The steeplejack by Marianne Moore

#iNeedFeminismBecause #intersectionality #smalltown #endpoverty #environment #climatechange

Dürer would have seen a reason for living
   in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
 to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
 on a fine day, from water etched
   with waves as formal as the scales
 on a fish.

 One by one in two's and three's, the seagulls keep
   flying back and forth over the town clock,
 or sailing around the lighthouse without moving their wings --
 rising steadily with a slight
   quiver of the body -- or flock
 mewing where

 a sea the purple of the peacock's neck is
   paled to greenish azure as Dürer changed
 the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea
 gray. You can see a twenty-five-
   pound lobster; and fish nets arranged
 to dry. The

 whirlwind fife-and-drum of the storm bends the salt
   marsh grass, disturbs stars in the sky and the
 star on the steeple; it is a privilege to see so
 much confusion. Disguised by what
   might seem the opposite, the sea-
 side flowers and

 trees are favored by the fog so that you have
   the tropics first hand: the trumpet-vine,
 fox-glove, giant snap-dragon, a salpiglossis that has
 spots and stripes; morning-glories, gourds,
   or moon-vines trained on fishing-twine
 at the back door;

 cat-tails, flags, blueberries and spiderwort,
   striped grass, lichens, sunflowers, asters, daisies --
 yellow and crab-claw ragged sailors with green bracts -- toad-plant,
 petunias, ferns; pink lilies, blue
   ones, tigers; poppies; black sweet-peas.
 The climate

 is not right for the banyan, frangipani, or
   jack-fruit trees; or for exotic serpent
 life. Ring lizard and snake-skin for the foot, if you see fit;
 but here they've cats, not cobras, to
   keep down the rats. The diffident
 little newt

 with white pin-dots on black horizontal spaced-
   out bands lives here; yet there is nothing that
 ambition can buy or take away. The college student
 named Ambrose sits on the hillside
   with his not-native books and hat
 and sees boats

 at sea progress white and rigid as if in
   a groove. Liking an elegance of which
 the sourch is not bravado, he knows by heart the antique
 sugar-bowl shaped summer-house of
   interlacing slats, and the pitch
 of the church

 spire, not true, from which a man in scarlet lets
   down a rope as a spider spins a thread;
 he might be part of a novel, but on the sidewalk a
 sign says C. J. Poole, Steeple Jack,
   in black and white; and one in red
 and white says

 Danger. The church portico has four fluted
   columns, each a single piece of stone, made
 modester by white-wash. This would be a fit haven for
 waifs, children, animals, prisoners,
   and presidents who have repaid
 sin-driven

 senators by not thinking about them. The
   place has a school-house, a post-office in a
 store, fish-houses, hen-houses, a three-masted schooner on
 the stocks. The hero, the student,
   the steeple-jack, each in his way,
 is at home.

 It could not be dangerous to be living
   in a town like this, of simple people,
 who have a steeple-jack placing danger signs by the church
 while he is gilding the solid-
   pointed star, which on a steeple
 stands for hope.

Buy the Faber Book of 20th Century Women’s Poetry, ed. Fleur Adcock, from an indie bookseller here.
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