A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her town-house door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.

What use to claim that as she tugs her gloves
A phantom heraldry of all the loves
Blares from the lintel? That the staggered sun
Forgets, in his confusion, how to run?

Still, nothing changes as her perfect feet
Click down the walk that issues in the street,
Leaving the stations of her body there
Like whips that map the countries of the air.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Richard Wilbur's poem Transit


  1. Paul Van Deusen says:

    Can anyone analyze this poem, especially the last line?

    • John Conolley says:

      I hate to put a poem in prose, because so much is lost. Still, it might help a little.
      The tricky parts, to my mind, are “crux of time,” “what use to claim,” walk that issues”, and “map the countries of the air.”

      I feel that “crux of time” seeks to capture how a single moment can stand out in, or seemingly outside of, time. It just a woman stepping onto the street, but the moment separates itself from the moment before or the moment after, and haunts him long after.

      “What use to claim” means he doesn’t claim the phantom heraldry or the staggered sun are real. But he feels them anyway.

      The “walk that issues” suggests that the walk only comes into existence (or enters his attention) as her feet create it.

      A whip mapping the countries of air is something I’ve seen many times. I suppose you have to see it yourself, but switching or dancing a whip in the air seems to outline shapes of something that can’t be seen before or after, and can never be seen at all without the whip.

      I hope that helps.

    • John Conolley says:

      I’d say the last line is strictly a visual image. I’ve seen whips appear to reveal levels and alcoves in the air.

  2. Rusty Merenda says:

    I first reasd this poem while riding on a NYC subway when I was dispalyed as part of some sort of promotion. It seemed so appropriate to be reading it while “commuting” as is the subject in the poem. I was particularly captured by the imagery of a “whip mapping the countries of the air”. Neeldess to say I have never forgotten it.

    • John Conolley says:

      That’s where I first saw it. The program, as I remember, was called “Poetry in Motion.” It was poems about New York and about travel. I thing it was just to make the ride nicer.

    • John Conolle says:

      It wasn’t a promotion. It was a program called “Poetry in Motion,” which posted poems about New York and the transit system in the trains to give the riders something to look at.

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