the coal yard

by Louis Ginsberg

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!

Image: Daniel Hedden via The Star-Ledger
Image: Daniel Hedden via The Star-Ledger

“The Coal Yard” is from Ginsberg’s collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics (1920).

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