Startling, vigorous life,
That squirms under my touch,
And baffles me when I try to examine it,
Or hurls me back without apology.
Leaving my ego ruffled and preening itself.
Screaming in provocative assertion,
Or out of the black and clotted gutters,
Piping in silvery thin
Of children’s laughter,
Or clinging over the pushcarts
Like a litter of tiny bells
Or the jingle of silver coins,
Perpetually changing hands,
Or like the Jordan somberly
Swirling in tumultuous uncharted tides,
Electric currents of life,
Throwing off thoughts like sparks,
Making unknown circuits,
Or out of spent particles stirring
Feeble contortions in old faiths
Passing before the new.
Long nights argued away
In meeting halls
Back of interminable stairways—
In Roumanian wine-shops
And little Russian tea-rooms...
Feet echoing through deserted streets
In the soft darkness before dawn...
Brows aching, throbbing, burning—
Life leaping in the shaken flesh
Like flame at an asbestos curtain.
Stoops and façades,
Jostling, pushing, contriving,
Seething as in a great vat...
Bartering, changing, extorting,
Dreaming, debating, aspiring,
Life of the Ghetto...
Strong flux of life,
Like a bitter wine
Out of the bloody stills of the world...
Out of the Passion eternal.
Out of the night you burn, Manhattan,
In a vesture of gold—
Span of innumerable arcs,
Flaring and multiplying—
Gold at the uttermost circles fading
Into the tenderest hint of jade,
Or fusing in tremulous twilight blues,
Robing the far-flung offices,
Scintillant-storied, forking flame,
Or soaring to luminous amethyst
Over the steeples aureoled—
Veiling the Woolworth, argently
Rising slender and stark
Mellifluous-shrill as a vender’s cry,
And towers squatting graven and cold
On the velvet bales of the dark,
And the Singer’s appraising
Indolent idol’s eye,
And night like a purple cloth unrolled—
Throwing an ephemeral glory about life’s vanishing points,
Wherein you burn...
You of unknown voltage
Whirling on your axis...
Scrawling vermillion signatures
Over the night’s velvet hoarding...
Insolent, towering spherical
To apices ever shifting.
Innumerable ions of light,
All to their foci tending...
Light that jingles like anklet chains
On bevies of little lithe twinkling feet,
Or clingles in myriad vibrations
Like trillions of porcelain