Before Disaster (Yvor Winters)

7 Oct

One poem stuck with me over the years – or rather, one line of one poem. I remember, at twelve years old, skimming a worn book until I stumbled across this, whose last verse would stain itself to memory.

————

Evening traffic homeward burns,
Swift and even on the turns,
Drifting weight in triple rows,
Fixed relation and repose.
This one edges out and by,
Inch by inch with steady eye.
But should error be increased,
Mass and moment are released;
Matter loosens, flooding blind,
Levels drivers to its kind.
Ranks of nations thus descend,
Watchful to a stormy end.
By a moment’s calm beguiled,
I have got a wife and child.
Fool and scoundrel guide the State.
Peace is whore to Greed and Hate.
Nowhere may I turn to flee:
Action is security.
Treading change with savage heel,
We must live or die by steel.

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