Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Steeple-Jack

Duerer 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, in three's, the seagulls keep flying back and forth over the town clock,
or sailing around the lighthouse without moving the 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 Duerer changed
the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea
grey. 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.

A steeple-jack in red, has let a rope down 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

senators by not thinking about them. One sees 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.

-Marianne Moore