Sunday, April 12, 2015

Away from Town / Harry Kemp

Away from Town

High-perched upon a boxcar, I speed, I speed, to-day:
I leave the gaunt gray city some good green miles away,
A terrible dream in granite, a riot of streets and brick,
A frantic nightmare of people until the soul grows sick —
Such is the high gray city with the live green waters round
Oozing up from the ocean, slipping in from the Sound.
I'd put up down in the Bowery for nights in a ten-cent bed
Where the dinky "L" trains thunder and rattle overhead;
I'd traipsed the barren pavements with the pain of frost in my feet;
I'd sidled to hotel kitchens and asked for something to eat.

But when the snow went dripping and the young spring came as one
Who weeps because of the winter, laughs because of the sun,
I thought of a limpid brooklet that bickers thro' reeds all day,
And made a streak for the ferry, and rode across in a dray,
And, dodging into the Erie where they bunt the boxcars round,
I peeled my eye for detectives, and boarded an outward bound.
For you know when a man's been cabined in walls for part of the year,
He longs for a place to stretch in, he hankers for country cheer.

Harry Kemp (1883-1960)
from The Cry of Youth, 1914

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

Harry Kemp biography

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