Paul Henry Oehser

Now Let the City Slumber

Volume 16:1, January 2015
Sonnet Issue

Now Let the City Slumber

Now let the city slumber in the rainÂ…
But I shall walk along the shining street
Until the persistent night has pierced my brain
And, like the watered earth, I am replete.
For memory, if not adequately fed,
Will turn to running wild and scavenging;
It will grow thin and bare and bigoted
And nibble at its own remembering.

So I would lose this hunger for far places
(You who have traveled will know what I mean)
And learn to nourish me with nearer graces,
Finding the way to hold what I have seen.
Then will it matter much what land or clime,
If I can make this night leap out of time?


Paul Henry Oehser (1904 - 1996) began his career in 1925 as an editor for the US Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Biological Survey. In 1931, he was appointed Editor the US National Museum and in 1950 assumed the position of Editor, Smithsonian Institution Editorial and Publications Division. Oehser also served as the SmithsonianÂ’s Public Relations Office from 1950 to 1956. Upon his retirement in 1966, Oehser was made a Research Associate of the Smithsonian and became Editor of Research and Exploration Publications for the National Geographic Society. In addition, Oehser published poetry, books about the Smithsonian and its scientists, and was active in the conservation movement. His volume of poems, Fifty Poems, was published in 1954.