Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
- The speaker's location is finally revealed: he is looking at the bridge from the piers in Manhattan.
- This is the second time that "I" is used in the poem.
- The speaker is waiting for something: but what?
- Many readers think that waiting by the piers might be another reference to Crane's homosexuality: he is at a cruising, or pick-up spot, waiting for a man to approach him. But that's certainly not the only way to interpret this line.
- Yet another of the poem's paradoxes: the bridge's shadow is most "clear" at night.
- Usually shadows are made by the sun, but here the shadow is presumably made by the lights of the city.
- Of course, light and shadow are loaded with symbolism, but we're just trying to keep it simple here.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .
- The lights of the city's buildings have gone out, and it's mid-winter.
- A "parcel" is a package, so a parcel "undone" is an opened package.
- But a "parcel" is also a part of something (as in the phrase "part and parcel"), like the rectangular window of a rectangular building.
- All the little rectangles of light in the buildings have gone out – "come undone" – leaving darkness.
- The city is under a layer of snow, and maybe it's snowing right now.
- The snow has "submerged" an iron year, meaning that the snows are a sign of another year passing.
- Crane wants us to know that the poem is set in winter, most likely either December or January, the months closest to the new year.