The Ice Wagon

I'd like to split the sky that roofs us down,
Break through the crystal lid of upper air,
And tap the cool still reservoirs of heaven.
I'd empty all those unseen lakes of freshness
Down some vast funnel, through our stifled streets.

I'd like to pump away the grit, the dust,
Raw dazzle of the sun on garbage piles,
The droning troops of flies, sharp bitter smells,
And gush that bright sweet flood of unused air
Down every alley where the children gasp.

And then I'd take a fleet of ice wagons —
Big yellow creaking carts, drawn by wet horses, —
And drive them rumbling through the blazing slums.
In every wagon would be blocks of coldness,
Pale, gleaming cubes of ice, all green and silver,
With inner veins and patterns, white and frosty;
Great lumps of chill would drip and steam and shimmer,
And spark like rainbows in their little fractures.

And where my wagons stood there would be puddles,
A wetness and a sparkle and a coolness.
My friends and I would chop and splinter open
The blocks of ice. Bare feet would soon come pattering,
And some would wrap it up in Sunday papers,
And some would stagger home with it in baskets,
And some would be too gay for aught but sucking,
Licking, crunching those fast melting pebbles,
Gulping as they slipped down unexpected —
Laughing to perceive that secret numbness
Amid their small hot persons!

At every stop would be at least one urchin
Would take a piece to cool the sweating horses
And hold it up against their silky noses —
And they would start, and then decide they liked it.

Down all the sun-cursed byways of the town
Our wagons would be trailed by grimy tots,
Their ragged shirts half off them with excitement!
Dabbling toes and fingers in our leakage,
A lucky few up sitting with the driver,
All clambering and stretching grey-pink palms.

And by the time the wagons were all empty
Our arms and shoulders would be lame with chopping,
Our backs and thighs pain-shot, our fingers frozen.
But how we would recall those eager faces,
Red thirsty tongues with ice-chips sliding on them,
The pinched white cheeks, and their pathetic gladness.
Then we would know that arms were made for aching —

I wish to God that I could go to-morrow!
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.