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Towns in Colour

Amy Lowell 1874 (Brookline) – 1925 (Brookline)



I

Red Slippers

Red slippers in a shop-window, and outside in the street, flaws of grey,
windy sleet!

Behind the polished glass, the slippers hang in long threads of red,
festooning from the ceiling like stalactites of blood, flooding the eyes
of passers-by with dripping colour, jamming their crimson reflections
against the windows of cabs and tram-cars, screaming their claret and salmon
into the teeth of the sleet, plopping their little round maroon lights
upon the tops of umbrellas.

The row of white, sparkling shop fronts is gashed and bleeding,
it bleeds red slippers. They spout under the electric light,
fluid and fluctuating, a hot rain - and freeze again to red slippers,
myriadly multiplied in the mirror side of the window.

They balance upon arched insteps like springing bridges of crimson lacquer;
they swing up over curved heels like whirling tanagers sucked
in a wind-pocket; they flatten out, heelless, like July ponds,
flared and burnished by red rockets.

Snap, snap, they are cracker-sparks of scarlet in the white, monotonous
block of shops.

They plunge the clangour of billions of vermilion trumpets
into the crowd outside, and echo in faint rose over the pavement.

People hurry by, for these are only shoes, and in a window, farther down,
is a big lotus bud of cardboard whose petals open every few minutes
and reveal a wax doll, with staring bead eyes and flaxen hair,
lolling awkwardly in its flower chair.

One has often seen shoes, but whoever saw a cardboard lotus bud before?

The flaws of grey, windy sleet beat on the shop-window where there are only
red slippers.

II

Thompson's Lunch Room - Grand Central Station

Study in Whites

Wax-white -
Floor, ceiling, walls.
Ivory shadows
Over the pavement
Polished to cream surfaces
By constant sweeping.
The big room is coloured like the petals
Of a great magnolia,
And has a patina
Of flower bloom
Which makes it shine dimly
Under the electric lamps.
Chairs are ranged in rows
Like sepia seeds
Waiting fulfilment.
The chalk-white spot of a cook's cap
Moves unglossily against the vaguely bright wall -
Dull chalk-white striking the retina like a blow
Through the wavering uncertainty of steam.
Vitreous-white of glasses with green reflections,
Ice-green carboys, shifting - greener, bluer - with the jar of moving water.
Jagged green-white bowls of pressed glass
Rearing snow-peaks of chipped sugar
Above the lighthouse-shaped castors
Of grey pepper and grey-white salt.
Grey-white placards: 'Oyster Stew, Cornbeef Hash, Frankfurters':
Marble slabs veined with words in meandering lines.
Dropping on the white counter like horn notes
Through a web of violins,
The flat yellow lights of oranges,
The cube-red splashes of apples,
In high plated `epergnes'.
The electric clock jerks every half-minute:
'Coming! - Past!'
'Three beef-steaks and a chicken-pie,'
Bawled through a slide while the clock jerks heavily.
A man carries a china mug of coffee to a distant chair.
Two rice puddings and a salmon salad
Are pushed over the counter;
The unfulfilled chairs open to receive them.
A spoon falls upon the floor with the impact of metal striking stone,
And the sound throws across the room
Sharp, invisible zigzags
Of silver.

III

An Opera House

Within the gold square of the proscenium arch,
A curtain of orange velvet hangs in stiff folds,
Its tassels jarring slightly when someone crosses the stage behind.
Gold carving edges the balconies,
Rims the boxes,
Runs up and down fluted pillars.
Little knife-stabs of gold
Shine out whenever a box door is opened.
Gold clusters
Flash in soft explosions
On the blue darkness,
Suck back to a point,
And disappear.
Hoops of gold
Circle necks, wrists, fingers,
Pierce ears,
Poise on heads
And fly up above them in coloured sparkles.
Gold!
Gold!
The opera house is a treasure-box of gold.
Gold in a broad smear across the orchestra pit:
Gold of horns, trumpets, tubas;
Gold - spun-gold, twittering-gold, snapping-gold
Of harps.
The conductor raises his baton,
The brass blares out
Crass, crude,
Parvenu, fat, powerful,
Golden.
Rich as the fat, clapping hands in the boxes.
Cymbals, gigantic, coin-shaped,
Crash.
The orange curtain parts
And the prima-donna steps forward.
One note,
A drop: transparent, iridescent,
A gold bubble,
It floats . . . floats . . .
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:30 min read
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Amy Lowell

Amy Lawrence Lowell was an American poet of the imagist school from Brookline, Massachusetts who posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926. more…

All Amy Lowell poems | Amy Lowell Books

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