All Afternoon

By Charles Tomlinson 1927–2015 Charles Tomlinson
All afternoon the shadows have been building
A city of their own within the streets,
Carefully correcting the perspectives
With dark diagonals, and paring back
Sidewalks into catwalks, strips of bright
Companionways, as if it were a ship
This counter-city. But the leaning, black
Enjambements like ladders for assault
Scale the façade and tie them to the earth,
Confounding fire-escapes already meshed
In slatted ambiguities. You touch
The sliding shapes to find which place is which
And grime a finger with the ash of time
That blows through both, the shadow in the shade
And in the light, that scours each thoroughfare
To pit the walls, rise out of yard and stairwell
And tarnish the Chrysler’s Aztec pinnacle.

Charles Tomlinson, “All Afternoon” from Selected Poems 1955-1997. Copyright © 1997 by Charles Tomlinson. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Selected Poems: 1955-1997 (1997)

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Poet Charles Tomlinson 1927–2015


Subjects Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Blank Verse


Poet, artist, and translator Charles Tomlinson was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in 1927. Fluent in German, French, and Italian, he read English at Queen’s College Cambridge, studying with poet Donald Davie, who was an early influence and later became a close friend. Tomlinson taught elementary school before joining the University of Bristol, where he taught for 36 years. His collections of poetry include Relations and . . .

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SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life


Poetic Terms Blank Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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