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Title: Al Que Quiere! - A Book of Poems
Author: Williams, William Carlos
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            A BOOK OF POEMS

                            AL QUE QUIERE!

                   +--------------------------------+
                   |  _By William Carlos Williams_  |
                   |                                |
                   |           THE TEMPERS          |
                   |                                |
                   |     [London: Elkin Mathews]    |
                   +--------------------------------+



                            A BOOK OF POEMS

                            AL QUE QUIERE!

                                  BY
                        WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                                BOSTON
                         THE FOUR SEAS COMPANY
                                 1917

                         _Copyright, 1917, by_
                         THE FOUR SEAS COMPANY

                          The Four Seas Press
                        Boston, Mass., U. S. A.

     Había sido un arbusto desmedrado que prolonga sus filamentos hasta
     encontrar el humus necesario en una tierra nueva. Y cómo me nutría!
     Me nutría con la beatitud con que las hojas trémulas de clorófila
     se extienden al sol; con la beatitud con que una raíz encuentra un
     cadáver en descompositión; con la beatitud con que los
     convalecientes dan sus pasos vacilantes en las mañanas de
     primavera, bañadas de luz; ...

                                      RAFAEL ARÉVALO MARTÍNEZ



     Many of the poems in this book have appeared in magazines,
     especially in _Poetry_, _Others_, _The Egoist_, and _The Poetry
     Journal_.



CONTENTS


PAGE

SUB TERRA                                               13

PASTORAL                                                14

CHICKORY AND DAISIES                                    15

METRIC FIGURE                                           16

WOMAN WALKING                                           17

GULLS                                                   18

APPEAL                                                  19

IN HARBOR                                               20

WINTER SUNSET                                           21

APOLOGY                                                 22

PASTORAL                                                23

LOVE SONG                                               24

M. B.                                                   25

TRACT                                                   26

PROMENADE                                               29

EL HOMBRE                                               31

HERO                                                    31

LIBERTAD! IGUALDAD! FRATERNIDAD!                        32

CANTHARA                                                33

MUJER                                                   33

SUMMER SONG                                             34

LOVE SONG                                               35

FOREIGN                                                 35

A PRELUDE                                               36

HISTORY                                                 37

WINTER QUIET                                            42

DAWN                                                    42

GOOD NIGHT                                              43

DANSE RUSSE                                             44

PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN BED                              45

VIRTUE                                                  47

CONQUEST                                                49

PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN WITH A BAD HEART                49

KELLER GEGEN DOM                                        50

SMELL                                                   52

BALLET                                                  52

SYMPATHETIC PORTRAIT OF A CHILD                         54

THE OGRE                                                55

RIPOSTE                                                 56

THE OLD MEN                                             57

PASTORAL                                                57

SPRING STRAINS                                          58

TREES                                                   59

A PORTRAIT IN GREYS                                     60

INVITATION                                              61

DIVERTIMIENTO                                           62

JANUARY MORNING                                         62

TO A SOLITARY DISCIPLE                                  67

DEDICATION FOR A PLOT OF GROUND                         69

K. MCB.                                                 70

LOVE SONG                                               71

THE WANDERER                                            75



        AL QUE QUIERE!



        SUB TERRA


    Where shall I find you,
    you my grotesque fellows
    that I seek everywhere
    to make up my band?
    None, not one
    with the earthy tastes I require;
    the burrowing pride that rises
    subtly as on a bush in May.

    Where are you this day,
    you my seven year locusts
    with cased wings?
    Ah my beauties how I long--!
    That harvest
    that shall be your advent--
    thrusting up through the grass,
    up under the weeds
    answering me,
    _that_ shall be satisfying!
    The light shall leap and snap
    that day as with a million lashes!

    Oh, I have you; yes
    you are about me in a sense:
    playing under the blue pools
    that are my windows,--
    but they shut you out still,
    there in the half light.

    For the simple truth is
    that though I see you clear enough
    you are not there!

    It is not that--it is you,
    you I want!

    --God, if I could fathom
      the guts of shadows!

    You to come with me
    poking into negro houses
    with their gloom and smell!
    In among children
    leaping around a dead dog!
    Mimicking
    onto the lawns of the rich!
    You!
    to go with me a-tip-toe,
    head down under heaven,
    nostrils lipping the wind!



        PASTORAL


    When I was younger
    it was plain to me
    I must make something of myself.
    Older now
    I walk back streets
    admiring the houses
    of the very poor:
    roof out of line with sides
    the yards cluttered
    with old chicken wire, ashes,
    furniture gone wrong;
    the fences and outhouses
    built of barrel-staves
    and parts of boxes, all,
    if I am fortunate,
    smeared a bluish green
    that properly weathered
    pleases me best
    of all colors.

                No one
    will believe this
    of vast import to the nation.



        CHICKORY AND DAISIES


        I.

    Lift your flowers
    on bitter stems
    chickory!
    Lift them up
    out of the scorched ground!
    Bear no foliage
    but give yourself
    wholly to that!

    Strain under them
    you bitter stems
    that no beast eats--
    and scorn greyness!
    Into the heat with them:
    cool!
    luxuriant! sky-blue!
    The earth cracks and
    is shriveled up;
    the wind moans piteously;
    the sky goes out
    if you should fail.


    II.

    I saw a child with daisies
    for weaving into the hair
    tear the stems
    with her teeth!



        METRIC FIGURE

    There is a bird in the poplars!
    It is the sun!
    The leaves are little yellow fish
    swimming in the river.
    The bird skims above them,
    day is on his wings.
    Phœbus!
    It is he that is making
    the great gleam among the poplars!
    It is his singing
    outshines the noise
    of leaves clashing in the wind.



        WOMAN WALKING


    An oblique cloud of purple smoke
    across a milky silhouette
    of house sides and tiny trees--
    a little village--
    that ends in a saw edge
    of mist-covered trees
    on a sheet of grey sky.

    To the right, jutting in,
    a dark crimson corner of roof.
    To the left, half a tree:

      --what a blessing it is
    to see you in the street again,
    powerful woman,
    coming with swinging haunches,
    breasts straight forward,
    supple shoulders, full arms
    and strong, soft hands (I’ve felt them)
    carrying the heavy basket.
    I might well see you oftener!
    And for a different reason
    than the fresh eggs
    you bring us so regularly.

    Yes, you, young as I,
    with boney brows,
    kind grey eyes and a kind mouth;
    you walking out toward me
    from that dead hillside!
    I might well see you oftener.



        GULLS


    My townspeople, beyond in the great world,
    are many with whom it were far more
    profitable for me to live than here with you.
    These whirr about me calling, calling!
    and for my own part I answer them, loud as I can,
    but they, being free, pass!
    I remain! Therefore, listen!
    For you will not soon have another singer.

