Conrad Potter Aiken

(5 August 1889 – 17 August 1973 / Savannah, Georgia)

Asphalt Poem by Conrad Potter Aiken


Light your cigarette, then, in this shadow,
And talk to her, your arm engaged with hers.
Heavily over your heads the eaten maple
In the dead air of August strains and stirs.

Her stone-white face, in the lamp-light, turns toward you;
Darkly, with time-dark eyes, she questions you
Whether this universe is what she thinks it—
Simple and passionate and profound and true—

Or whether, as with a sound of dim disaster,
A plaintive music brought to a huddled fall,
Some ancient treachery slides through the heart of things—
The last star falling, seen from the utmost wall…

And you—what sinister, far, reserves of laughter,
What understandings, remote, perplexed, remain
Unguessed forever by her who is your victim—
Victim, of whom you too are victim again?

…Come! let us dance once more on the ancient asphalt:
Seeing, beneath its strange and recent shape,
The eternal horror of rock, from which, for ever,
We toss our tortured hands, to no escape.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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