Against the stone breakwater, Only an ominous lapping, While the wind whines overhead, Coming down from the mountain, Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces; A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves, And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against the lamp pole. Where have the people gone? There is one light on the mountain.
Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell, The waves not yet high, but even, Coming closer and closer upon each other; A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea, Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot, The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending, Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness. A time to go home!— And a child's dirty shift billows upward out of an alley, A cat runs from the wind as we do, Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia, Where the heavy door unlocks, And our breath comes more easy,— Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating The walls, the slatted windows, driving The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer To their cards, their anisette.
We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress. We wait; we listen. The storm lulls off, then redoubles, Bending the trees half-way down to the ground, Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard, Flattening the limber carnations. A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb, Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead. The bulb goes on and off, weakly. Water roars into the cistern. We lie closer on the gritty pillow, Breathing heavily, hoping— For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater, The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell, The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses, And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.
From The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke by Theodore Roethke, published by Anchor Books. © 1975 by Theodore Roethke. Used with permission. All rights reserved.