July in Washington

By Robert Lowell 1917–1977 Robert Lowell
The stiff spokes of this wheel

touch the sore spots of the earth.



On the Potomac, swan-white

power launches keep breasting the sulphurous wave.



Otters slide and dive and slick back their hair,

raccoons clean their meat in the creek.



On the circles, green statues ride like South American

liberators above the breeding vegetation—



prongs and spearheads of some equatorial

backland that will inherit the globe.



The elect, the elected . . . they come here bright as dimes,

and die dishevelled and soft.



We cannot name their names, or number their dates—

circle on circle, like rings on a tree—



but we wish the river had another shore,

some further range of delectable mountains,



distant hills powdered blue as a girl’s eyelid.

It seems the least little shove would land us there,



that only the slightest repugnance of our bodies

we no longer control could drag us back.

Robert Lowell, “July in Washington” from Collected Poems. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2003)

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Poet Robert Lowell 1917–1977

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects Nature, Summer, The Body, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Cities & Urban Life

 Robert  Lowell

Biography

Robert Lowell is best known for his volume Life Studies, but his true greatness as an American poet lies in the astonishing variety of his work. In the 1940s he wrote intricate and tightly patterned poems that incorporated traditional meter and rhyme; in the late 1950s when he published Life Studies, he began to write startlingly original personal or "confessional" poetry in much looser forms and meters; in the 1960s he wrote . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Summer, The Body, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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