“The Innocent Assassins”
Sunset at Laramie
Somewhere beyond Laramie the winding freights
still howl their lonesome message to the dark,
the mountain men lie quiet, wolves are gone,
stars circle overhead, huge missiles lie
scattered in firing pens. Computers watch
with radar eyes pinpointed latitudes.
Gigantic cupped ears listen everywhere—
a bear asleep beneath a winter drift,
his pulse is coded, too; night-flying geese
blip by on horizon screens, slowly we draw a net
converging to ourselves. How strange to hear
trains hoot in blizzards, cattle brawl in cars,
think of the Chisholm trail a century gone, and know
beyond the polar circle other ears now listen.
This daft and troubled century spies and spies,
counts bears' heartbeats, whales' frantic twists and turns.
The background noise of continents drifts in,
captured by satellites. Still far up in the crags
sure-footed mountain sheep climb higher, lift horned heads,
see the night fall below them, hear the train, and stamp
as rams stamp, vaguely troubled, while the glow
on the last peak fades out. Far off a coyote cries,
not in wild darkness, but a haunted night
filled with the turning of vast ears and eyes.
Loren Eiseley (1907-1977) was an anthropologist. He wrote three books of poetry, several non-fiction books on anthropology, for the scholar/layman. His basic theme in his poems and books is the timelessness of existence and the transience of the individual’s time upon this stage. His lines are melancholy, with a bland acceptance that any change within the species will take thousands of years.
In the above lines he writes, “continents drift,” who but a poet who consider listening for the sounds of continents marching across the oceans?
very nice. Thank you for posting!
I like this: and stamp as rams stamp
I like "this daft and troubled century spies and spies" - it sums up the 20th century nicely.
What a pleasure--seeing a poem by Eiseley! He's one of my all-time favorite writers, more for his essays than his poetry. I think I have everything he's written--The Star Thrower is wonderful, as are The Immense Journey, The Night Country and All the Strange Hours. He had a dark, lonely vision, and an immense capacity for awe.
Do the cattle
brawl // n. & v.
n. a noisy quarrel or fight.
1 quarrel noisily or roughly.
2 (of a stream) run noisily.
[Middle English, probably ultimately related to bray1]
bawl // v.
1 tr. speak or call out noisily.
2 intr. weep loudly.
bawl out colloq. reprimand angrily.
[imitative: cf. medieval Latin baulare ‘bark’, Icelandic baula (Swedish böla) ‘to low’]
Not a lot of difference but I wouldn't want a typo to slip through to confuse us later.