Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Oakland Pier: 1918
By H. L. Davis
 
From “Primapara”

I HAD a bench in the shadow, back from the arc light
Which burnt in the engine smoke like a coal, and colored
The men’s faces red, so they seemed inflamed with excitement.
Sometimes all the engines would charge near me, with a noise
Which shook the orange-stand there, moved the piles of dark-red oranges.        5
 
I was sleepy with the cold of the winter and the past midnight;
Half asleep I heard the water of the bay; and a man’s voice:
“I remember, in China, when this army was there,
Eighteen years ago, a Captain Abel was worse.
He did not die, either, but went home as you are going.”        10
 
And the young soldier: “What did I say: kill?”
 
The sergeant seemed not to hear him, talked on as an old man will
On some subject he has thought about: “I was no recruit then;
I have soldiered for twenty-nine years, in every country.
That is longer than you are old. You’ll go home, and be like        15
That man with the oranges. Marry, buy land, do well,
And I say nothing: but do not tell me of soldiering.
Talk of hog-killing, farmer. I am old now,
And still quicker than your people.”
                        “Yes, you are a sergeant,
You have better treatment. It is all officers with you.        20
You have soldiered twenty-nine years: they consider you more.
What do you know of my people? They are quick too—
What is this to talk about now? You are too old;
And I shall be home in two days, as good as any officer.”
 
As the men were silent I heard the gulls following a ferryboat,        25
Or flying in the dark somewhere; and when they ceased crying and turned
Back into the bay, their wings sounded like leaves
Blowing from poplar trees down a road.
                        I thought: “Only gulls;
There are the engines, the red-faced men; this is Oakland Pier.
I am tired now, shall I ever be sorry of the quietness        30
Of the roads in light snow, the thin grass covered and cold?”
 
 
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