The Common Life


I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself. I will be rich by myself, and not by borrowing.





The Common Life
Wallace Stevens
 1939

That’s the down-town frieze,
Principally the church steeple,
A black line beside a white line,
And the stack of the electric plant,
A black line drawn on flat air.

It is a morbid light
In which they stand,
Like an electric lamp
On a page of Euclid.

In this light a man is a result,
A demonstration, and a woman,
Without rose and without violet,
The shadows that are absent from Euclid,
Is not a woman for a man.

The paper is whiter
For these black lines.
It glares beneath the webs
Of wire, the designs of ink,
The planes that ought to have genius,
The volumes like marble ruins
Outlined and having alphabetical
Notations and footnotes.
The paper is whiter.
The men have no shadows
And the women have only one side.

Matthew Lew — 2018