Robert Lowell

The Public Garden

Burnished, burned-out, still burning as the year 
you lead me to our stamping ground. 
The city and its cruising cars surround 
the Public Garden. All’s alive— 
the children crowding home from school at five, 
punting a football in the bricky air, 
the sailors and their pick-ups under trees 
with Latin labels. And the jaded flock 
of swanboats paddles to its dock. 
The park is drying. 
Dead leaves thicken to a ball 
inside the basin of a fountain, where 
the heads of four stone lions stare 
and suck on empty faucets. Night 
deepens. From the arched bridge, we see 
the shedding park-bound mallards, how they keep 
circling and diving in the lantern light, 
searching for something hidden in the muck. 
And now the moon, earth's friend, that cared so much 
for us, and cared so little, comes again— 
always a stranger! As we walk, 
it lies like chalk 
over the waters. Everything’s aground. 
Remember summer? Bubbles filled 
the fountain, and we splashed. We drowned 
in Eden, while Jehovah’s grass-green lyre 
was rustling all about us in the leaves 
that gurgled by us, turning upside down. . . 
The fountain’s failing waters flash around 
the garden. Nothing catches fire.