    First I say this: you have seen
    the strange birds, have you not, that sometimes
    rest upon our river in winter?

    Let them cause you to think well then of the storms
    that drive many to shelter. These things
    do not happen without reason.

    And the next thing I say is this:
    I saw an eagle once circling against the clouds
    over one of our principal churches--
    Easter, it was--a beautiful day!--:
    three gulls came from above the river
    and crossed slowly seaward!
    Oh, I know you have your own hymns, I have heard them--
    and because I knew they invoked some great protector
    I could not be angry with you, no matter
    how much they outraged true music--

    You see, it is not necessary for us to leap at each other,
    and, as I told you, in the end
    the gulls moved seaward very quietly.



        APPEAL


    You who are so mighty,
    crimson salamander,
    hear me once more.

    I lay among the half burned sticks
    at the edge of the fire.
    The fiend was creeping in.
    I felt the cold tips of fingers--

    O crimson salamander!

    Give me one little flame,
    one!
    that I may bind it
    protectingly about the wrist
    of him that flung me here,
    here upon the very center!

    This is my song.



        IN HARBOR


    Surely there, among the great docks, is peace, my mind;
    there with the ships moored in the river.
    Go out, timid child,
    and snuggle in among the great ships talking so quietly.
    Maybe you will even fall asleep near them and be
    lifted into one of their laps, and in the morning--
    There is always the morning in which to remember it all!

    Of what are they gossiping? God knows.
    And God knows it matters little for we cannot understand them.
    Yet it is certainly of the sea, of that there can be no question.
    It is a quiet sound. Rest! That’s all I care for now.
    The smell of them will put us to sleep presently.
    Smell! It is the sea water mingling here into the river--
    at least so it seems--perhaps it is something else--but what matter?

    The sea water! It is quiet and smooth here!
    How slowly they move, little by little trying
    the hawsers that drop and groan with their agony.
    Yes, it is certainly of the high sea they are talking.



        WINTER SUNSET


    Then I raised my head
    and stared out over
    the blue February waste
    to the blue bank of hill
    with stars on it
    in strings and festoons--
    but above that:
    one opaque
    stone of a cloud
    just on the hill
    left and right
    as far as I could see;
    and above that
    a red streak, then
    icy blue sky!

    It was a fearful thing
    to come into a man’s heart
    at that time: that stone
    over the little blinking stars
    they’d set there.



        APOLOGY


    Why do I write today?

    The beauty of
    the terrible faces
    of our nonentities
    stirs me to it:

    colored women
    day workers--
    old and experienced--
    returning home at dusk
    in cast off clothing
    faces like
    old Florentine oak.

    Also

    the set pieces
    of your faces stir me--
    leading citizens--
    but not
    in the same way.



        PASTORAL


    The little sparrows
    hop ingenuously
    about the pavement
    quarreling
    with sharp voices
    over those things
    that interest them.
    But we who are wiser
    shut ourselves in
    on either hand
    and no one knows
    whether we think good
    or evil.
               Meanwhile,
    the old man who goes about
    gathering dog-lime
    walks in the gutter
    without looking up
    and his tread
    is more majestic than
    that of the Episcopal minister
    approaching the pulpit
    of a Sunday.
              These things
    astonish me beyond words.



        LOVE SONG


    Daisies are broken
    petals are news of the day
    stems lift to the grass tops
    they catch on shoes
    part in the middle
    leave root and leaves secure.

    Black branches
    carry square leaves
    to the wood’s top.
    They hold firm
    break with a roar
    show the white!

    Your moods are slow
    the shedding of leaves
    and sure
    the return in May!

    We walked
    in your father’s grove
    and saw the great oaks
    lying with roots
    ripped from the ground.



        M. B.


    Winter has spent this snow
    out of envy, but spring is here!
    He sits at the breakfast table
    in his yellow hair
    and disdains even the sun
    walking outside
    in spangled slippers:

    He looks out: there is
    a glare of lights
    before a theater,--
    a sparkling lady
    passes quickly to
    the seclusion of
    her carriage.
                 Presently
    under the dirty, wavy heaven
    of a borrowed room he will make
    re-inhaled tobacco smoke
    his clouds and try them
    against the sky’s limits!



        TRACT


    I will teach you   my townspeople
    how to perform   a funeral--
    for you have it   over a troop
    of artists--
    unless one should   scour the world--
    you have the ground sense   necessary.

    See!   the hearse leads.
    I begin with   a design for a hearse.
    For Christ’s sake   not black--
    nor white either--   and not polished!
    Let it be weathered--   like a farm wagon--
    with gilt wheels   (this could be
    applied fresh   at small expense)
    or no wheels at all:
    a rough dray to   drag over the ground.

    Knock the glass out!
    My God--glass,   my townspeople!
    For what purpose?   Is it for the dead
    to look out or   for us to see
    how well he is housed   or to see
    the flowers or   the lack of them--
    or what?
    To keep the rain   and snow from him?
    He will have a   heavier rain soon:
    pebbles and dirt   and what not.
    Let there be no glass--
    and no upholstery   phew!
    and no little   brass rollers
    and small easy wheels   on the bottom--
    my townspeople   what are you thinking of?

    A rough    plain hearse then
    with gilt wheels   and no top at all.
    On this   the coffin lies
    by its own weight.

                      No wreathes please--
    especially no   hot house flowers.
    Some common memento   is better,
    something he prized   and is known by:
    his old clothes--   a few books perhaps--
    God knows what!   You realize
    how we are   about these things
    my townspeople--
    something will be found--   anything
    even flowers   if he had come to that.

    So much for   the hearse.
    For heaven’s sake though   see to the driver!

    Take off   the silk hat! In fact
    that’s no place   at all for him--
    up there   unceremoniously
    dragging our friend out   to his own dignity!
    Bring him down--   bring him down!
    Low and inconspicuous!   I’d not have him ride
    on the wagon at all--   damn him--
    the undertaker’s   understrapper!
    Let him hold the reins
    and walk at   the side
    and inconspicuously   too!

    Then briefly   as to yourselves:
    Walk behind--   as they do in France,
    seventh class, or   if you ride
    Hell take curtains!   Go with some show
    of inconvenience;   sit openly--
    to the weather   as to grief.
    Or do you think   you can shut grief in?
    What--from us?   We who have perhaps
    nothing to lose?   Share with us
    share with us--   it will be money
    in your pockets.

                    Go now
    I think you are   ready.



        PROMENADE


        I.

    Well, mind, here we have
    our little son beside us:
    a little diversion before breakfast!

