Study in Whites
Floor, ceiling, walls.
Over the pavement
Polished to cream surfaces
By constant sweeping.
The big room is coloured like the petals
Of a great magnolia,
And has a patina
Of flower bloom
Which makes it shine dimly
Under the electric lamps.
Chairs are ranged in rows
Like sepia seeds
The chalk-white spot of a cook's cap
Moves unglossily against the vaguely bright wall --
Dull chalk-white striking the retina like a blow
Through the wavering uncertainty of steam.
Vitreous-white of glasses with green reflections,
Ice-green carboys, shifting -- greener, bluer -- with the jar of moving water.
Jagged green-white bowls of pressed glass
Rearing snow-peaks of chipped sugar
Above the lighthouse-shaped castors
Of grey pepper and grey-white salt.
Grey-white placards: "Oyster Stew, Cornbeef Hash, Frankfurters":
Marble slabs veined with words in meandering lines.
Dropping on the white counter like horn notes
Through a web of violins,
The flat yellow lights of oranges,
The cube-red splashes of apples,
In high plated `epergnes'.
The electric clock jerks every half-minute:
"Coming! -- Past!"
"Three beef-steaks and a chicken-pie,"
Bawled through a slide while the clock jerks heavily.
A man carries a china mug of coffee to a distant chair.
Two rice puddings and a salmon salad
Are pushed over the counter;
The unfulfilled chairs open to receive them.
A spoon falls upon the floor with the impact of metal striking stone,
And the sound throws across the room
Sharp, invisible zigzags
This poem is in the public domain.
Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925) was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, to a family of significant wealth and social standing. In keeping with the standards of the time, she received little formal education and was, in fact, a notoriously poor speller, but she was an avid and discriminating collector of books, traveled extensively, and educated herself in many areas. Amy began writing and publishing when she was in her mid-twenties and, at one point, was publishing a book a year. A large, imposing woman fond of smoking cigars, Amy was a good promoter and a vocal advocate of poetry; that plus her reputation for eccentricity brought sell-out crowds to her readings and lectures.
How magically observant Amy Lowell's poem is! I fell as if I am in a chair living this ordinary moment of Grand Central of many years past. How did such a delicate picture pass into the past so quickly?
Posted 12/11/2011 03:56 PM