Waking In The Blue

By Robert Lowell

The night attendant, a B.U. sophomore, rouses from the mare’s-nest of his drowsy head propped on The Meaning of Meaning. He catwalks down our corridor. Azure day makes my agonized blue window bleaker. Crows maunder on the petrified fairway. Absence! My heart grows tense as though a harpoon were sparring for the kill. (This is the house for the “mentally ill.”) What use is my sense of humor? I grin at Stanley, now sunk in his sixties, once a Harvard all-American fullback, (if such were possible!) still hoarding the build of a boy in his twenties, as he soaks, a ramrod with a muscle of a seal in his long tub, vaguely urinous from the Victorian plumbing. A kingly granite profile in a crimson gold-cap, worn all day, all night, he thinks only of his figure, of slimming on sherbet and ginger ale– more cut off from words than a seal. This is the way day breaks in Bowditch Hall at McLean’s; the hooded night lights bring out “Bobbie,” Porcellian ’29, a replica of Louis XVI without the wig– redolent and roly-poly as a sperm whale, as he swashbuckles about in his birthday suit and horses at chairs. These victorious figures of bravado ossified young. In between the limits of day, hours and hours go by under the crew haircuts and slightly too little nonsensical bachelor twinkle of the Roman Catholic attendants. (There are no Mayflower screwballs in the Catholic Church.) After a hearty New England breakfast, I weigh two hundred pounds this morning. C*ck of the walk, I strut in my turtle-necked French sailor’s jersey before the metal shaving mirrors, and see the shaky future grow familiar in the pinched, indigenous faces of these thoroughbred mental cases, twice my age and half my weight. We are all old-timers, each of us holds a locked razor.  

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