Penumbra

By Amy Lowell 1874–1925 Amy Lowell
As I sit here in the quiet Summer night,
Suddenly, from the distant road, there comes
The grind and rush of an electric car.
And, from still farther off,
An engine puffs sharply,
Followed by the drawn-out shunting scrape of a freight train.   
These are the sounds that men make
In the long business of living.
They will always make such sounds,
Years after I am dead and cannot hear them.

Sitting here in the Summer night,
I think of my death.
What will it be like for you then?
You will see my chair
With its bright chintz covering
Standing in the afternoon sunshine,
As now.
You will see my narrow table
At which I have written so many hours.
My dogs will push their noses into your hand,   
And ask—ask—
Clinging to you with puzzled eyes.

The old house will still be here,
The old house which has known me since the beginning.   
The walls which have watched me while I played:   
Soldiers, marbles, paper-dolls,
Which have protected me and my books.
The front-door will gaze down among the old trees   
Where, as a child, I hunted ghosts and Indians;   
It will look out on the wide gravel sweep
Where I rolled my hoop,
And at the rhododendron bushes
Where I caught black-spotted butterflies.

The old house will guard you,
As I have done.
Its walls and rooms will hold you,
And I shall whisper my thoughts and fancies   
As always,
From the pages of my books.

You will sit here, some quiet Summer night,   
Listening to the puffing trains,
But you will not be lonely,
For these things are a part of me.
And my love will go on speaking to you
Through the chairs, and the tables, and the pictures,   
As it does now through my voice,
And the quick, necessary touch of my hand.

Amy Lowell, “Penumbra” from The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © renewed 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Brinton P. Roberts, and G. D'Andelot, Esquire. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Selected Poems of Amy Lowell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002)

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Poet Amy Lowell 1874–1925

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Imagist

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Growing Old, Summer, Death, Living, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Amy  Lowell

Biography

An oft-quoted remark attributed to poet Amy Lowell applies to both her determined personality and her sense of humor: "God made me a business woman," Lowell is reported to have quipped, "and I made myself a poet." During a career that spanned just over a dozen years, she wrote and published over 650 poems, yet scholars cite Lowell's tireless efforts to awaken American readers to contemporary trends in poetry as her more . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Growing Old, Summer, Death, Living, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Imagist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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