by Vernon Watkins (1906-67)
The rose divines her night:
White, thrusting roots grasp earth, where light began.
The seashell grinds its mark,
Dark in the cold miles of the naked beach.
Soul in a sculptor's hand
Spanned more desire than schools will ever teach.
Adam lies fast in Rome:
The moment's magnitude brought near to man.
He drew that body's praise,
Gazing on God. What centuries have since
Turned from those eyes to wage
Ageless, destructive war, all worth made cheap.
Hushed in a single nave,
Grave Angelo and Galileo sleep.
From hands of one were born
Morning and Night, who rest beneath their Prince,
While the next hand explored
Orders of stars no naked eye could reach.
There Santa Croce climbs
Time's holy scaffolding where planets spin.
Time turns; and in death camps
Lamps light the way to lampshades made of skin,
Whose dread contracts the brow.
How can we bring the ransom they beseech
Where, as one prisoner falls,
Walls paint in sleep the murder of his kin?
Such blood on Lethe's stream
Dreams cannot purge. Yet ask : what tongue ruled sin?
What put to shame that strumpet?
The trumpet which accompanied brave speech.