More Robert Lowell, by popular request

The old South Boston Aquarium stands

in a Sahara of snow now.

Its broken windows are boarded.

The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.

The airy tanks are dry.

Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;

my hand tingled

to burst the bubbles

drifting from the noses of the cowed, compliant fish.

My hand draws back.

I often sigh still for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom

of the fish and reptile.

The Old South Boston Aquarium:

A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders

braces the tingling Statehouse,

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw

and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry

on St. Gaudens’ shaking Civil War relief,

propped by a plank splint against the garage’s earthquake.

Two months after marching through Boston,

half the regiment was dead; at the dedication,

William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.

Their monument sticks like a fishbone

in the city’s throat.

Its Colonel is as lean as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,

a greyhound’s gentle tautness;

he seems to wince at pleasure,

and suffocate for privacy.



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