Karl Shapiro(10 November 1913 - 14 May 2000 / Baltimore, Maryland)
The Conscientious Objector
- by Karl Shapiro64
The gates clanged and they walked you into jail More tense than felons but relieved to find The hostile world shut out, the flags that dripped From every mother's windowpane, obscene The bloodlust sweating from the public heart, The dog authority slavering at your throat. A sense of quiet, of pulling down the blind Possessed you. Punishment you felt was clean.
The decks, the catwalks, and the narrow light Composed a ship. This was a mutinous crew Troubling the captains for plain decencies, A Mayflower brim with pilgrims headed out To establish new theocracies to west, A Noah's ark coasting the topmost seas Ten miles above the sodomites and fish. These inmates loved the only living doves.
Like all men hunted from the world you made A good community, voyaging the storm To no safe Plymouth or green Ararat; Trouble or calm, the men with Bibles prayed, The gaunt politicals construed our hate. The opposite of all armies, you were best Opposing uniformity and yourselves; Prison and personality were your fate.
You suffered not so physically but knew Maltreatment, hunger, ennui of the mind. Well might the soldier kissing the hot beach Erupting in his face damn all your kind. Yet you who saved neither yourselves nor us Are equally with those who shed the blood The heroes of our cause. Your conscience is What we come back to in the armistice.
- by Karl Shapiro56
It is winter in California, and outside Is like the interior of a florist shop: A chilled and moisture-laden crop Of pink camellias lines the path; and what Rare roses for a banquet or a bride, So multitudinous that they seem a glut!
A line of snails crosses the golf-green lawn From the rosebushes to the ivy bed; An arsenic compound is distributed For them. The gardener will rake up the shells And leave in a corner of the patio The little mound of empty shells, like skulls.
By noon the fog is burnt off by the sun And the world's immensest sky opens a page For the exercise of a future age; Now jet planes draw straight lines, parabolas, And x's, which the wind, before they're done, Erases leisurely or pulls to fuzz.
It is winter in the valley of the vine. The vineyards crucified on stakes suggest War cemeteries, but the fruit is pressed, The redwood vats are brimming in the shed, And on the sidings stand tank cars of wine, For which bright juice a billion grapes have bled.
And skiers from the snow line driving home Descend through almond orchards, olive farms. Fig tree and palm tree - everything that warms The imagination of the wintertime. If the walls were older one would think of Rome: If the land were stonier one would think of Spain.
But this land grows the oldest living things, Trees that were young when Pharoahs ruled the world, Trees whose new leaves are only just unfurled. Beautiful they are not; they oppress the heart With gigantism and with immortal wings; And yet one feels the sumptuousness of this dirt.
It is raining in California, a straight rain Cleaning the heavy oranges on the bough, Filling the gardens till the gardens flow, Shining the olives, tiling the gleaming tile, Waxing the dark camellia leaves more green, Flooding the daylong valleys like the Nile.
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