Night's Nothings Again


Who knows what I know

when I have asked the night questions

and the night has answered nothing

only the old answers?


Who picked a crimson cryptogram,

the tail light of a motor car turning a corner,

or the midnight sign of a chile con carne place,

or a man out of the ashes of false dawn muttering "hot dog" to the night watchmen:

Is there a spieler who has spoken the word or taken the number of night's nothings? am I the spieler? or you?


Is there a tired head

the night has not fed and rested

and kept on its neck and shoulders?


Is there a wish

Of man to woman

and woman to man

the night has not written

and signed its name under?


Does the night forget

as a woman forgets?

and remember

as a woman remembers?


Who gave the night

this head of hair,

this gypsy head

calling: Come-on?


Who gave the night anything at all

and asked the night questions

and was laughed at?


Who asked the night

for a long soft kiss

and lost the half-way lips?

who picked a red lamp in a mist?


Who saw the night

fold its Mona Lisa hands

and sit half-smiling, half-sad,

nothing at all,

and everything,

all the world?


Who saw the night

let down its hair

and shake its bare shoulders

and blow out the candles of the moon,

whispering, snickering,

cutting off the snicker . . . and sobbing . . .

out of pillow-wet kisses and tears?


Is the night woven of anything else

than the secret wishes of women,

the stretched empty arms of women?

the hair of women with stars and roses?

I asked the night these questions.

I heard the night asking me these questions.


I saw the night

put these whispered nothings

across the city dust and stones,

across a single yellow sunflower,

one stalk strong as a woman's wrist;


And the play of a light rain,

the jig-time folly of a light rain,

the creepers of a drizzle on the sidewalks

for the policemen and the railroad men,

for the home-goers and the homeless,

silver fans and funnels on the asphalt,

the many feet of a fog mist that crept away;


I saw the night

put these nothings across

and the night wind came saying: Come-on:

and the curve of sky swept off white clouds

and swept on white stars over Battery to Bronx,

scooped a sea of stars over Albany, Dobbs Ferry, Cape Horn, Constantinople.


I saw the night's mouth and lips

strange as a face next to mine on a pillow

and now I know . . . as I knew always . . .

the night is a lover of mine . . .

I know the night is . . . everything.

I know the night is . . . all the world.


I have seen gold lamps in a lagoon

play sleep and murmur

with never an eyelash,

never a glint of an eyelid,

quivering in the water-shadows.


A taxi whizzes by, an owl car clutters, passengers yawn reading street signs,

a bum on a park bench shifts, another bum keeps his majesty of stone

stillness, the forty-foot split rocks of Central Park sleep the sleep of

stone whalebacks, the cornices of the Metropolitan Art mutter their

own nothings to the men with rolled-up collars on the top of a bus:

Breaths of the sea salt Atlantic, breaths of two rivers, and a heave of hawsers

and smokestacks, the swish of multiplied sloops and war dogs,

the hesitant hoo-hoo of coal boats: among these I listen to Night calling:

I give you what money can never buy: all other lovers change: all others

go away and come back and go away again:

I am the one you slept with last night.

I am the one you sleep with tonight and tomorrow night.

I am the one whose passion kisses

keep your head wondering

and your lips aching

to sing one song

never sung before

at night's gypsy head

calling: Come-on.


These hands that slid to my neck and held me,

these fingers that told a story,

this gypsy head of hair calling: Come-on:

can anyone else come along now

and put across night's nothings again?


I have wanted kisses my heart stuttered at asking,

I have pounded at useless doors and called my people fools.

I have staggered alone in a winter dark making mumble songs

to the sting of a blizzard that clutched and swore.


It was the night in my blood:

open dreaming night,

night of tireless sheet-steel blue:

The hands of God washing something,

feet of God walking somewhere.


Carl Sandburg