Nocturne Militaire

Miami Beach: wartime

Imagine or remember how the road at last led us
Over bridges like prepositions, linking a drawl of islands.
The coast curved away like a question mark, listening slyly
And shyly whispered the insomniac Atlantic.
But we were uncertain of both question and answer,
Stiff and confused and bemused in expendable khaki,
Seeing with innocent eyes, the walls gleaming,
And the alabaster city of a rich man’s dream.

Borne by the offshore wind, an exciting rumor,
The legend of tropic islands, caresses the coast like hysteria,
Bringing a sound like bells rung under sea;
And brings the infected banker and others whose tenure
Is equally uncertain, equally certain: the simple
And perfect faces of women—like the moon
Whose radiance is disturbing and quite as impersonal:
Not to be warmed by and never ample.

They linger awhile in the dazzling sepulchral city,
Delicately exploring their romantic diseases,
The gangster, the capitalist and their proteg

Thomas McGrath, “Nocturne Militaire” from Movie At The End of the World. Copyright � 1972 by Thomas McGrath. Used by permission of Swallow Press/Ohio University Press.
Source: Selected Poems 1938-1988 (1988)
More Poems by Thomas McGrath