    Come, we’ll walk down the road
    till the bacon will be frying.
    We might better be idle?
    A poem might come of it?
    Oh, be useful. Save annoyance
    to Flossie and besides--the wind!
    It’s cold. It blows our
    old pants out! It makes us shiver!
    See the heavy trees
    shifting their weight before it.
    Let us be trees, an old house,
    a hill with grass on it!
    The baby’s arms are blue.
    Come, move! Be quieted!


        II.

    So. We’ll sit here now
    and throw pebbles into
    this water-trickle.

                Splash the water up!
    (Splash it up, Sonny!) Laugh!
    Hit it there deep under the grass.

    See it splash! Ah, mind,
    see it splash! It is alive!
    Throw pieces of broken leaves
    into it. They’ll pass through.
    No! Yes--just!

    Away now for the cows! But--
    It’s cold!
    It’s getting dark.
    It’s going to rain.
    No further!


        III.

    Oh then, a wreath! Let’s
    refresh something they
    used to write well of.

    Two fern plumes. Strip them
    to the mid-rib along one side.
    Bind the tips with a grass stem.
    Bend and intertwist the stalks
    at the back. So!
    Ah! now we are crowned!
    Now we are a poet!

    Quickly!
    A bunch of little flowers
    for Flossie--the little ones
    only:
            a red clover, one
    blue heal-all, a sprig of
    bone-set, one primrose,
    a head of Indian tobacco, this
    magenta speck and this
    little lavender!
                    Home now, my mind!--
    Sonny’s arms are icy, I tell you--
    and have breakfast!



        EL HOMBRE


    It’s a strange courage
    you give me ancient star:

    Shine alone in the sunrise
    toward which you lend no part!



        HERO


    Fool,
    put your adventures
    into those things
    which break ships--
    not female flesh.

    Let there pass
    over the mind
    the waters of
    four oceans, the airs
    of four skies!

    Return hollow-bellied,
    keen-eyed, hard!
    A simple scar or two.

    Little girls will come
    bringing you
    roses for your button-hole.



        LIBERTAD! IGUALDAD! FRATERNIDAD!


    You sullen pig of a man
    you force me into the mud
    with your stinking ash-cart!

    Brother!
          --if we were rich
    we’d stick our chests out
    and hold our heads high!

    It is dreams that have destroyed us.

    There is no more pride
    in horses or in rein holding.
    We sit hunched together brooding
    our fate.

                Well--
    all things turn bitter in the end
    whether you choose the right or
    the left way
                and--
    dreams are not a bad thing.



        CANTHARA


    The old black-man showed me
    how he had been shocked
    in his youth
    by six women, dancing
    a set-dance, stark naked below
    the skirts raised round
    their breasts:
                  bellies flung forward
    knees flying!
                      --while
    his gestures, against the
    tiled wall of the dingy bath-room,
    swished with ecstasy to
    the familiar music of
                        his old emotion.



        MUJER


    Oh, black Persian cat!
    Was not your life
    already cursed with offspring?

    We took you for rest to that old
    Yankee farm,--so lonely
    and with so many field mice
    in the long grass--
    and you return to us
    in this condition--!

    Oh, black Persian cat.



        SUMMER SONG


    Wanderer moon
    smiling a
    faintly ironical smile
    at this
    brilliant, dew-moistened
    summer morning,--
    a detached
    sleepily indifferent
    smile, a
    wanderer’s smile,--
    if I should
    buy a shirt
    your color and
    put on a necktie
    sky blue
    where would they carry me?



        LOVE SONG


    Sweep the house clean,
    hang fresh curtains
    in the windows
    put on a new dress
    and come with me!
    The elm is scattering
    its little loaves
    of sweet smells
    from a white sky!

    Who shall hear of us
    in the time to come?
    Let him say there was
    a burst of fragrance
    from black branches.



        FOREIGN


    Artsybashev is a Russian.
    I am an American.
    Let us wonder, my townspeople,
    if Artsybashev tends his own fires
    as I do, gets himself cursed
    for the baby’s failure to thrive,
    loosens windows for the woman
    who cleans his parlor--
    or has he neat servants
    and a quiet library, an
    intellectual wife perhaps and
    no children,--an apartment
    somewhere in a back street or
    lives alone or with his mother
    or sister--

    I wonder, my townspeople,
    if Artsybashev looks upon
    himself the more concernedly
    or succeeds any better than I
    in laying the world.

    I wonder which is the bigger
    fool in his own mind.

    These are shining topics
    my townspeople but--
    hardly of great moment.



        A PRELUDE


    I know only the bare rocks of today.
    In these lies my brown sea-weed,--
    green quartz veins bent through the wet shale;
    in these lie my pools left by the tide--
    quiet, forgetting waves;
    on these stiffen white star fish;
    on these I slip bare footed!

    Whispers of the fishy air touch my body;
    “Sisters,” I say to them.



        HISTORY


        I.

    A wind might blow a lotus petal
    over the pyramids--but not this wind.

    Summer is a dried leaf.

    Leaves stir this way then that
    on the baked asphalt, the wheels
    of motor cars rush over them,--
           gas smells mingle with leaf smells.

    Oh, Sunday, day of worship!!!

    The steps to the museum are high.
    Worshippers pass in and out.
    Nobody comes here today.
    I come here to mingle faiance dug
    from the tomb, turquoise colored
    necklaces and belched wind from the
    stomach; delicately veined basins
    of agate, cracked and discolored and
    the stink of stale urine!

    Enter! Elbow in at the door.
    Men? Women?
    Simpering, clay fetish-faces counting
    through the turnstile.
                            Ah!


        II.

    This sarcophagus contained the body
    of Uresh-Nai, priestess to the goddess Mut,
    Mother of All--

    Run your finger against this edge!
   --here went the chisel!--and think
    of an arrogance endured six thousand years
    without a flaw!

    But love is an oil to embalm the body.
    Love is a packet of spices, a strong
    smelling liquid to be squirted into
    the thigh. No?
    Love rubbed on a bald head will make
    hair--and after? Love is
    a lice comber!
                  Gnats on dung!

    “The chisel is in your hand, the block
    is before you, cut as I shall dictate:
    this is the coffin of Uresh-Nai,
    priestess to the sky goddess,--built
    to endure forever!
                        Carve the inside
    with the image of my death in
    little lines of figures three fingers high.
    Put a lid on it cut with Mut bending over
    the earth, for my headpiece, and in the year
    to be chosen I will rouse, the lid
    shall be lifted and I will walk about
    the temple where they have rested me
    and eat the air of the place:

    Ah--these walls are high! This
    is in keeping.”


        III.

    The priestess has passed into her tomb.
    The stone has taken up her spirit!
    Granite over flesh: who will deny
    its advantages?

