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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Habeas Corpus Blues

(Conrad Aiken, poet laureate, 1950-1952)


In the cathedral the acolytes are praying,
in the tavern the teamsters are drinking booze,
in his attic at dusk the poet is playing,
the poet is playing the Habeas Corpus* Blues.

The poet prefers the black keys to the white,
he weaves himself a shroud of simple harmonics;
across the street a house burns, in its light
he skeins more skillfully his bland ironics.

All down the block the windows bloom with faces,
the paired eyes glisten in the turning glare;
and the engines throb, and up a ladder races
an angel with a helmet on his hair.

He cracks the window in with a golden axe,
crawls through the smoke and disappears forever;
the roof whams in, and the whole city shakes;
the faces at the windows say ah! and never!

And then the hour. And near and far are striking
the belfry clocks; and from the harbor mourn
the tugboat whistles, much to the poet’s liking,
smoke-rings of bronze to the fevered heavens borne.

The hydrants are turned off, the hose rewound,
the dirty engines are no longer drumming;
the angel’s golden helmet has been found,
the fire is out, the insurance man is coming.

And in the cathedral the acolytes are praying,
and in the tavern the teamsters are drinking booze,
and in his attic the poet is still playing,
the poet is playing the Habeas Corpus Blues.

~ Conrad Aiken (1889-1973), American poet

* habeas corpus – the opening words, in Latin, of the writ ordering those detaining a person in custody to produce or “have the body” of the accused before a court; the purpose is to prevent wrongful imprisonment or indefinite time in prison without a trial


the old gentleman said...

Yeah, dem blues!

In a zillion forms,
fighting convivial norms.
"Have a nice day,"
or there'll be hell to pay!

Teamsters are tough,
George Foreman was rough.
I've just read his big book,
yeah, go take a look...

It's "Singin' Baby Names Blues!"

Nota Bene: George Foreman,former world heavy weight champion, named each of this three sons "George."

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.