By George Oppen 1908–1984 George Oppen
The householder issuing to the street
Is adrift a moment in that ice stiff   
Exterior. ‘Peninsula
Low lying in the bay
And wooded—’ Native now
Are the welder and the welder’s arc
In the subway’s iron circuits:
We have not escaped each other,
Not in the forest, not here. The crippled girl hobbles   
Painfully in the new depths   
Of the subway, and painfully   
We shift our eyes. The bare rails   
And black walls contain
Labor before her birth, her twisted
Precarious birth and the men   
Laborious, burly—She sits   
Quiet, her eyes still. Slowly,   
Deliberately she sees
An anchor’s blunt fluke sink   
Thru coins and coin machines,   
The ancient iron and the voltage
In the iron beneath us in the child’s deep
Harbors into harbor sand.

George Oppen, “Vulcan” from New Collected Poems. Copyright © 1975 by George Oppen. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: New Collected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2002)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet George Oppen 1908–1984

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

 George  Oppen


George Oppen, a prominent American poet, was one of the chief exponents of Objectivism, a school of poetry that emphasized simplicity and clarity over formal structure and rhyme. Born in 1908 to a wealth family and expelled from a high school military academy, Oppen and his wife Mary travelled across the country, finding work wherever they could, until he received a small inheritance at 21. With these funds, the couple moved to . . .

Continue reading this biography

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.