    Your death?--water
    spilled upon the ground--
    though water will mount again into rose-leaves--
    but you?--would hold life still,
    even as a memory, when it is over.
    Benevolence is rare.

    Climb about this sarcophagus, read
    what is writ for you in these figures,
    hard as the granite that has held them
    with so soft a hand the while
    your own flesh has been fifty times
    through the guts of oxen,--read!
    “The rose-tree will have its donor
    even though he give stingily.
    The gift of some endures
    ten years, the gift of some twenty
    and the gift of some for the time a
    great house rots and is torn down.
    Some give for a thousand years to men of
    one face, some for a thousand
    to all men and some few to all men
    while granite holds an edge against
    the weather.
                  Judge then of love!”


        IV.

    “My flesh is turned to stone. I
    have endured my summer. The flurry
    of falling petals is ended. Lay
    the finger upon this granite. I was
    well desired and fully caressed
    by many lovers but my flesh
    withered swiftly and my heart was
    never satisfied. Lay your hands
    upon the granite as a lover lays his
    hand upon the thigh and upon the
    round breasts of her who is
    beside him, for now I will not wither,
    now I have thrown off secrecy, now
    I have walked naked into the street,
    now I have scattered my heavy beauty
    in the open market.
    Here I am with head high and a
    burning heart eagerly awaiting
    your caresses, whoever it may be,
    for granite is not harder than
    my love is open, runs loose among you!

    I arrogant against death! I
    who have endured! I worn against
    the years!”


        V.

    But it is five o’clock. Come!
    Life is good--enjoy it!
    A walk in the park while the day lasts.
    I will go with you. Look! this
    northern scenery is not the Nile, but--
    these benches--the yellow and purple dusk--
    the moon there--these tired people--
    the lights on the water!

    Are not these Jews and--Ethiopians?
    The world is young, surely! Young
    and colored like--a girl that has come upon
    a lover! Will that do?



        WINTER QUIET


    Limb to limb, mouth to mouth
    with the bleached grass
    silver mist lies upon the back yards
    among the outhouses.
                        The dwarf trees
    pirouette awkwardly to it--
    whirling round on one toe;
    the big tree smiles and glances upward!
    Tense with suppressed excitement
    the fences watch where the ground
    has humped an aching shoulder for the ecstasy.



        DAWN


    Ecstatic bird songs pound
    the hollow vastness of the sky
    with metallic clinkings--
    beating color up into it
    at a far edge,--beating it, beating it
    with rising, triumphant ardor,--
    stirring it into warmth,
    quickening in it a spreading change,--
    bursting wildly against it as
    dividing the horizon, a heavy sun
    lifts himself--is lifted--
    bit by bit above the edge
    of things,--runs free at last
    out into the open--! lumbering
    glorified in full release upward--songs cease.



        GOOD NIGHT


    In brilliant gas light
    I turn the kitchen spigot
    and watch the water plash
    into the clean white sink.
    On the grooved drain-board
    to one side is
    a glass filled with parsley--
    crisped green.
                  Waiting
    for the water to freshen--
    I glance at the spotless floor--:
    a pair of rubber sandals
    lie side by side
    under the wall-table,
    all is in order for the night.

    Waiting, with a glass in my hand
   --three girls in crimson satin
    pass close before me on
    the murmurous background of
    the crowded opera--
                        it is
    memory playing the clown--
    three vague, meaningless girls
    full of smells and
    the rustling sound of
    cloth rubbing on cloth and
    little slippers on carpet--
    high-school French
    spoken in a loud voice!

    Parsley in a glass,
    still and shining,
    brings me back. I take my drink
    and yawn deliciously.
    I am ready for bed.



        DANSE RUSSE


    If I when my wife is sleeping
    and the baby and Kathleen
    are sleeping
    and the sun is a flame-white disc
    in silken mists
    above shining trees,--
    if I in my north room
    danse naked, grotesquely
    before my mirror
    waving my shirt round my head
    and singing softly to myself:
    “I am lonely, lonely.
    I was born to be lonely.
    I am best so!”
    If I admire my arms, my face
    my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
    against the yellow drawn shades,--

    who shall say I am not
    the happy genius of my household?



        PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN BED


    There’s my things
    drying in the corner:
    that blue skirt
    joined to the grey shirt--

    I’m sick of trouble!
    Lift the covers
    if you want me
    and you’ll see
    the rest of my clothes--
    though it would be cold
    lying with nothing on!

    I won’t work
    and I’ve got no cash.
    What are you going to do
    about it?

   --and no jewelry
    (the crazy fools)

    But I’ve my two eyes
    and a smooth face
    and here’s this! look!
    it’s high!
    There’s brains and blood
    in there--
    my name’s Robitza!
    Corsets
    can go to the devil--
    and drawers along with them!
    What do I care!

    My two boys?
   --they’re keen!
    Let the rich lady
    care for them--
    they’ll beat the school
    or
    let them go to the gutter--
    that ends trouble.

    This house is empty
    isn’t it?
    Then it’s mine
    because I need it.

    Oh, I won’t starve
    while there’s the Bible
    to make them feed me.

    Try to help me
    if you want trouble
    or leave me alone--
    that ends trouble.

    The county physician
    is a damned fool
    and you
    can go to hell!

    You could have closed the door
    when you came in;
    do it when you go out.
    I’m tired.



        VIRTUE


    Now? Why--
    whirl-pools of
    orange and purple flame
    feather twists of chrome
    on a green ground
    funneling down upon
    the steaming phallus-head
    of the mad sun himself--
    blackened crimson!
                          Now?

    Why--
    it is the smile of her
    the smell of her
    the vulgar inviting mouth of her!
    It is--Oh, nothing new
    nothing that lasts
    an eternity, nothing worth
    putting out to interest,
    nothing--
    but the fixing of an eye
    concretely upon emptiness!

    Come! here are--
    cross-eyed men, a boy
    with a patch, men walking
    in their shirts, men in hats
    dark men, a pale man
    with little black moustaches
    and a dirty white coat,
    fat men with pudgy faces,
    thin faces, crooked faces
    slit eyes, grey eyes, black eyes
    old men with dirty beards,
    men in vests with
    gold watch chains. Come!



        CONQUEST

[_Dedicated to F. W._]


    Hard, chilly colors:
    straw grey, frost grey
    the grey of frozen ground:
    and you, O sun,
    close above the horizon!
    It is I holds you--
    half against the sky
    half against a black tree trunk
    icily resplendent!

    Lie there, blue city, mine at last--
    rimming the banked blue grey
    and rise, indescribable smoky yellow
    into the overpowering white!



        PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN WITH A BAD HEART


    Have I seen her?
    Only through the window
    across the street.

