Clouds stood like flying buttresses
against the gray stone of late afternoon.

It was medieval weather, the weather of crypts
and obscure cults, disused graveyards,

seedy gentlemen in string ties with banjos.
The ice had closed on the river;

brave souls, foolhardy ones, inched across,
a step, a sliding step, tempting fate,

gravity. Furtive innocence, they say.
Frost, those mornings without pity

or understanding, lay like a skin disease.
The slightly pickled look improved the view.

In the air floated the knock-knock-knock
of the steam hammer. Was that England

or America? The rising damp could not be stopped,
whether foreign or domestic remained to be seen.