Kenneth Slessor

(27 March 1901 – 30 June 1971 / Orange, New South Wales)

City Nightfall


SMOKE upon smoke; over the stone lips
Of chimneys bleeding, a darker fume descends.
Night, the old nun, in voiceless pity bends
To kiss corruption, so fabulous her pity.
All drowns in night. Even the lazar drowns
In earth at last, and rises up afresh,
Married to dust with an Infanta's flesh—
So night, like earth, receives this poisoned city,
Charging its air with beauty, coasting its lanterns
With mains of darkness, till the leprous clay
Dissolves, and pavements drift away,
And there is only the quiet noise of planets feeding.
And those who chafe here, limed on the iron twigs,
No greater seem than sparrows, all their cries,
Their clockwork and their merchandise,
Frolic of painted dolls. I pass unheeding.

Submitted: Thursday, April 01, 2010

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