The bench, the sewermouth, the hydrant placed
On the street are attractive and foolproof,
Their finish is in republican taste
The expense, on democratic behoof.
People wear the city, the section they use
Like the clothes on their back and their hygiene
And they recognize property as they do news
By when to stay out and where to go in.
Near where a man keeps his Sunday plyers
Or young men play regularly, they place
Next to acts of financial empires
An object as magic as a private face.
No use to distinguish between hope and despair
Anyone’s life is greater than his care.
Edwin Denby, originally published in Poems written to accompany photographs by Rudy Burckhardt collected in The Complete Poems. Not sure when it was written. Also: MP3 (0:56, 888kb) of a 1983 reading, from Edwin Denby’s page at Pennsound.