On the Heart s Beginning to Cloud the Mind

Something I saw or thought I saw

In the desert at midnight in Utah,

Looking out of my lower berth

At moonlit sky and moonlit earth.

The sky had here and there a star;

The earth had a single light afar,

A flickering, human pathetic light,

That was maintained against the night,

It seemed to me, by the people there,

With a God-forsaken brute despair.

It would flutter and fall in half an hour

Like the last petal off a flower.

But my heart was beginning to cloud my mind.

I knew a tale of a better kind.

That far light flickers because of trees.

The people can burn it as long as they please:

And when their interests in it end,

They can leave it to someone else to tend.

Come back that way a summer hence,

I should find it no more no less intense.

I pass, but scarcely pass no doubt,

The other without demur agrees.

They can keep it burning as long as they please;

They can put it out whenever they please.

One looks out last from the darkened room

At the shiny desert with spots of gloom

That might be people and are but cedar,

Have no purpose, have no leader,

Have never made the first move to assemble,

And so are nothing to make her tremble.

She can think of places that are not thus

Without indulging a 'Not for us!'

Life is not so sinister-grave.

Matter of fact has made them brave

He is husband, she is wife.

She fears not him, they fear not life.

They know where another light has been,

And more than one to theirs akin

But earlier out for bed tonight,

So lost on me in my surface flight.

This I saw when waking late, Going by at a railroad rate, Looking through wreaths of engine smoke Far into the lives of other folk.

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