In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave


by Delmore Schwartz


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 clop, 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 the beginning

Again and again,

                                   while history is unforgiven.

Delmore Schwartz (1913 - 1966) was a truly tragic American poet who never completely realized his potential.
He is the Humbolt of Saul Bellow's famous 1975 novel "Humbolt's Gift".