“Cadillac Square: 1933,” by John Malcolm Brinnin, from Selected Poems

cadillac square

Cadillac Square: 1933

Whoever know a city, know this square:
The loud and quaking air
That breaks on brick or scales the sun-choked glass,
The travelers who pass
One minute of one day and nevermore,
The neo-Grecian door
Poised like the needle’s eye, open and shut
For the mythical feet
Of some squat nobleman of fields and mines,
Industrial scenes,
Or eggshell yachts afloat in summer water,
The pink expensive daughter
With a flair for shady friends and maybe Bach,
The colonnaded house and the Chinese cook.

In early spring this heartlike acre shines:
Canyoned streets, carlines
Flow with violence of union, men
Learn faith in fathers then;
The butcher from the suburb and the clerk
Hear the organizers speak
The echoing language of the pioneer,
And in that press they cheer
With such a swirling and reproachless voice
The city swims in noise;
Those sooty faces and grime-sculptured hands
Live where the river bends,
They own the rotted gardens made to green
Where but the fossils of machines have lain.

All interweaves among the changing years:
Progress is in arrears
Until some chanticleering message raids
The disparate multitudes,
Or the bark of some command, made sharp with hate,
Sends Property’s gunmen out.
Poised in that infinity of death
Or life, or barely both,
The human balance sways; away, away,
The bleak night and the day,
The bankers couched in limousines, the poor
Jackknifed against a door,
The bankers conscious of defeat, the poor
Jackknifed, oblivious, against a door.

from The Selected Poems of John Malcolm Brinnin
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1963

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link)

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