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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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"The Night Comes On Too Fast"

By Victor Lazofsky, '33

The Magpie, January 1933, v. 34, n. 2, p. 30.

(Inspired by Horace Gregory's Poem, "Homage to Ancestor", The Nation, October 19, 1932)

Mother: Remember Bay Minette
with its flying fishes and the
hot sun all the lifelong day.
You wince.
Remember New Orleans, and how
they lowered the pine board coffin
in a sea of mud and silt,
and the years of your life that were gulped up
in that sea of mud and silt.
*   *   *   *   *   *
The crops failed in a deluge when he died.
*   *   *   *   *   *
You were young and eager before that—
And then—
Remember long, weary, hunchback rails
pierce into the North; draped in black silk
and the hungry, restless child on your lap.
It was March and stifling down South,
but remember the keen grey cold
in empty streets of New York ....
early morning.
And how you held to your still-full breasts
the cold whimpering child.
That was ages ago.

Here no Alabama cypresses
climb the sky,
here no gurgling river
passes by.
Here one sweats and sweats
till youth and hope
are drowned in smoke.
Here all one can do is wonder why.

*   *   *   *   *   *
O Mother: when I take my place
among the dead, only then,
will you not have slaved in vain,
only then—
But I have a long journey before me,
and the night comes on too fast.
There is so little time to build
my empire and watch my castles grow.
Look to the westward, Mother,
and the delicate forms of the young girls,
their arms outstretched
to the sinking sun,
their small breasts sighing
for the sinking sun.
*   *   *   *   *   *
the night comes on too fast,
and I have yet to build
my empire and watch my castles grow.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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