Memories of West Street and Lepke
Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston's
"hardly passionate Marlborough Street,"
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is "a young Republican."
I have a nine months' daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants' wear.
These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.
Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements.
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow ("it's really tan")
and fly-weight pacifist,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.
I was so out of things, I'd never heard
of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Are you a C.O.?" I asked a fellow jailbird.
"No," he answered, "I'm a J.W."
He taught me the "hospital tuck,"
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated's Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections....
Robert Lowell's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (Memories of West Street and Lepke by Robert Lowell )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)
(22 August 1893 - 7 June 1967)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- Alone, Edgar Allan Poe
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- "Hope" is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson
- No Man Is An Island, John Donne
Poem of the Day
- Biyw, Swrji Basumatary
- A righteous path is a bumpy road…, Mark Heathcote
- No Podemos Respirar, Hebert Logerie
- Say at least, gajanan mishra
- Thou breeze, thou sing., ramesh rai
- Love's Secret, Luo Zhihai
- A Little Boy Lost, Luo Zhihai
- Invisible people, Lubinda Lubinda
- Eternity, Tushar Ray
- It, Gilbert Ortega