To Make Anything of Anything

jarrell
Randall Jarrell (1914 – 1965)

Randall Jarrell

by Robert Lowell (1917 – 1977)

The dream went like a rake of sliced bamboo,
slats of dust distracted by a downdraw;
I woke and knew I held a cigarette;
I looked, there was none, could have been none;
I slept off years before I woke again,
palming the floor, shaking the sheets. I saw
nothing was burning. I awoke, I saw
I was holding two lighted cigarettes. . . .
They come this path, old friends, old buffs of death.
Tonight it’s Randall, his spark still fire though humble,
his gnawed wrist cradled like Kitten. “What kept you so long,
racing the cooling grindstone of your ambition?
You didn’t write, you rewrote…. But tell me,
Cal, why did we live? Why do we die?”

 


 

Aging

by Randall Jarrell

I wake, but before I know it it is done,
The day, I sleep. . . . And of days like these the years,
A life are made.  I nod, consenting to my life,
-But who can live in these quick-passing hours?
I need to find again, to make a life,
A child’s Sunday afternoon, the Pleasure Drive,
Where everything went by but time – the Study Hour
Spent at a desk with folded hands, in waiting.
In those I could make.  Did I not make in them
Myself? the Grown One whose time shortens,
Breath quickens, heart beats faster, till at last
It catches, skips?  Yet those hours that seemed, were endless
Were still not long enough to have remade
My childish heart: the heart that must have, always,
To make anything of anything, not time,
Not time but –
    .  but alas! eternity.

 

 

A Country Welcomer Than This

St. Paul Capitol Building
St. Paul Capitol Building 4th of July Fireworks

Refugees

by Randall Jarrell

In the shabby train no seat is vacant.
The child in the ripped mask
Sprawls undisturbed in the waste
Of the smashed compartment. Is their calm extravagant?
They had faces and lives like you. What was it they possessed
That they were willing to trade for this?
The dried blood sparkles along the mask
Of the child who yesterday possessed
A country welcomer than this.
Did he? All night into the waste
The train moves silently. The faces are vacant.
Have none of them found the cost extravagant?
How could they? They gave what they possessed.
Here all the purses are vacant.
And what else could satisfy the extravagant
Tears and wish of the child but this?
Impose its canceling terrible mask
On the days and faces and lives they waste?
What else are their lives but a journey to the vacant
Satisfaction of death? And the mask
They wear tonight through their waste
Is death’s rehearsal. Is it really extravagant
To read in their faces: What is there we possessed
That we were unwilling to trade for this?