The Bridge (1930)
To Brooklyn Bridge
As Read by Tennessee Williams
How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty——
Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
——Till elevators drop us from our day . . .
I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;
And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,——
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!
Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.
Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.
And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.
O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,——
Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path——condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.
Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .
O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.
As Read by Tennessee Williams
I wanted you, nameless Woman of the South,
No wraith, but utterly——as still more alone
The Southern Cross takes night
And lifts her girdles from her, one by one——
wide from the slowly smoldering fire
Of lower heavens,——
or Mary, you?
Whatever call——falls vainly on the wave.
O simian Venus, homeless Eve,
Unwedded, stumbling gardenless to grieve
Windswept guitars on lonely decks forever;
Finally to answer all within one grave!
And this long wake of phosphor,
Furrow of all our travel——trailed derision!
Eyes crumble at its kiss. Its long-drawn spell
Incites a yell. SLid on that backward vision
The mind is churned to spittle, whispering hell.
I wanted you...The embers of the Cross
Climbed by aslant and huddling aromatically.
It is blood to remember; it is fire
To stammer back...It is
God——your namelessness. And the wash——
All night the water combed you with black
Insolence. You crep out simmering, accomplished.
Water rattled that stinging coil your
Rehearsed hair——docile, alas, from many arms.
Yes, Eve——wraith of my unloved seed!
The Cross, a phantom, buckled——dropped below the dawn.
Light drowned the lithic trillions of your spawn.
"National Winter Garden"
Outspoken buttocks in pink beads
Invite the necessary cloudy clinch
Of bandy eyes....No extra mufflings here:
The world's one flagrant, sweating cinch.
And while legs waken salads in the brain
You pick your blonde out neatly through the smoke.
Always you wait for someone else though, always——
(Then rush the nearest exit through the smoke).
Always and last, before the final ring
When all the fireworks blare, begins
A tom-tom scrimmage with a somewhere violing,
Some cheapest echo of them all——begins.
And shall we call her whiter than the snow?
Sprayed first with ruby, then with emerald sheen——
Least tearful and least glad (who knows her smile?)
A caught slide shows her sandstone grey between.
Her eyes exist in swivellings of her teats,
Pearls whip her hips, a drench of whirling strands.
Her silly snake rings begin to mount, surmount
Each other——turquoise fakes on tinselled hands.
We wait that writhing pool, her pearls collapsed,
——All but her belly buried in the floor;
And the lewd trounce of a final muted beat!
We flee her spasm through a fleshless door....
Yet, to the empty trapeze of your flesh,
O Magdalene, each comes back to die alone.
Then you, the burlesque of our lust——and faith,
Lug us back lifeward——bone by infant bone.
O rain at seven,
Pay-check at eleven——
Keep smiling the boss away,
Mary (what are you going to do?)
Gone seven——gone eleven,
And I'm still waiting you——
O blue-eyed Mary with the claret scarf,
Saturday Mary, mine!
It's high carillon
From the popcorn bells!
Pigeons by the million——
And Spring in Prince Street
Where green figs gleam
By oyster shells!
O Mary, leaning from the high wheat tower,
Let down your golden hair!
High in the noon of May
On cornices of daffodils
The slender violets stray.
Crap-shooting gangs in Bleecker reign,
Peonies with pony manes——
Forget-me-nots at windowpanes:
Out of the way-up nickel-dime tower shine,
Through the bound cable strands, the arching path
Upward, veering with light, the flight of strings,——
Taut miles of shuttling moonlight syncopate
The whispered rush, telepathy of wires.
Up the index of night, granite and steel——
Transparent meshes——fleckless the gleaming staves——
Sibylline voices flicker, waveringly stream
As though a god were issue of the strings....
And through that cordage, threading with its call
One arc synoptic of all tides below——
Their labyrinthine mouths of history
Pouring reply as though all ships at sea
Complighted in one vibrant breath made cry,——
"Make thy love sure——to weave twhose song we ply!"
——From black embankments, moveless soundings hailed,
So seven oceans answer from their dream.
And on, obliquely up bright carrier bars
New octaves trestle the twin monoliths
Beyond whose frosted capes the moon bequeaths
Two worlds of sleep (O arching strands of song!)——
Onward and up the crystal-flooded aisle
White tempest nets file upward, upward ring
With silver terraces the humming spars,
The loft of vision, palladium helm of stars.
Sheerly the eyes, like seagulls stung with rime——
Slit and propelled by glistening fins of light——
Pick biting way up towering looms that press
Sidelong with flight of blade on tendon blade
——Tomorrows into yesteryear——and link
What cipher-script of time no traveller reads
But who, through smoking pyres of love and death,
Searches the timeless laugh of mythic spears.
