (like the sky!)
gleaming among the cobbles!
-- and the rickety ferry-boat "Arden"!
What an object to be called "Arden"
among the great piers, -- on the
ever new river!
"Put me a Touchstone
at the wheel, white gulls, and we'll
follow the ghost of the Half Moon
to the North West Passage -- and through!
(at Albany!) for all that!"
Exquisite brown waves -- long
circlets of silver moving over you!
enough with crumbling ice crusts among you!
The sky has come down to you,
lighter than tiny bubbles, face to
face with you!
His spirit is
a white gull with delicate pink feet
and a snowy breast for you to
hold to your lips delicately!
The young doctor is dancing with happiness
in the sparkling wind, alone
at the prow of the ferry! He notices
the curdy barnacles and broken ice crusts
left at the slip's base by the low tide
and thinks of summer and green
shell-crusted ledges among
the emerald eel-grass!
Who knows the Palisades as I do
knows the river breaks east from them
above the city -- but they continue south
-- under the sky -- to bear a crest of
little peering houses that brighten
with dawn behind the moody
water-loving giants of Manhattan.
Long yellow rushes bending
above the white snow patches;
purple and gold ribbon
of the distant wood:
what an angle
you make with each other as
you lie there in contemplation.
Work hard all your young days
and they'll find you too, some morning
staring up under
your chiffonier at its warped
bass-wood bottom and your soul --
-- among the little sparrows
behind the shutter.
-- and the flapping flags are at
half-mast for the dead admiral.
All this --
was for you, old woman.
I wanted to write a poem
that you would understand.
For what good is it to me
if you can't understand it?
But you got to try hard --
Well, you know how
the young girls run giggling
on Park Avenue after dark
when they ought to be home in bed?
that's the way it is with me somehow.