John Haines

J
John Haines
On the Mountain
We climbed out of timber,
bending on the steep meadow
to look for berries,
then still in the reddening sunlight
went on up the windy shoulder.

A shadow followed us up the mountain
like a black moon rising.
Minute by minute the autumn lamps
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Young Man
I seemed always standing
before a door
to which I had no key,
although I knew it hid behind it
a gift for me.

Until one day I closed
my eyes a moment, stretched
then looked once more.
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The Dream of February
I
In the moonlight,
in the heavy snow,
I was hunting along
the sunken road
and heard behind me
the quiet step
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Fourth of July at Santa Ynez
I
Under the makeshift arbor of leaves
a hot wind blowing smoke and laughter.
Music out of the renegade west,
too harsh and loud, many dark faces
moved among the sweating whites.

II
Wandering apart from the others,
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The Girl Who Buried Snakes in a Jar
She came to see the bones
whiten in a summer,
and one year later a narrow
mummy with a dusty skin
and flaking scales
would break apart in her hand.

She wanted to see if sunlight
still glinted in those eyes,
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Ice Child
Cold for so long, unable to speak,
yet your mouth seems framed
on a cry, or a stifled question.

Who placed you here, and left you
to this lonely eternity of ash and ice,
and himself returned to the dust
fields, the church and the temple?

Was it God—the sun-god of the Incas,
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In the House of Wax
I

Far-sighted into yesterday
they stand, gripping
their charters and speeches,
the presidents and kings,
masters of unconscious evil.

Their deputies are here —
judges, robed executioners,
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The Snowbound City
I believe in this stalled magnificence,
this churning chaos of traffic,
a beast with broken spine,
its hoarse voice hooded in feathers
and mist; the baffled eyes
wink amber and slowly darken.

Of men and women suddenly walking,
stumbling with little sleighs
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The Sweater of Vladimir Ussachevsky
Facing the wind of the avenues
one spring evening in New York,
I wore under my thin jacket
a sweater given me by the wife
of a genial Manchurian.

The warmth in that sweater changed
the indifferent city block by block.
The buildings were mountains
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