The Last Slow Days of Summer

Phillip Lopate

 
"BE YOUR OWN MASTER!" says the Vedanta Society sign.
Why not?…In the park
Some clouds roll over me like Greenland on a map.
If I wanted to I could imagine I was flying over
The Greenland coast and gazing down at the white fjords.
Instead I'm lying on the grass, listening to city sounds.
They come to me in three-dimensional form,
Like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Baby carriages squeak
Near the middle. Cars humming through Central Park,
Somewhere near the back of the loaf.
What sound would be the end-piece, the round brown sliver?
The unzipping of airline bags.
Or a glove thwacked
By a rookie pitcher who falls apart
In the eighth inning. The manager takes the ball silently,
Like a man who has eaten a full loaf of bread
And has a stomach pain. Don't glamorize silence.
There is nothing profound about quiet, it is usually
Only the universe holding its stomach.
Delmore Schwartz must have been a great talker.
They say he put most of his talent into his life
But I don't know, I think his prose is pretty great;
He made a better storywriter than a poet.
I could write a thousand-page biography
Propounding that stance, and interview all the old rummy
Critics who are powerful now;
They would let their hair down about Delmore,
And the final crackup.
The reason I'm thinking of Delmore Schwartz is that
He wrote a poem about city parks. And it wasn't that successful,
It went on for about twelve pages, but I admired him
For writing a poem with so little point,
And so much prosy description. I think he was trying to
Eulogize normal middle-class happiness on a Sunday afternoon,
And how he felt out of it. But that wouldn't have
Taken twelve pages…He was probably being ironic
About the people's happiness, and secretly thought
They weren't happy. He wrote it about the same time
Robert Moses was carving out his parks empire
By forcing the Long Island millionaires to give up their privacy
So that the middle class could get to the beach.
Of course it was also supposed to benefit
The poor slum-dwellers, but how many of them
Ever made it to Sunken Meadows?
Or Jones Beach?
What's strange about parks—innocent greenery—
Is that no one ever suspected them to ruin New York.
Yet what finally gutted the city were the parkways
Moses built, slashed through all five boroughs
Quiet lower-middle-class neighborhoods bulldozed
For cars to get to the picnic grounds faster,
Or the Hamptons—
A life of paperwork capped by a summer home.
But I can't blame them: I'd like a summer home myself!
I don't really believe New York is dying, no more than
The universe is dying. I have no stake in seeing
This poem end pessimistically.
I'd like to leave people with a good feeling.
Robert Moses, Delmore Schwartz.
Two ambitious Jews, like myself.
They tried to be their own masters…
It's hard to imagine New York going under
On a slow summer day like today
Without even a loud noise to mark it
Like the Empire State Building keeling over
And everyone running to the scene of default.
The helicopters will be standing by,
Ready to take us to Greenland.
A special airlift for poetic men of letters,
A jumbo Boeing crammed to the teeth,
And you can't get in if your name isn't
Listed in Poets and Writers Directory.
"So long, New York School of Poets!"
I'll stay behind, tending the weeds
And sleeping in deserted Central Park.
Soon I'll be hearing about the Godthaab School:
Their seemingly infinite talent for "chatty brilliance,"
Buddhism, and marathon readings.
I'll shake my head and sigh: What are
Anne and Michael doing now?
How was this year's big Halloween party,
Or do they even celebrate Halloween in Greenland?
Maybe they're into solstice holidays, like Midsummer Night.
 
"The Last Slow Days of Summer" from At the End of the Day: Selected Poems and an Introductory Essay, copyright © 2009 by Phillip Lopate. Used by permission of Marsh Hawk Press.

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In 200 years they won't remember me, Salvador
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A friend called up saying he was in a pre-suicidal mood
Numbness by Phillip Lopate
I have not felt a thing for weeks
Snowball Journal by Phillip Lopate
Our room, says the lady of the house
The Ecstasy by Phillip Lopate
You are not me, and I am never you
We Who Are Your Closest Friends by Phillip Lopate
we who are


Further Reading

Poems for Summer
Tempest, Act V, Scene I [Where the bee sucks, there suck I]
by William Shakespeare
A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky
by Lewis Carroll
A Boy and His Dad
by Edgar Guest
A Green Crab's Shell
by Mark Doty
A Lesson for This Sunday
by Derek Walcott
A Path Between Houses
by Greg Rappleye
After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard
by Charles Wright
Aftermath
by Tony Connor
Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child
by Darcy Cummings
Anastasia & Sandman
by Larry Levis
And You Thought You Were the Only One
by Mark Bibbins
Arms
by Richard Tayson
August
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Back Yard
by Carl Sandburg
Bed in Summer
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Daffy Duck In Hollywood
by John Ashbery
Fall Parties
by Becca Klaver
Fat Southern Men in Summer Suits
by Liam Rector
Fishing on the Susquehanna in July
by Billy Collins
For Once, Then, Something
by Robert Frost
Ground Swell
by Mark Jarman
I know I am but summer to your heart (Sonnet XXVII)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I see the boys of summer
by Dylan Thomas
I, Up they soar
by Inger Christensen
Idyll
by Siegfried Sassoon
If You Get There Before I Do
by Dick Allen
In Summer
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
In Summer Time
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
In the Mountains on a Summer Day
by Li Po
Jack
by Maxine Kumin
Jet
by Tony Hoagland
June Light
by Richard Wilbur
Let Birds
by Linda Gregg
Long Island Sound
by Emma Lazarus
Making the Bed
by Burt Kimmelman
Midsummer
by William Cullen Bryant
Mint
by Elaine Terranova
Miracles
by Walt Whitman
Muffin of Sunsets
by Elaine Equi
My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer
by Mark Strand
On 52nd Street
by Philip Levine
On Summer
by George Moses Horton
On the Grasshopper and the Cricket
by John Keats
Poem at Thirty
by Michael Ryan
Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets
by David Young
Psychoanalysis: An Elegy
by Jack Spicer
Rhode Island
by William Meredith
Sally's Hair
by John Koethe
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnet 18)
by William Shakespeare
Solstice
by Ellen Dudley
Sonnet 7 [The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings]
by Petrarch
South
by Jack Gilbert
Summer
by Amy Lowell
Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina
by Jack Gilbert
Summer Holiday
by Robinson Jeffers
Summer Images
by John Clare
Summer in the South
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Summer Night, Riverside
by Sara Teasdale
Summer Nights and Days
by Rachel Hadas
Summer Past
by John Gray
Summer Song
by William Carlos Williams
Summer Stars
by Carl Sandburg
Summer X-Rays
by Nina Cassian
Swimming in the Presence of Lurid Opposition
by Sawako Nakayasu
The Abduction
by Stanley Kunitz
The Family Photograph
by Vona Groarke
The Fishermen at Guasti Park
by Maurya Simon
The Fly
by William Blake
The Idea of Order at Key West
by Wallace Stevens
The Magpie's Shadow
by Yvor Winters
The Philosopher in Florida
by C. Dale Young
The Summer House
by Tony Connor
The White Room
by Charles Simic
They'll spend the summer
by Joshua Beckman
This Lime Tree Bower My Prison
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Three Songs at the End of Summer
by Jane Kenyon
Vacation
by Rita Dove
Vertumnal [excerpt]
by Stephen Yenser
Vespers
by Louise Glück
Warm Summer Sun
by Mark Twain
Wildflower
by Stanley Plumly
Related Authors
Delmore Schwartz