The Man on the Dump

Day creeps down. The moon is creeping up.
The sun is a corbeil of flowers the moon Blanche   
Places there, a bouquet. Ho-ho ... The dump is full   
Of images. Days pass like papers from a press.   
The bouquets come here in the papers. So the sun,   
And so the moon, both come, and the janitor’s poems   
Of every day, the wrapper on the can of pears,   
The cat in the paper-bag, the corset, the box
From Esthonia: the tiger chest, for tea.

The freshness of night has been fresh a long time.
The freshness of morning, the blowing of day, one says   
That it puffs as Cornelius Nepos reads, it puffs   
More than, less than or it puffs like this or that.   
The green smacks in the eye, the dew in the green   
Smacks like fresh water in a can, like the sea
On a cocoanut—how many men have copied dew   
For buttons, how many women have covered themselves
With dew, dew dresses, stones and chains of dew, heads   
Of the floweriest flowers dewed with the dewiest dew.   
One grows to hate these things except on the dump.

Now, in the time of spring (azaleas, trilliums,   
Myrtle, viburnums, daffodils, blue phlox),   
Between that disgust and this, between the things   
That are on the dump (azaleas and so on)   
And those that will be (azaleas and so on),   
One feels the purifying change. One rejects   
The trash.

               That’s the moment when the moon creeps up   
To the bubbling of bassoons. That’s the time
One looks at the elephant-colorings of tires.   
Everything is shed; and the moon comes up as the moon   
(All its images are in the dump) and you see
As a man (not like an image of a man),
You see the moon rise in the empty sky.

One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail.
One beats and beats for that which one believes.   
That’s what one wants to get near. Could it after all
Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
To a crow’s voice? Did the nightingale torture the ear,   
Peck the heart and scratch the mind? And does the ear   
Solace itself in peevish birds? Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher’s honeymoon, one finds
On the dump? Is it to sit among mattresses of the dead,   
Bottles, pots, shoes and grass and murmur aptest eve:   
Is it to hear the blatter of grackles and say
Invisible priest; is it to eject, to pull
The day to pieces and cry stanza my stone?
Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the.

Wallace Stevens, "The Man on the Dump" from Collected Poems.  Copyright 1923, 1951, 1954 by Wallace Stevens.  Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Source: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)
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