Year’s End

Now winter downs the dying of the year,    And night is all a settlement of snow; From the soft street the rooms of houses show    A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,    Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin    And still allows some stirring down within. I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell    And held in ice as dancers in a spell    Fluttered all winter long into a lake;    Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,    They seemed their own most perfect monument. There was perfection in the death of ferns    Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone    A million years. Great mammoths overthrown    Composedly have made their long sojourns,    Like palaces of patience, in the gray And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii The little dog lay curled and did not rise    But slept the deeper as the ashes rose And found the people incomplete, and froze    The random hands, the loose unready eyes    Of men expecting yet another sun To do the shapely thing they had not done. These sudden ends of time must give us pause.    We fray into the future, rarely wrought Save in the tapestries of afterthought. More time, more time. Barrages of applause    Come muffled from a buried radio. The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.