The night was hushed and the street was dark;
Dimly came the flicker of the lone pale arc.
And dreary from the corner, a chill wind stole,
Huddling past the desolate yards of coal.
But while I peered at the yards of gloom
And saw how the heaps lay dark as doom,
I heard a crackle and I heard a roar—
And the black piled coal was seen no more!—
Suddenly I felt the night to sag,—
And Time fell away, like a worn-out rag!
I saw before me how the forests towered,
How the fronds and the ferns and the creepers flowered;
I saw the jungles of gigantic grasses;
I saw the waving of the monstrous masses;
And the looping mosses and the crowding spores!—
I watched how the greenery leaps and pours
Down from the branches in a rich green blaze,
Flooding on the tangle of the riotous maze!
But more than this, I could feel the heat
Soak on the forest and simmer and beat!
I spied dim swamps and I spied wide lakes,
Where hissed and threaded the huge red snakes;
I saw the lizard and Okapi lunge;
And the rearing Brontosaurus thrash and plunge!
But while they were battling in the bellowing din,
I heard a peal and a crash begin:
Earthquakes weltered and convulsions tore—
I heard Chaos dance—I heard Chaos roar—
The deafening jungles were hurled down deep—
Earth closed over. . . . Then in one swift sweep,
Burying forest and beast and tree,
Years came flooding like a wild white sea!
Again I stood in the hush of night
Underneath the flicker of the lone pale light;
And I gazed at jungles and their fronds and ferns—
Jungles of foliage in a heat that burns—
Jungles with sunlight and beasts,—the whole
Huddled and crowded into pieces of coal!
“The Coal Yard” is from Ginsberg’s collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics (1920).