    If I go meeting her
    on the corner
    some damned fool
    will go blabbing it
    to the old man and
    she’ll get hell.
    He’s a queer old bastard!
    Every time he sees me
    you’d think
    I wanted to kill him.
    But I figure it out
    it’s best to let things
    stay as they are--
    for a while at least.

    It’s hard
    giving up the thing
    you want most
    in the world, but with this
    damned pump of mine
    liable to give out ...

    She’s a good kid
    and I’d hate to hurt her
    but if she can get over it--

    it’d be the best thing.



        KELLER GEGEN DOM


    Witness, would you--
    one more young man
    in the evening of his love
    hurrying to confession:
    steps down a gutter
    crosses a street
    goes in at a doorway
    opens for you--
    like some great flower--
    a room filled with lamplight;
    or whirls himself
    obediently to
    the curl of a hill
    some wind-dancing afternoon;
    lies for you in
    the futile darkness of
    a wall, sets stars dancing
    to the crack of a leaf--

    and--leaning his head away--
    snuffs (secretly)
    the bitter powder from
    his thumb’s hollow,
    takes your blessing and
    goes home to bed?

    Witness instead
    whether you like it or not
    a dark vinegar smelling place
    from which trickles
    the chuckle of
    beginning laughter

    It strikes midnight.



        SMELL!


    Oh strong ridged and deeply hollowed
    nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?
    What tactless asses we are, you and I, boney nose,
    always indiscriminate, always unashamed,
    and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled
    poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth
    beneath them. With what deep thirst
    we quicken our desires
    to that rank odor of a passing spring-time!
    Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardors
    for something less unlovely? What girl will care
    for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?
    Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?
    Must you have a part in everything?



        BALLET


    Are you not weary,
    great gold cross
    shining in the wind--
    are you not weary
    of seeing the stars
    turning over you
    and the sun
    going to his rest
    and you frozen with
    a great lie
    that leaves you
    rigid as a knight
    on a marble coffin?

   --and you,
    higher, still,
                  robin,
    untwisting a song
    from the bare
    top-twigs,
    are you not
    weary of labor,
    even the labor of
    a song?

    Come down--join me
    for I am lonely.

    First it will be
    a quiet pace
    to ease our stiffness
    but as the west yellows
    you will be ready!

    Here in the middle
    of the roadway
    we will fling
    ourselves round
    with dust lilies
    till we are bound in
    their twining stems!
    We will tear
    their flowers
    with arms flashing!

    And when
    the astonished stars
    push aside
    their curtains
    they will see us
    fall exhausted where
    wheels and
    the pounding feet
    of horses
    will crush forth
    our laughter.



        SYMPATHETIC PORTRAIT OF A CHILD


    The murderer’s little daughter
    who is barely ten years old
    jerks her shoulders
    right and left
    so as to catch a glimpse of me
    without turning round.

    Her skinny little arms
    wrap themselves
    this way then that
    reversely about her body!
    Nervously
    she crushes her straw hat
    about her eyes
    and tilts her head
    to deepen the shadow--
    smiling excitedly!

    As best as she can
    she hides herself
    in the full sunlight
    her cordy legs writhing
    beneath the little flowered dress
    that leaves them bare
    from mid-thigh to ankle--

    Why has she chosen me
    for the knife
    that darts along her smile?



        THE OGRE


    Sweet child,
    little girl with well shaped legs
    you cannot touch the thoughts
    I put over and under and around you.

    This is fortunate for they would
    burn you to an ash otherwise.
    Your petals would be quite curled up.

    This is all beyond you--no doubt,
    yet you do feel the brushings
    of the fine needles;
    the tentative lines of your whole body
    prove it to me;
    so does your fear of me,
    your shyness;
    likewise the toy baby cart
    that you are pushing--
    and besides, mother has begun
    to dress your hair in a knot.
    These are my excuses.



        RIPOSTE


    Love is like water or the air
    my townspeople;
    it cleanses, and dissipates evil gases.
    It is like poetry too
    and for the same reasons.

    Love is so precious
    my townspeople
    that if I were you I would
    have it under lock and key--
    like the air or the Atlantic or
    like poetry!



        THE OLD MEN


    Old men who have studied
    every leg show
    in the city
    Old men cut from touch
    by the perfumed music--
    polished or fleeced skulls
    that stand before
    the whole theater
    in silent attitudes
    of attention,--
    old men who have taken precedence
    over young men
    and even over dark-faced
    husbands whose minds
    are a street with arc-lights.
    Solitary old men for whom
    we find no excuses--
    I bow my head in shame
    for those who malign you.
    Old men
    the peaceful beer of impotence
    be yours!



        PASTORAL


    If I say I have heard voices
    who will believe me?

        “None has dipped his hand
        in the black waters of the sky
        nor picked the yellow lilies
        that sway on their clear stems
        and no tree has waited
        long enough nor still enough
        to touch fingers with the moon.”

    I looked and there were little frogs
    with puffed out throats,
    singing in the slime.



        SPRING STRAINS


    In a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds
    crowded erect with desire against
    the sky--
                tense blue-grey twigs
    slenderly anchoring them down, drawing
    them in--
                two blue-grey birds chasing
    a third struggle in circles, angles,
    swift convergings to a point that bursts
    instantly!

                  Vibrant bowing limbs
    pull downward, sucking in the sky
    that bulges from behind, plastering itself
    against them in packed rifts, rock blue
    and dirty orange!
                    But--

    (Hold hard, rigid jointed trees!)
    the blinding and red-edged sun-blur--
    creeping energy, concentrated
    counterforce--welds sky, buds, trees,
    rivets them in one puckering hold!
    Sticks through! Pulls the whole
    counter-pulling mass upward, to the right,
    locks even the opaque, not yet defined
    ground in a terrific drag that is
    loosening the very tap-roots!

    On a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds
    two blue-grey birds, chasing a third,
    at full cry! Now they are
    flung outward and up--disappearing suddenly!



        TREES


    Crooked, black tree
    on your little grey-black hillock,
    ridiculously raised one step toward
    the infinite summits of the night:
    even you the few grey stars
    draw upward into a vague melody
    of harsh threads.

    Bent as you are from straining
    against the bitter horizontals of
    a north wind,--there below you
    how easily the long yellow notes
    of poplars flow upward in a descending
    scale, each note secure in its own
    posture--singularly woven.

    All voices are blent willingly
    against the heaving contra-bass
    of the dark but you alone
    warp yourself passionately to one side
    in your eagerness.