Like hails, farewells——up planet-sequined heights
Some trillion whispering hammers glimmer Tyre:
Serenely, sharply up the long anvil cry
Of inchling aeons silence rivets Troy.
And you aloft there——Jason! hesting Shout!
Still wrapping harness to the swarming air!
Silvery the rushing wake, surpassing call,
Beams yealling Aeolus! splintered in the straits!
From gulfs unfolding, terrible of drums,
Tall Vision-of-the-Voyage, tensely spare——
Bridge, lifting night to cycloramic crest
Of deepest day——O Choir, translating time
Into what multitudinous Verb the suns
And synergy of waters ever fuse, recast
In myriad syllables,——Psalm of Cathay!
O Love, thy white, pervasive Paradigm...!
We left the haven hanging in the night——
Sheened harbor lanterns backward fled the keel.
Pacific here at time's end, bearing corn,——
Eyes stammer through the pangs of dust and steel.
And still the circular, indubitable frieze
Of heaven's meditation, yoking wave
To kneeling wave, one song devoutly binds——
The vernal strophe chimes from deathless strings!
O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits
The agile precincts of the lark's return;
Within whose lariat sweep encintured sing
In single chyrsalis the many twain;——
Of stars Thou art the stitch and stallion glow
And like an organ, Thou, with sound fo doom——
Sight, sound and flesh Thou leadest from time's realm
As love strikes clear direction for the helm.
Swift peal of secular light, intrinsic Myth
Whose fell unshadow is death's utter wound,——
O River-throated——iridescently upborne
Through the bright drench and fabric of our veins;
With white escarpments swinging into light,
Sustained in tears the cities are endowed
And justified conclamant with ripe fields
Revolving through their harvests in sweet torment.
Forever Deity's glittering Pledge, O Thou
Whose canticle fresh chemistry assigns
To wrapt inception and beatitutde,——
Always through blinding cables, to our joy,
Of thy white seizure springs the prophecy:
Always through spiring cordage, pyramids
Of silver sequel, Deity's young name
Kinetic of white choiring wings...ascends.
Migrations that must need void memory,
Inventions that cobblestone the heart,——
Unspeakable Thou Bridge to Thee, O Love.
Thy pardon for this history, whitest Flower,
O Answerer of all,——Anemone,——
Now while thy petals spend the suns about us, hold——
(O Thou whose radiance doth inherit me)
Atlantis,——hold thy floating singer late!
So to thine Everpresence, beyond time,
Like spears ensanguined of one tolling star
That bleeds infinity——the orphic strings,
Sidereal phalanxes, leap and converge:
——One Song, one Bridge of Fire! Is it Cathay,
Now pity steeps the grass adn rainbows ring
The serpent with the eagle in the leaves...?
Whispers antiphonal in azure swing.
The Broken Tower (1932)
As Read by Tennessee Williams
The bell-rope that gathers God at dawn
Dispatches me as though I dropped down the knell
Of a spent day——to wander the cathedral lawn
From pit to crucifix, feet chill on steps from hell.
Have you not heard, have you not seen that corps
Of shadows in the tower, whose shoulders sway
Antiphonal carillons launched before
The stars are caught and hived in the sun's ray?
The bells, I say, the bells break down their tower;
And swing I know not where. Their tongues engrave
Membrane through marrow, my long scattered score
Of broken intervals...And I, their sexton slave!
Oval encyclicals in canyons heaping
The impasse high with choir. Banked voices slain!
Pagodas, campaniles with reveilles outleaping——
O terraced echoes prostrate on the plain!...
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
My word I poured. But was it cognate, scored
Of that tribunal monarch of the air
Whose thigh embronzes earth, strikes crystal Word
In wounds pledged once to hope,——cleft to despair?
The steep encroachments of my blood left me
No answer (could blood hold such a lofty tower
As flings the question true?)——or is it she
Whose sweet mortality stirs latent power?——
And through whose pulse I hear, counting the strokes
My veins recall and add, revived and sure
The angelus of wars my chest evokes:
WHat I hold healed, original now, and pure...
And builds, within, a tower that is not stone
(Not stone can jacket heaven)——but slip
Of pebbles,——visible wings of silence sown
In azure circles, widening as they dip
The matrix of the heart, lift down the eye
That shrines the quiet lake and swells a tower...
The commodious, tall decorum of that sky
Unseals her earth, and lifts love in its shower.