Amy Lowell

The Bombardment

Slowly, without force, the rain drops into the 
city.  It stops a moment
on the carved head of Saint John, then slides on again, slipping 
and trickling
over his stone cloak.  It splashes from the lead conduit 
of a gargoyle,
and falls from it in turmoil on the stones in the Cathedral square.
Where are the people, and why does the fretted steeple sweep about 
in the sky?
Boom!  The sound swings against the rain.  Boom, 
again!  After it, only water
rushing in the gutters, and the turmoil from the spout of the gargoyle.
Silence.  Ripples and mutters.  Boom!

The room is damp, but warm.  Little flashes swarm about 
from the firelight.
The lustres of the chandelier are bright, and clusters of rubies
leap in the bohemian glasses on the `etagere’.  Her hands 
are restless,
but the white masses of her hair are quite still.  Boom!  Will 
it never cease
to torture, this iteration!  Boom!  The vibration 
shatters a glass
on the `etagere’.  It lies there, formless and glowing,
with all its crimson gleams shot out of pattern, spilled, flowing 
blood-red.  A thin bell-note pricks through the silence.  A 
door creaks.
The old lady speaks:  ”Victor, clear away that broken 
glass.”  ”Alas!
Madame, the bohemian glass!”  ”Yes, Victor, one hundred 
years ago
my father brought it --”  Boom!  The room shakes, 
the servitor quakes.
Another goblet shivers and breaks.  Boom!

It rustles at the window-pane, the smooth, streaming rain, and he 
is shut
within its clash and murmur.  Inside is his candle, his 
table, his ink,
his pen, and his dreams.  He is thinking, and the walls 
are pierced with
beams of sunshine, slipping through young green.  A fountain 
tosses itself
up at the blue sky, and through the spattered water in the basin 
he can see
copper carp, lazily floating among cold leaves.  A wind-harp 
in a cedar-tree
grieves and whispers, and words blow into his brain, bubbled, iridescent,
shooting up like flowers of fire, higher and higher.  Boom!
The flame-flowers snap on their slender stems.  The fountain 
rears up
in long broken spears of dishevelled water and flattens into the 
earth.  Boom!
And there is only the room, the table, the candle, and the sliding 
Again, Boom! -- Boom! -- Boom!  He stuffs his fingers 
into his ears.
He sees corpses, and cries out in fright.  Boom!  It 
is night,
and they are shelling the city!  Boom!  Boom!

A child wakes and is afraid, and weeps in the darkness.  What 
has made
the bed shake?  ”Mother, where are you?  I am 
awake.”  ”Hush, my Darling,
I am here.”  ”But, Mother, something so queer happened, 
the room shook.”
Boom!  ”Oh!  What is it?  What is 
the matter?”  Boom!  ”Where is Father?
I am so afraid.”  Boom!  The child sobs and 
shrieks.  The house
trembles and creaks.  Boom!

Retorts, globes, tubes, and phials lie shattered.  All 
his trials
oozing across the floor.  The life that was his choosing, 
lonely, urgent,
goaded by a hope, all gone.  A weary man in a ruined laboratory,
that is his story.  Boom!  Gloom and ignorance, 
and the jig of drunken brutes.
Diseases like snakes crawling over the earth, leaving trails of 
Wails from people burying their dead.  Through the window, 
he can see
the rocking steeple.  A ball of fire falls on the lead 
of the roof,
and the sky tears apart on a spike of flame.  Up the spire,
behind the lacings of stone, zigzagging in and out of the carved 
squirms the fire.  It spouts like yellow wheat from the 
gargoyles, coils round
the head of Saint John, and aureoles him in light.  It 
leaps into the night
and hisses against the rain.  The Cathedral is a burning 
stain on the white,
wet night.

Boom!  The Cathedral is a torch, and the houses next to 
it begin to scorch.
Boom!  The bohemian glass on the `etagere’ is no longer 
Boom!  A stalk of flame sways against the red damask curtains.
The old lady cannot walk.  She watches the creeping stalk 
and counts.
Boom! -- Boom! -- Boom!

The poet rushes into the street, and the rain wraps him in a sheet 
of silver.
But it is threaded with gold and powdered with scarlet beads.  The 
city burns.
Quivering, spearing, thrusting, lapping, streaming, run the flames.
Over roofs, and walls, and shops, and stalls.  Smearing 
its gold on the sky,
the fire dances, lances itself through the doors, and lisps and 
along the floors.

The child wakes again and screams at the yellow petalled flower
flickering at the window.  The little red lips of flame 
creep along
the ceiling beams.

The old man sits among his broken experiments and looks at
the burning Cathedral.  Now the streets are swarming with 
They seek shelter and crowd into the cellars.  They shout 
and call,
and over all, slowly and without force, the rain drops into the 
Boom!  And the steeple crashes down among the people.  Boom!  Boom, 
The water rushes along the gutters.  The fire roars and 
mutters.  Boom!

English Poetry - E-mail