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Afternoon Rain in State Street

 Cross-hatchings of rain against grey walls,
Slant lines of black rain
In front of the up and down, wet stone sides of buildings.
Below, Greasy, shiny, black, horizontal, The street.
And over it, umbrellas, Black polished dots Struck to white An instant, Stream in two flat lines Slipping past each other with the smoothness of oil.
Like a four-sided wedge The Custom House Tower Pokes at the low, flat sky, Pushing it farther and farther up, Lifting it away from the house-tops, Lifting it in one piece as though it were a sheet of tin, With the lever of its apex.
The cross-hatchings of rain cut the Tower obliquely, Scratching lines of black wire across it, Mutilating its perpendicular grey surface With the sharp precision of tools.
The city is rigid with straight lines and angles, A chequered table of blacks and greys.
Oblong blocks of flatness Crawl by with low-geared engines, And pass to short upright squares Shrinking with distance.
A steamer in the basin blows its whistle, And the sound shoots across the rain hatchings, A narrow, level bar of steel.
Hard cubes of lemon Superimpose themselves upon the fronts of buildings As the windows light up.
But the lemon cubes are edged with angles Upon which they cannot impinge.
Up, straight, down, straight -- square.
Crumpled grey-white papers Blow along the side-walks, Contorted, horrible, Without curves.
A horse steps in a puddle, And white, glaring water spurts up In stiff, outflaring lines, Like the rattling stems of reeds.
The city is heraldic with angles, A sombre escutcheon of argent and sable And countercoloured bends of rain Hung over a four-square civilization.
When a street lamp comes out, I gaze at it for fully thirty seconds To rest my brain with the suffusing, round brilliance of its globe.

Poem by Amy Lowell
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