In a Bad Time

How mad would he have to be to say, “He beheld
An order and thereafter he belonged
To it”? He beheld the order of the northern sky.

But the beggar gazes on calamity
And thereafter he belongs to it, to bread
Hard found, and water tasting of misery.

For him cold’s glacial beauty is his fate.
Without understanding, he belongs to it
And the night, and midnight, and after, where it is.

What has he? What he has he has. But what?
It is not a question of captious repartee.
What has he that becomes his heart’s strong core?

He has his poverty and nothing more.
His poverty becomes his heart’s strong core—
A forgetfulness of summer at the pole.

Sordid Melpomene,why strut bare boards,
Without scenery or lights, in the theatre’s bricks,
Dressed high in heliotrope’s inconstant hue,

The muse of misery? Speak loftier lines.
Cry out, “I am the purple muse.” Make sure
The audience beholds you, not your gown.