Verse > Anthologies > Alfred Kreymborg, ed. > Others for 1919
Alfred Kreymborg, ed.  Others for 1919.  1920.
Black Earth
By Marianne Moore
OPENLY, yes,
  With the naturalness
  Of the hippopotamus or the alligator
When it climbs out on the bank to experience the
Sun, I do these        5
Things which I do, which please
  No one but myself. Now I breathe and now I am sub-
  Merged; the blemishes stand up and shout when the object
In view was a
Renaissance; shall I say        10
  The contrary? The sediment of the river which
  Encrusts my joints, makes me very gray but I am used
To it, it may
Remain there; do away
  With it and I am myself done away with, for the        15
  Patina of circumstance can but enrich what was
There to begin
With. This elephant skin
  Which I inhabit, fibred over like the shell of
  The coco-nut, this piece of black glass through which no light        20
Can filter—cut
Into checkers by rut
  Upon rut of unpreventable experience—
  It is a manual for the peanut-tongued and the
Hairy toed. Black        25
But beautiful, my back
  Is full of the history of power. Of power? What
  Is powerful and what is not? My soul shall never
Be cut into
By a wooden spear; through-        30
  Out childhood to the present time, the unity of
  Life and death has been expressed by the circumference
Described by my
Trunk; nevertheless, I
  Perceive feats of strength to be inexplicable after        35
  All; and I am on my guard; external poise, it
Has its centre
Well nurtured—we know
  Where—in pride, but spiritual poise, it has its centre where?
  My ears are sensitized to more than the sound of        40
The wind. I see
And I hear, unlike the
  Wandlike body of which one hears so much, which was made
  To see and not to see; to hear and not to hear,
That tree trunk without        45
Roots, accustomed to shout
  Its own thoughts to itself like a shell, maintained intact
  By who knows what strange pressure of the atmosphere; that
Brother to the coral        50
  Plant, absorbed into which, the equable sapphire light
  Becomes a nebulous green. The I of each is to
The I of each,
A kind of fretful speech
  Which sets a limit on itself; the elephant is?        55
  Black earth preceded by a tendril? It is to that
The above formation,
  Translucent like the atmosphere—a cortex merely—
That on which darts cannot strike decisively the first        60
Time, a substance
Needful as an instance
  Of the indestructibility of matter; it
  Has looked at the electricity and at the earth-
Quake and is still        65
Here; the name means thick. Will
  Depth be depth, thick skin be thick, to one who can see no
  Beautiful element of unreason under it?

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