Like a first coat of whitewash when it’s wet,
the thin gray mist lets everything show through:
the black boy Balthazár, a fence, a horse,
   a foundered house,

—cement and rafters sticking from a dune.
(The Company passes off these white but shopworn
dunes as lawns.) “Shipwreck,” we say; perhaps
   this is a housewreck.

The sea’s off somewhere, doing nothing. Listen.
An expelled breath. And faint, faint, faint
(or are you hearing things), the sandpipers’
   heart-broken cries.

The fence, three-strand, barbed-wire, all pure rust,
three dotted lines, comes forward hopefully
across the lots; thinks better of it; turns
   a sort of corner…

Don’t ask the big white horse, Are you supposed
to be inside the fence or out? He’s still
asleep. Even awake, he probably
   remains in doubt.

He’s bigger than the house. The force of
personality, or is perspective dozing?
A pewter-colored horse, an ancient mixture,
   tin, lead, and silver,

he gleams a little. But a gallon can
approaching on the head of Balthazár
keeps flashing that the world’s a pearl, and I,
I am

its highlight! You can hear the water now,
inside, slap-slapping. Balthazár is singing.
“Today’s my Anniversary,” he sings,
   “the Day of Kings.”

This Issue

April 2, 1964