William Carlos Williams

Overture to a Dance of Locomotives

Men with picked voices chant the names 
of cities in a huge gallery: promises 
that pull through descending stairways 
to a deep rumbling.
                                  The rubbing feet 
of those coming to be carried quicken a 
grey pavement into soft light that rocks 
to and fro, under the domed ceiling, 
across and across from pale 
earthcolored walls of bare limestone. 

Covertly the hands of a great clock 
go round and round! Were they to 
move quickly and at once the whole 
secret would be out and the shuffling 
of all ants be done forever. 

A leaning pyramid of sunlight, narrowing 
out at a high window, moves by the clock: 
disaccordant hands straining out from 
a center: inevitable postures infinitely 
Porters in red hats run on narrow platforms. 
This way ma'am!
                            --important not to take 
the wrong train! 
Lights from the concrete 
ceiling hang crooked but--
                                           Poised horizontal 
on glittering parallels the dingy cylinders 
packed with a warm glow--inviting entry-- 
pull against the hour. But brakes can 
hold a fixed posture till--
                                         The whistle! 
Not twoeight. Not twofour. Two! 

Gliding windows. Colored cooks sweating 
in a small kitchen. Taillights-- 

In time: twofour! 
In time: twoeight! 

--rivers are tunneled: trestles 
cross oozy swampland: wheels repeating 
the same gesture remain relatively 
stationary: rails forever parallel 
return on themselves infinitely. 
The dance is sure. 

spoken = Leon Branton