        A PORTRAIT IN GREYS


    Will it never be possible
    to separate you from your greyness?
    Must you be always sinking backward
    into your grey-brown landscapes--and trees
    always in the distance, always against
    a grey sky?
                    Must I be always
    moving counter to you? Is there no place
    where we can be at peace together
    and the motion of our drawing apart
    be altogether taken up?
                          I see myself
    standing upon your shoulders touching
    a grey, broken sky--
    but you, weighted down with me,
    yet gripping my ankles,--move
                        laboriously on,
    where it is level and undisturbed by colors.



        INVITATION


    You who had the sense
    to choose me such a mother,
    you who had the indifference
    to create me,
    you who went to some pains
    to leave hands off me
    in the formative stages,--
    (I thank you most for that
    perhaps)
                      but you who
    with an iron head, first,
    fiercest and with strongest love
    brutalized me into strength,
    old dew-lap,--
    I have reached the stage
    where I am teaching myself
    to laugh.
                              Come on,
    take a walk with me.



        DIVERTIMIENTO


    Miserable little woman
    in a brown coat--
                          quit whining!
    My hand for you!
    We’ll skip down the tin cornices
    of Main Street
    flicking the dull roof-line
    with our toe-tips!
    Hop clear of the bank! A
    pin-wheel round the white flag-pole.

    And I’ll sing you the while
    a thing to split your sides
    about Johann Sebastian Bach,
    the father of music, who had
    three wives and twenty-two children.



        JANUARY MORNING

        SUITE


        I.

    I have discovered that most of
    the beauties of travel are due to
    the strange hours we keep to see them:

    the domes of the Church of
    the Paulist Fathers in Weehawken
    against a smoky dawn--the heart stirred--
    are beautiful as Saint Peters
    approached after years of anticipation.


        II.

    Though the operation was postponed
    I saw the tall probationers
    in their tan uniforms
                    hurrying to breakfast!


        III.

   --and from basement entrys
    neatly coiffed, middle aged gentlemen
    with orderly moustaches and
    well brushed coats


        IV.

   --and the sun, dipping into the avenues
    streaking the tops of
    the irregular red houselets,
                                and
    the gay shadows dropping and dropping.


        V.

   --and a young horse with a green bed-quilt
    on his withers shaking his head:
    bared teeth and nozzle high in the air!


        VI.

   --and a semicircle of dirt colored men
    about a fire bursting from an old
    ash can,


        VII.

                  --and the worn,
    blue car rails (like the sky!)
    gleaming among the cobbles!


        VIII.

   --and the rickety ferry-boat “Arden”!
    What an object to be called “Arden”
    among the great piers,--on the
    ever new river!
                    “Put me a Touchstone
    at the wheel, white gulls, and we’ll
    follow the ghost of the Half Moon
    to the North West Passage--and through!
    (at Albany!) for all that!”


        IX.

    Exquisite brown waves--long
    circlets of silver moving over you!
    enough with crumbling ice-crusts among you!
    The sky has come down to you,
    lighter than tiny bubbles, face to
    face with you!
                            His spirit is
    a white gull with delicate pink feet
    and a snowy breast for you to
    hold to your lips delicately!


        X.

    The young doctor is dancing with happiness
    in the sparkling wind, alone
    at the prow of the ferry! He notices
    the curdy barnacles and broken ice crusts
    left at the slip’s base by the low tide
    and thinks of summer and green
    shell crusted ledges among
                    the emerald eel-grass!


        XI.

    Who knows the Palisades as I do
    knows the river breaks east from them
    above the city--but they continue south
   --under the sky--to bear a crest of
    little peering houses that brighten
    with dawn behind the moody
    water-loving giants of Manhattan.


        XII.

    Long yellow rushes bending
    above the white snow patches;
    purple and gold ribbon
    of the distant wood:
                        what an angle
    you make with each other as
    you lie there in contemplation.


        XIII.

    Work hard all your young days
    and they’ll find you too, some morning
    staring up under
    your chiffonier at its warped
    bass-wood bottom and your soul--
    out!
   --among the little sparrows
    behind the shutter.


        XIV.

   --and the flapping flags are at
    half mast for the dead admiral.


        XV.

    All this--
          was for you, old woman.
    I wanted to write a poem
    that you would understand.
    For what good is it to me
    if you can’t understand it?
                  But you got to try hard--
    But--
              Well, you know how
    the young girls run giggling
    on Park Avenue after dark
    when they ought to be home in bed?
    Well,
    that’s the way it is with me somehow.



        TO A SOLITARY DISCIPLE


    Rather notice, mon cher,
    that the moon is
    tilted above
    the point of the steeple
    than that its color
    is shell-pink.

    Rather observe
    that it is early morning
    than that the sky
    is smooth
    as a turquoise.

    Rather grasp
    how the dark
    converging lines
    of the steeple
    meet at the pinnacle--
    perceive how
    its little ornament
    tries to stop them--

    See how it fails!
    See how the converging lines
    of the hexagonal spire
    escape upward--
    receding, dividing!
   --sepals
    that guard and contain
    the flower!

    Observe
    how motionless
    the eaten moon
    lies in the protecting lines.

    It is true:
    in the light colors
    of morning
    brown-stone and slate
    shine orange and dark blue.

    But observe
    the oppressive weight
    of the squat edifice!
    Observe
    the jasmine lightness
    of the moon.



        DEDICATION FOR A PLOT OF GROUND


    This plot of ground
    facing the waters of this inlet
    is dedicated to the living presence of
    Emily Richardson Wellcome
    who was born in England; married;
    lost her husband and with
    her five year old son
    sailed for New York in a two-master;
    was driven to the Azores;
    ran adrift on Fire Island shoal,
    met her second husband
    in a Brooklyn boarding house,
    went with him to Puerto Rico
    bore three more children, lost
    her second husband, lived hard
    for eight years in St. Thomas,
    Puerto Rico, San Domingo, followed
    the oldest son to New York,
    lost her daughter, lost her “baby,”
    seized the two boys of
    the oldest son by the second marriage
    mothered them--they being
    motherless--fought for them
    against the other grandmother
    and the aunts, brought them here
    summer after summer, defended
    herself here against thieves,
    storms, sun, fire,
    against flies, against girls
    that came smelling about, against
    drought, against weeds, storm-tides,
    neighbors, weasles that stole her chickens,
    against the weakness of her own hands,
    against the growing strength of
    the boys, against wind, against
    the stones, against trespassers,
    against rents, against her own mind.

    She grubbed this earth with her own hands,
    domineered over this grass plot,
    blackguarded her oldest son
    into buying it, lived here fifteen years,
    attained a final loneliness and--

    If you can bring nothing to this place
    but your carcass, keep out.



