I could not pity your pain but I pitied the branches
Losing what little the frost had left them to hold.
I could not warm you with sorrow; I turned to the sparrows,
Clustered like heavy brown blossoms puffed out by the cold.
They could not help me. I looked at my hands; they were helpless;
Strange and detached, less related to me than the birds.
Baffled, I called on the mind: it carried me, floundering,
Lost among meaningless phrases, tossed in a welter of words.
Too great for my blundering comfort, your anguish confused me.
From a great distance, I saw you standing alone.
Frozen and stark, in a black iron circle of silence,
I could not pity your pain; I could scarcely pity my own.
Louis Untermeyer, “Inhibited” from Roast Leviathan (New York: Harcourt, 1923). Permission is granted by arrangement with the Estate of Louis Untermeyer, Norma Anchin Untermeyer c/o Professional Publishing Services. The reprint is granted with the expressed permission by Laurence S. Untermeyer.
Source: Roast Leviathan
Poems by Louis Untermeyer