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Allen Tate

(19 November 1899 - 9 February 1979 / Winchester, Kentucky)

A Pauper


. . . and the children's teeth shall be set on edge.

I see him old, trapped in a burly house
Cold in the angry spitting of a rain
Come down these sixty years.

Why vehemently
Astride the threshold do I wait, marking
The ice softly pendent on his broken temple?
Upon the silence I cast the mesh of rancor
By which the gentler convergences of the flesh
Scatter untokened, mercilessly estopped.

Why so illegal these tears?

The years' incertitude and
The dirty white fates trickling
Blackly down the necessary years
Define no attitude to the present winter,
No mood to the cold matter.

(I remember my mother, my mother,
A stiff wind halted outside,
In the hard ear my country
Was a far shore crying
With invisible seas)

When tomorrow pleads the mortal decision
Sifting rankly out of time's sieve today,
No words differently will be uttered
Nor stuttered, like sheep astray.

A pauper in the swift denominating
Of a bald cliff with a proper name, having words
As strumpets only, I cannot beat off
Invincible modes of the sea, hearing:

Be a man my son by God.

He turned again
To the purring jet yellowing the murder story,
Deaf to the pathos circling in the air.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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