        K. McB.


    You exquisite chunk of mud
    Kathleen--just like
    any other chunk of mud!
   --especially in April!
    Curl up round their shoes
    when they try to step on you,
    spoil the polish!
    I shall laugh till I am sick
    at their amazement.
    Do they expect the ground to be
    always solid?
    Give them the slip then;
    let them sit in you;
    soil their pants;
    teach them a dignity
    that is dignity, the dignity
    of mud!


                  Lie basking in
    the sun then--fast asleep!
    Even become dust on occasion.



        LOVE SONG


    I lie here thinking of you:--

    the stain of love
    is upon the world!
    Yellow, yellow, yellow
    it eats into the leaves,
    smears with saffron
    the horned branches that lean
    heavily
    against a smooth purple sky!
    There is no light
    only a honey-thick stain
    that drips from leaf to leaf
    and limb to limb
    spoiling the colors
    of the whole world--

    you far off there under
    the wine-red selvage of the west!



        THE WANDERER

        _A Rococo Study_


        ADVENT

    Even in the time when as yet
    I had no certain knowledge of her
    She sprang from the nest, a young crow,
    Whose first flight circled the forest.
    I know now how then she showed me
    Her mind, reaching out to the horizon,
    She close above the tree tops.
    I saw her eyes straining at the new distance
    And as the woods fell from her flying
    Likewise they fell from me as I followed--
    So that I strongly guessed all that I must put from me
    To come through ready for the high courses.

    But one day, crossing the ferry
    With the great towers of Manhattan before me,
    Out at the prow with the sea wind blowing,
    I had been wearying many questions
    Which she had put on to try me:
    How shall I be a mirror to this modernity?
    When lo! in a rush, dragging
    A blunt boat on the yielding river--
    Suddenly I saw her! And she waved me
    From the white wet in midst of her playing!
    She cried me, “Haia! Here I am, son!
    See how strong my little finger is!
    Can I not swim well?
    I can fly too!” And with that a great sea-gull
    Went to the left, vanishing with a wild cry--
    But in my mind all the persons of godhead
    Followed after.


        CLARITY

    “Come!” cried my mind and by her might
    That was upon us we flew above the river
    Seeking her, grey gulls among the white--
    In the air speaking as she had willed it:
    “I am given,” cried I, “now I know it!
    I know now all my time is forespent!
    For me one face is all the world!
    For I have seen her at last, this day,
    In whom age in age is united--
    Indifferent, out of sequence, marvelously!
    Saving alone that one sequence
    Which is the beauty of all the world, for surely
    Either there in the rolling smoke spheres below us
    Or here with us in the air intercircling,
    Certainly somewhere here about us
    I know she is revealing these things!”

    And as gulls we flew and with soft cries
    We seemed to speak, flying, “It is she
    The mighty, recreating the whole world,
    This the first day of wonders!
    She is attiring herself before me--
    Taking shape before me for worship,
    A red leaf that falls upon a stone!
    It is she of whom I told you, old
    Forgiveless, unreconcilable;
    That high wanderer of by-ways
    Walking imperious in beggary!
    At her throat is loose gold, a single chain
    From among many, on her bent fingers
    Are rings from which the stones are fallen,
    Her wrists wear a diminished state, her ankles
    Are bare! Toward the river! Is it she there?”
    And we swerved clamorously downward--
    “I will take my peace in her henceforth!”


        BROADWAY

    It was then she struck--from behind,
    In mid air, as with the edge of a great wing!
    And instantly down the mists of my eyes
    There came crowds walking--- men as visions
    With expressionless, animate faces;
    Empty men with shell-thin bodies
    Jostling close above the gutter,
    Hasting--nowhere! And then for the first time
    I really saw her, really scented the sweat
    Of her presence and--fell back sickened!
    Ominous, old, painted--
    With bright lips, and lewd Jew’s eyes
    Her might strapped in by a corset
    To give her age youth, perfect
    In her will to be young she had covered
    The godhead to go beside me.
    Silent, her voice entered at my eyes
    And my astonished thought followed her easily:
    “Well, do their eyes shine, do their clothes fit?
    These _live_ I tell you! Old men with red cheeks,
    Young men in gay suits! See them!
    Dogged, quivering, impassive--
    Well--are these the ones you envied?”
    At which I answered her, “Marvelous old queen,
    Grant me power to catch something of this day’s
    Air and sun into your service!
    That these toilers after peace and after pleasure
    May turn to you, worshippers at all hours!”
    But she sniffed upon the words warily--
    Yet I persisted, watching for an answer:
    “To you, horrible old woman,
    Who know all fires out of the bodies
    Of all men that walk with lust at heart!
    To you, O mighty, crafty prowler
    After the youth of all cities, drunk
    With the sight of thy archness! All the youth
    That come to you, you having the knowledge
    Rather than to those uninitiate--
    To you, marvelous old queen, give me always
    A new marriage--”
                        But she laughed loudly--
    “A new grip upon those garments that brushed me
    In days gone by on beach, lawn, and in forest!
    May I be lifted still, up and out of terror,
    Up from before the death living around me--
    Tom up continually and carried
    Whatever way the head of your whim is,
    A burr upon those streaming tatters--”
    But the night had fallen, she stilled me
    And led me away.


        PATERSON--THE STRIKE

    At the first peep of dawn she roused me!
    I rose trembling at the change which the night saw!
    For there, wretchedly brooding in a corner
    From which her old eyes glittered fiercely--
    “Go!” she said, and I hurried shivering
    Out into the deserted streets of Paterson.

    That night she came again, hovering
    In rags within the filmy ceiling--
    “Great Queen, bless me with thy tatters!”
    “You are blest, go on!”
                              “Hot for savagery,
    Sucking the air! I went into the city,
    Out again, baffled onto the mountain!
    Back into the city!
                        Nowhere
    The subtle! Everywhere the electric!”

    “A short bread-line before a hitherto empty tea shop:
    No questions--all stood patiently,
    Dominated by one idea: something
    That carried them as they are always wanting to be carried,
    ‘But what is it,’ I asked those nearest me,
    ‘This thing heretofore unobtainable
    That they seem so clever to have put on now!’

    “Why since I have failed them can it be anything but their own brood?
    Can it be anything but brutality?
    On that at least they’re united! That at least
    Is their bean soup, their calm bread and a few luxuries!

    “But in me, more sensitive, marvelous old queen
    It sank deep into the blood, that I rose upon
    The tense air enjoying the dusty fight!
    Heavy drink were the low, sloping foreheads
    The flat skulls with the unkempt black or blond hair,
    The ugly legs of the young girls, pistons
    Too powerful for delicacy!
    The women’s wrists, the men’s arms, red
    Used to heat and cold, to toss quartered beeves
    And barrels, and milk-cans, and crates of fruit!

