The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
That's it: poem done. I am beginning with this poem because it's short--seriously, guys--and that makes it quick, and easy to read in its entirety. But shortness also makes it surprising. What begins "In a Station of the Metro" very rapidly drops into hell, or, at the very least, purgatory--I am going to say purgatory rather than hell because nothing in the poem screams "HOT." Yet traveling can get very, very hot--getting packed into crowded, poorly ventilated places, often underground. Delays happen. You get stuck on a train, or a plane, on a bus, in traffic, in a car, in a tunnel, all around you there are people suffering similarly to you, yet they are strangers and seem completely separate. It can feel like you'll be stuck there forever. You're tired or hungry, maybe you get motion-sick, and that makes you feel like hell. Pound's use of the word "apparition" and his description of a "black bough" are traditionally read as giving the poem an underworld quality. And this--again--is shocking. Even Dante took the reader on a slow (34 Cantos, around 200 pages), winding descent into hell, and Dante brings us up again. With Pound it's a straight plummet. The ground you were standing on when you read the title for the first time has been shattered, you can't go back there, and--and this is the most important part--you can't get back to a state of innocence. Even if you re-read the poem starting with the title, you will always remember where the poem ends, what that looks like, and what it feels like. Years later you'll remember. That is the beauty and the damnation of a really good short poem--there is nowhere to go but down it, and you remember the end forever without ever trying. This poem irrevocably obliterates innocence with knowledge. I think about it every time I enter the subway.