The custom that imprisons.

Robert Lowell: Five Hour Political Rally

A design of insects on the rug’s red acre,
one to each ten feet like the rich in graves;
the belly is like a big watermelon seed,
each head an empty pretzel, less head than mouth,
the wings are emblems, black as the ironwork
for a Goya balcony, lure and bar to love –
the darkeyed and protected Spanish girls
exhibited by the custom that imprisons.
Insects and statesmen grapple on the carpet;
all excel, as if each were the candidate;
all original or at least in person;
twenty first ballerinas are in the act.
Like insects they almost live on breath alone:
If you swallow me, I’ll swallow you.

This is from the odd and astonishing sequence of sonnets that make up Lowell’s History.


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