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Albert Einstein to Archibald Macleish

I should have been a plumber fixing drains.

And mending pure white bathtubs for the great Diogenes

(who scorned all lies, all liars, and all tyrannies),

And then, perhaps, he would bestow on me -- majesty!

(O modesty aside, forgive my fallen pride, O hidden


The lamp, the lantern, the lucid light he sought for

All too often -- sick humanity!)

In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave

In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave,

Reflected headlights slowly slid the wall,   

Carpenters hammered under the shaded window,   

Wind troubled the window curtains all night long,   

A fleet of trucks strained uphill, grinding,   

Their freights covered, as usual.

The ceiling lightened again, the slanting diagram   

Slid slowly forth.

                            Hearing the milkman’s chop,   

His striving up the stair, the bottle’s chink,   

I rose from bed, lit a cigarette,

And walked to the window. The stony street   

Displayed the stillness in which buildings stand,   

The street-lamp’s vigil and the horse’s patience.   

The winter sky’s pure capital

Turned me back to bed with exhausted eyes.

Strangeness grew in the motionless air. The loose   

Film grayed. Shaking wagons, hooves’ waterfalls,   

Sounded far off, increasing, louder and nearer.   

A car coughed, starting. Morning, softly   

Melting the air, lifted the half-covered chair   

From underseas, kindled the looking-glass,   

Distinguished the dresser and the white wall.   

The bird called tentatively, whistled, called,   

Bubbled and whistled, so! Perplexed, still wet   

With sleep, affectionate, hungry and cold. So, so,   

O son of man, the ignorant night, the travail   

Of early morning, the mystery of beginning   

Again and again,

                         while History is unforgiven.

Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day

Calmly we walk through this April's day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children , the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn…)
Besides the photo and the memory ?
(…that time is the fire in which we burn.)

(This is the school in which we learn…)
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run
(This is the school in which they learn . . .)
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(…that time is the fire in which they burn.)

Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,
But what they were then?
No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)
But what they were then, both beautiful ;

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire ,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

In the park sit pauper and rentier ,   

The screaming children, the motor-car   

Fugitive about us, running away,   

Between the worker and the millionaire   

Number provides all distances,   

All night, all night

"I have been one acquainted with the night" - Robert Frost

Rode in the train all night, in the sick light. A bird
Flew parallel with a singular will. In daydream's moods and
The other passengers slumped, dozed, slept, read,
Waiting, and waiting for place to be displaced
On the exact track of safety or the rack of accident.

Looked out at the night, unable to distinguish
Lights in the towns of passage from the yellow lights
Numb on the ceiling. And the bird flew parallel and still
As the train shot forth the straight line of its whistle,
Forward on the taut tracks, piercing empty, familiar --

The bored center of this vision and condition looked and
Down through the slick pages of the magazine (seeking
The seen and the unseen) and his gaze fell down the well
Of the great darkness under the slick glitter,
And he was only one among eight million riders and

And all the while under his empty smile the shaking drum
Of the long determined passage passed through him
By his body mimicked and echoed. And then the train
Like a suddenly storming rain, began to rush and thresh--
The silent or passive night, pressing and impressing
The patients' foreheads with a tightening-like image
Of the rushing engine proceeded by a shaft of light
Piercing the dark, changing and transforming the silence
Into a violence of foam, sound, smoke and succession.

A bored child went to get a cup of water,
And crushed the cup because the water too was
Boring and merely boredom's struggle.
The child, returning, looked over the shoulder
Of a man reading until he annoyed the shoulder.
A fat woman yawned and felt the liquid drops
Drip down the fleece of many dinners.

And the bird flew parallel and parallel flew
The black pencil lines of telephone posts, crucified,
At regular intervals, post after post
Of thrice crossed, blue-belled, anonymous trees.

And then the bird cried as if to all of us:

0 your life, your lonely life
What have you ever done with it,
And done with the great gift of consciousness?
What will you ever do with your life before death's
Provides the answer ultimate and appropriate?

As I for my part felt in my heart as one who falls,
Falls in a parachute, falls endlessly, and feel the vast
Draft of the abyss sucking him down and down,
An endlessly helplessly falling and appalled clown:

This is the way that night passes by, this
Is the overnight endless trip to the famous unfathomable