Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
- So there are no people around, only "skunks" – stinky little scavengers, looking for something to eat.
- This is another bleak description of the place. It's also the first connection we get to the title.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes' red fire
- They walk up the main part of the town. This seems important – like there are no people in the place, so skunks just have free reign over the night. Total zombie, horror movie stuff.
- Then the speaker describes the skunks' white stripes and how their eyes look red when the light shines on them – another seemingly normal image turned scary.
- It's definitely no mistake that Lowell echoes "soles," as in bottoms of their feet, with the "spirit" kind of soul that is still in our heads from the previous lines.
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.
- "Spar" is like a mast on a boat. So Lowell is still clinging to the nautical imagery. Here he uses it to describe the spire – the pointy top of the church.
- So the skunks are walking under the night shadows of this big, Gothic-looking church. Lowell probably uses this description to enhance the spookiness of the scene.