A Side Street

By Louis Untermeyer 1885–1977 Louis Untermeyer
On the warm Sunday afternoons
And every evening in the Spring and Summer
When the night hurries the late home-corner
And the air grows softer, and scraps of tunes
Float from the open windows and jar
Against the voices of children and the hum of a car;
When the city noises commingle and melt
With a restless something half-seen, half-felt—
I see them always there,
Upon the low, smooth wall before the church;
That row of little girls who sit and stare
Like sparrows on a granite perch.
They come in twittering couples or walk alone
To their gray bough of stone,
Sometimes by twos and threes, sometimes as many as five—
But always they sit there on the narrow coping
Bright-eyed and solemn, scarcely hoping
To see more than what is merely moving and alive. . .
They hear the couples pass; the lisp of happy feet
Increases and the night grows suddenly sweet. . .
Before the quiet church that smells of death
They sit.
And Life sweeps past them with a rushing breath
And reaches out and plucks them by the hand
And calls them boldly, whispering to each
In some strange speech
They tremble to but cannot understand.
It thrills and troubles them, as one by one,
The days run off like water through a sieve;
While, with a gaze as candid as the sun,
Poignant and puzzled and inquisitive,
They come and sit,—
A part of life and yet apart from it.

Source: These Times (1917)

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Poet Louis Untermeyer 1885–1977

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Louis  Untermeyer

Biography

Louis Untermeyer was the author, editor or compiler, and translator of more than one hundred books for readers of all ages. He will be best remembered as the prolific anthologist whose collections have introduced students to contemporary American poetry since 1919. The son of an established New York jeweler, Untermeyer's interest in poetry led to friendships with poets from three generations, including many of the century's . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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