Closed as I was
day after day
into that city, with
its iron, ocean, air,
composed of a single, perfect,
shade of grey
I never believed there were others,
their eyes half-shut,
a harsh, determined line to their mouth,
and their hats with falling brims
in the direct light
of the far south
writing down names and names:

the secrets of the lily,
the life of the amaryllis,
a single eyelid scarred
with a million years opening,
closing, opening on
the one dying lizard—
(naming the earth
seemed to me then
only a gateway to death.)

The beautiful city died,
was made extinct,
a city with huge wings,
a city with rare habits,
what good did it do to name it?

I let the question rise and grow into rays
of weak Irish sunlight,
the start of another day
on a paved Dublin street
and praise the engraver’s art—
the gloomy studio,
aquatinta, mezzotinto, dry point, steel point,
the wax where it lies
on a copper surface, the burnisher beside it—
the acid-smelling rooms
where nothing ever dies.