American Poetry 1922/Waters of Babylon
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.