Intimations of Death, Passing through Connecticut

Intimations of Death, Passing through Connecticut

James Dowthwaite

Harlem 125th St

It is a cold morning, Cimmerian,
and the last of the snowfall
and the last of the night
collude in the air of departure,
enclosing the forty-one
who wait on the platform.
Harlem’s ghosts are lost,
as they rise from the midair,
caught with the half life
of breath,
turning and twisting
in its pathetic ascension.
Even talk freezes at this hour
and they are quiet,
those waiting on the platform,
acquiescing themselves
into the last of the snowfall
and the last of the night.


On the train window,
water’s ghost
casts a veil over the glass,
like a frozen lake,
becoming the border
between the living in the carriage
and the dead outside.
The snow, which in the city
is wrapped around Main St
like a Kashmir scarf,
faces us here in its blank aspect,
casting the trees, the fields,
and the houses in strangeness,
and life takes on the uncanny form
of the photo’s negative,
and being itself is quieted.


By the railroad bridge in Westport
a crust of ice plagues the Saugatuck;
The sky is a soft metal, platinum,
being hammered into form
as the light plays upon its cooling.
The ice clears before the houses
with their snow-banked lawns
and spare trees, concealing little,
and the fallen snow pulls the light,
jealously gathering the view
from the brittle branches,
each one a memorial
to the long-departed leaves,
remembered only by the dark water.


No cars, the boats all sealed,
their white covers catching the light;
there is no one here, the whole of Connecticut
as if every living being
had dissolved into winter
and its languid snowfalls.
The sky is sepia above the Veterans’ Park
where the lethargic wind
lifts only half the flag,
the stars lost in its folds
as on a clouded night.
A lone crane
salutes the steel water
while the empty berths
lie demarcated
like graves in the harbour;
and the train passes by

New Haven 

So this is New England,
where the old comes though
as a palimpsest,

or a half-ghost
half-seen in the mirror,
halfway on its departure.
And out there,
beyond Sandy Point,
beyond Long Island,
the dark Atlantic rages
and in its fury
holds off the snow.

James Dowthwaite