Afternoon Rain in State Street

Amy Lowell

   Cross-hatchings of rain against grey walls,
   Slant lines of black rain
   In front of the up and down, wet stone sides of buildings.
   Below,
   Greasy, shiny, black, horizontal,
   The street.
   And over it, umbrellas,
   Black polished dots
   Struck to white
   An instant,
   Stream in two flat lines
   Slipping past each other with the smoothness of oil.
   Like a four-sided wedge
   The Custom House Tower
   Pokes at the low, flat sky,
   Pushing it farther and farther up,
   Lifting it away from the house-tops,
   Lifting it in one piece as though it were a sheet of tin,
   With the lever of its apex.
   The cross-hatchings of rain cut the Tower obliquely,
   Scratching lines of black wire across it,
   Mutilating its perpendicular grey surface
   With the sharp precision of tools.
   The city is rigid with straight lines and angles,
   A chequered table of blacks and greys.
   Oblong blocks of flatness
   Crawl by with low-geared engines,
   And pass to short upright squares
   Shrinking with distance.
   A steamer in the basin blows its whistle,
   And the sound shoots across the rain hatchings,
   A narrow, level bar of steel.
   Hard cubes of lemon
   Superimpose themselves upon the fronts of buildings
   As the windows light up.
   But the lemon cubes are edged with angles
   Upon which they cannot impinge.
   Up, straight, down, straight--square.
   Crumpled grey-white papers
   Blow along the side-walks,
   Contorted, horrible,
   Without curves.
   A horse steps in a puddle,
   And white, glaring water spurts up
   In stiff, outflaring lines,
   Like the rattling stems of reeds.
   The city is heraldic with angles,
   A sombre escutcheon of argent and sable
   And countercoloured bends of rain
   Hung over a four-square civilization.
   When a street lamp comes out,
   I gaze at it for fully thirty seconds
   To rest my brain with the suffusing, round brilliance of its globe.