Figures of New York
By Thomas Merton
New Directions: Norfolk, Connecticut, 1947
VI: In the Ruins of New York
Oh how quiet it is after the black night
When flames out of the clouds burned down your cariated teeth,
And when those lightnings,
Lancing the black boils of Harlem and the Bronx,
Spilled the remaining prisoners,
(The ten and twenties of the living)
Into the trees of Jersey,
To the green farms, to find their liberty.
How are they down, how have they fallen down
Those great strong towers of ice and steel.
And melted by what terror and what miracle?
What fires and lights tore down,
With the white anger of their sudden accusation,
Those towers of silver and of steel?
…The ashes of the leveled towers still curl with tufts of smoke
Veiling your obsequies in their incinerating haze
They write, in embers, this your epitaph:
”This was a city
That dressed herself in paper money.
She lived four hundred years
With nickels running in her veins.
She loved the waters of the seven purple seas,
And burned on her own green harbor
Higher and whiter than ever any Tyre.
She was as callous as a taxi;
Her high-heeled eyes were sometimes blue as gin,
And she nailed them, all the days of her life,
Through the hearts of her six million poor.
Now she has died in the terrors of a sudden contemplation
Drowned in the waters of her own, her poisoned well.”