American Poetry 1922/Waters of Babylon

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WATERS OF BABYLON

What presses about us here in the evening
     As you open a window and stare at a stone gray sky,
And the streets give back the jangle of meaningless movement
     That is tired of life and almost too tired to die.

Night comes on, and even the night is wounded;
     There, on its breast, it carries a curved, white scar.
What will you find out there that is not torn and anguished?
     Can God be less distressed than the least of His creatures are?

Below are the blatant lights in a huddled squalor;
     Above are futile fires in freezing space.
What can they give that you should look to them for compassion
     Though you bare your heart and lift an imploring face?

They have seen, by countless waters and windows,
     The women of your race facing a stony sky;
They have heard, for thousands of years, the voices of women
     Asking them: 'Why . . . ?'


Let the night be; it has neither knowledge nor pity.
    One night alone can hope to answer your fear;
Is it that which struggles and blinds us and burns between us . . .
    Let the night be. Close the window, belovèd.
        . . . Come here.



This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1977, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 30 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.