Langley Collyer, 18851947
'Tis well to hoard anew
Remembering the Dimensions
This strange invigoration like butterflies
alighting on my chest, wings brushing
to and fro so I can't concentrate, can't sit still,
almost tempts me out of doors into daylit air.
Last evening, that gentlemana stringer
outside our homehe was inquisitive
like many, but what welcome conversation.
I've neglected all social engagements,
cast them off like those Thurston suspenders
I found sprawled all cockeyed in the gutter.
He and I walked the way I always do,
my empty box in towOne Twenty-Fifth Street,
Lenox down to ninety-Sixth, Central Park West,
south to Times Square. He didn't seem to mind.
We took a tour of the Herald Tribune
(at his suggestion). Those fine machines!
rows of Platen presses chugged and whined;
the old cameras perched like black birds
cured on shelves. He photographed my likeness
cradling one. I wanted to tease it apart,
tinker it into something newfangled.
After, I gathered newspapers for Homer
the Tribune, of course, the Times, Mirror,
Post, the Daily News, Evening Sun; then home.
I couldn't ask this pressman in, the house
too disarrayed, pianos in the way, unruly piles
not meant to navigate, like this Matterhorn
books, cogset from a bicycle, picture frames,
a baby's cribeach one keeps each other one
aligned. I engineer these careful balancings,
contrive our pathways, stacks, an empty
niche. Some burglar is sure to break his neck,
start an avalanche if he trips the unseen
wires animating a booby-trap. Concealed
tunnels tangle through this steep terrain
so I can get away if all else fails.
Such safety here! Shades obstruct the neighbor's
curiosity, no one in or out but me, protected
from the riff-raff that leave refuse on our lawn,
break our windows (half are bandaged up
like Homer's eyes). No electricity,
gas (we use kerosene), no meters to read,
no repairmen shuffling through, no visitors,
no phone, most everything we need at hand.
Though some few items I procure at night
on my clandestine walksfrom benches,
sidewalk bins, squandered by the rich, scraps
salvaged from the butcher, grocer, baker,
other odds and ends; just recently,
a folding chair with peeling, gilt-edged arms.
They comfort me, these necessities:
the bladder and the horizontal screw
of an old wine press, Mother's yards of silk,
her hope chests, tapestries, the chassis
of a Model-T, banjos, organs, tubas,
glass chandeliers, a gramophone and clocks,
Father's books, antique X-ray apparatus,
balls to bowl with, my brother's lists and files,
valuables, memorabilia, archives
stored and cataloguedinvention's embryos
secured in a brick womb. They poise like pupae
ardent for some future incarnation,
each in its place, their energies released
with my caress, now shimmering when I pass.