    “Faces all knotted up like burls on oaks,
    Grasping, fox-snouted, thick-lipped,
    Sagging breasts and protruding stomachs,
    Rasping voices, filthy habits with the hands.

    “Nowhere you! Everywhere the electric!

    “Ugly, venemous, gigantic!
    Tossing me as a great father his helpless
    Infant till it shriek with ecstasy
    And its eyes roll and its tongue hangs out!--

    “I am at peace again, old queen, I listen clearer now.”


        ABROAD

    Never, even in a dream,
    Have I winged so high nor so well
    As with her, she leading me by the hand,
    That first day on the Jersey mountains!
    And never shall I forget
    The trembling interest with which I heard
    Her voice in a low thunder:
    “You are safe here. Look child, look open-mouth!
    The patch of road between the steep bramble banks;
    The tree in the wind, the white house there, the sky!
    Speak to men of these, concerning me!
    For never while you permit them to ignore me
    In these shall the full of my freed voice
    Come grappling the ear with intent!
    Never while the air’s clear coolness
    Is seized to be a coat for pettiness;
    Never while richness of greenery
    Stands a shield for prurient minds;
    Never, permitting these things unchallenged
    Shall my voice of leaves and varicolored bark come free through!”
    At which, knowing her solitude,
    I shouted over the country below me:
    “Waken! my people, to the boughs green
    With ripening fruit within you!
    Waken to the myriad cinquefoil
    In the waving grass of your minds!
    Waken to the silent phoebe nest
    Under the eaves of your spirit!”

    But she, stooping nearer the shifting hills
    Spoke again. “Look there! See them!
    There in the oat field with the horses,
    See them there! bowed by their passions
    Crushed down, that had been raised as a roof beam!
    The weight of the sky is upon them
    Under which all roof beams crumble.
    There is none but the single roof beam:
    There is no love bears against the great firefly!
    At this I looked up at the sun
    Then shouted again with all the might I had.
    But my voice was a seed in the wind.
    Then she, the old one, laughing
    Seized me and whirling about bore back
    To the city, upward, still laughing
    Until the great towers stood above the marshland
    Wheeling beneath: the little creeks, the mallows
    That I picked as a boy, the Hackensack
    So quiet that seemed so broad formerly:
    The crawling trains, the cedar swamp on the one side--
    All so old, so familiar--so new now
    To my marvelling eyes as we passed
    Invisible.


        SOOTHSAY

    Eight days went by, eight days
    Comforted by no nights, until finally:
    “Would you behold yourself old, beloved?”
    I was pierced, yet I consented gladly
    For I knew it could not be otherwise.
    And she--“Behold yourself old!
    Sustained in strength, wielding might in gript surges!
    Not bodying the sun in weak leaps
    But holding way over rockish men
    With fern free fingers on their little crags,
    Their hollows, the new Atlas, to bear them
    For pride and for mockery! Behold
    Yourself old! winding with slow might--
    A vine among oaks--to the thin tops:
    Leaving the leafless leaved,
    Bearing purple clusters! Behold
    Yourself old! birds are behind you.
    You are the wind coming that stills birds,
    Shakes the leaves in booming polyphony--
    Slow, winning high way amid the knocking
    Of boughs, evenly crescendo,
    The din and bellow of the male wind!
    Leap then from forest into foam!
    Lash about from low into high flames
    Tipping sound, the female chorus--
    Linking all lions, all twitterings
    To make them nothing! Behold yourself old!”
    As I made to answer she continued,
    A little wistfully yet in a voice clear cut:
    “Good is my over lip and evil
    My underlip to you henceforth:
    For I have taken your soul between my two hands
    And this shall be as it is spoken.”


        ST. JAMES’ GROVE

    And so it came to that last day
    When, she leading by the hand, we went out
    Early in the morning, I heavy of heart
    For I knew the novitiate was ended
    The ecstasy was over, the life begun.

    In my woolen shirt and the pale blue necktie
    My grandmother gave me, there I went
    With the old queen right past the houses
    Of my friends down the hill to the river
    As on any usual day, any errand.
    Alone, walking under trees,
    I went with her, she with me in her wild hair,
    By Santiago Grove and presently
    She bent forward and knelt by the river,
    The Passaic, that filthy river.
    And there dabbling her mad hands,
    She called me close beside her.
    Raising the water then in the cupped palm
    She bathed our brows wailing and laughing:
    “River, we are old, you and I,
    We are old and by bad luck, beggars.
    Lo, the filth in our hair, our bodies stink!
    Old friend, here I have brought you
    The young soul you long asked of me.
    Stand forth, river, and give me
    The old friend of my revels!
    Give me the well-worn spirit,
    For here I have made a room for it,
    And I will return to you forthwith
    The youth you have long asked of me:
    Stand forth, river, and give me
    The old friend of my revels!”

    And the filthy Passaic consented!

    Then she, leaping up with a fierce cry:
    “Enter, youth, into this bulk!
    Enter, river, into this young man!”
    Then the river began to enter my heart,
    Eddying back cool and limpid
    Into the crystal beginning of its days.
    But with the rebound it leaped forward:
    Muddy, then black and shrunken
    Till I felt the utter depth of its rottenness
    The vile breadth of its degradation
    And dropped down knowing this was me now.
    But she lifted me and the water took a new tide
    Again into the older experiences,
    And so, backward and forward,
    It tortured itself within me
    Until time had been washed finally under,
    And the river had found its level
    And its last motion had ceased
    And I knew all--it became me.
    And I knew this for double certain
    For there, whitely, I saw myself
    Being borne off under the water!
    I could have shouted out in my agony
    At the sight of myself departing
    Forever--but I bit back my despair
    For she had averted her eyes
    By which I knew well what she was thinking--
    And so the last of me was taken.

    Then she, “Be mostly silent!”
    And turning to the river, spoke again:
    “For him and for me, river, the wandering,
    But by you I leave for happiness
    Deep foliage, the thickest beeches--
    Though elsewhere they are all dying--
    Tallest oaks and yellow birches
    That dip their leaves in you, mourning,
    As now I dip my hair, immemorial
    Of me, immemorial of him
    Immemorial of these our promises!
    Here shall be a bird’s paradise,
    They sing to you remembering my voice:
    Here the most secluded spaces
    For miles around, hallowed by a stench
    To be our joint solitude and temple;
    In memory of this clear marriage
    And the child I have brought you in the late years.
    Live, river, live in luxuriance
    Remembering this our son,
    In remembrance of me and my sorrow
    And of the new wandering!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

con la beautitud=> con la beatitud {pg 5}

a rough day to=> a rough dray to {pg 26}

From which he old eyes=> From which her old eyes {pg 79}





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