20th Century Poets-5




In Italy, where this sort of thing can occur,
I had a vision once – though you understand
It was nothing at all like Dante’s, or the visions of saints,
And perhaps not a vision at all. I was with some friends,
Picking my way through a warm sunlit piazza
In the early morning. A clear fretwork of shadows
From huge umbrellas littered the pavement and made
A sort of lucent shallows in which was moored
A small navy of carts. Books, coins, old maps,
Cheap landscapes and ugly religious prints
Were all on sale. The colors and noise
Like the flying hands were gestures of exultation,
So that even the bargaining
Rose to the ear like a voluble godliness.
And then, where it happened, the noises suddenly stopped,
And it got darker; pushcarts and people dissolved
And even the great Farnese Palace itself
Was gone, for all its marble; in its place
Was a hill, mole-colored and bare. It was very cold,
Close to freezing, with a promise of snow.
The trees were like old ironwork gathered for scrap
Outside a factory wall. There was no wind,
And the only sound for a while was the little click
Of ice as it broke in the mud under my feet.
I saw a piece of ribbon snagged on a hedge,
But no other sign of life. And then I heard
What seemed the crack of a rifle. A hunter, I guessed;
At least I was not alone. But just after that
Came the soft and papery crash
Of a great branch somewhere unseen falling to earth.

And that was all, except for the cold and silence
That promised to last forever, like the hill.

Then prices came through, and fingers, and I was restored
To the sunlight and my friends. But for more than a week
I was scared by the plain bitterness of what I had seen.
All this happened about ten years ago,
And it hasn’t troubled me since, but at last, today,
I remembered that hill; it lies just to the left
Of the road north of Poughkeepsie; and as a boy
I stood before it for hours in wintertime.

by Anthony Hecht, 1923-2004

[Click here to hear the above poem read by Allie Stielau]

Hecht fought in Europe in World War 2, and saw the aftermath of the Holocaust close up:


   Wir haben ein Gesetz,
   Und nach dem Gesetz soll er sterben.*

The dowsed coals fume and hiss after your meal
Of grilled brook trout, and you saunter off for a walk
Down the fern trail, it doesn't matter where to,
Just so you're weeks and worlds away from home,
And among midsummer hills have set up camp
In the deep bronze glories of declining day.

You remember, peacefully, an earlier day
In childhood, remember a quite specific meal:
A corn roast and bonfire in summer camp.
That summer you got lost on a Nature Walk;
More than you dared admit, you thought of home;
No one else knows where the mind wanders to.

The fifth of August, 1942.
It was morning and very hot. It was the day
They came at dawn with rifles to The Home
For Jewish Children, cutting short the meal
Of bread and soup, lining them up to walk
In close formation off to a special camp.

How often you have thought about that camp,
As though in some strange way you were driven to,
And about the children, and how they were made to walk,
Yolek who had bad lungs, who wasn't a day
Over five years old, commanded to leave his meal
And shamble between armed guards to his long home.

We're approaching August again. It will drive home
The regulation torments of that camp
Yolek was sent to, his small, unfinished meal,
The electric fences, the numeral tattoo,
The quite extraordinary heat of the day
They all were forced to take that terrible walk.

Whether on a silent, solitary walk
Or among crowds, far off or safe at home,
You will remember, helplessly, that day,
And the smell of smoke, and the loudspeakers of the camp.
Wherever you are, Yolek will be there, too.
His unuttered name will interrupt your meal.

Prepare to receive him in your home some day.
Though they killed him in the camp they sent him to,
He will walk in as you're sitting down to a meal.

by Anthony Hecht, 1923-2004

* We have a law, and according to the law he must die.

from Hecht’s “Collected Later Poems.” Alfred A. Knopf, c2004

This next poem is not for the faint of heart:

More Light! More Light!

                   For Heinrich Blucher and Hannah Arendt

Composed in the Tower before his execution
These moving verses, and being brought at that time
Painfully to the stake, submitted, declaring thus:
"I implore my God to witness that I have made no crime."

Nor was he forsaken of courage, but the death was horrible,
The sack of gunpowder failing to ignite.
His legs were blistered sticks on which the black sap
Bubbled and burst as he howled for the Kindly Light.

And that was but one, and by no means one of he worst;
Permitted at least his pitiful dignity;
And such as were by made prayers in the name of Christ,
That shall judge all men, for his soul's tranquility.

We move now to outside a German wood.
Three men are there commanded to dig a hole
In which the two Jews are ordered to lie down
And be buried alive by the third, who is a Pole.

Not light from the shrine at Weimar beyond the hill
Nor light from heaven appeared. But he did refuse.
A Luger settled back deeply in its glove.
He was ordered to change places with the Jews.

Much casual death had drained away their souls.
The thick dirt mounted toward the quivering chin.
When only the head was exposed the order came
To dig him out again and to get back in.

No light, no light in the blue Polish eye.
When he finished a riding boot packed down the earth.
The Luger hovered lightly in its glove.
He was shot in the belly and in three hours bled to death.

No prayers or incense rose up in those hours
Which grew to be years, and every day came mute
Ghosts from the ovens, sifting through crisp air,
And settled upon his eyes in a black soot.

by Anthony Hecht, 1923-2004


Snub-nosed, bone-fingered, deft with engraving tools,
I alone have been given
The powers of Joshua, who stayed the sun
In its traverse of heaven.*
Here in this Gotham** of unnumbered fools
I have sought out and arrested everyone.

Under my watchful eye all human creatures
Convert to a still life,
As with unique precision I apply
White lead and palette knife.
A model student of remodelled features,
The final barber, the last beautician, I.

You lordlings, what is Man, his blood and vitals,
When all is said and done?
A poor forked animal, a nest of flies.***
Tell us, what is this one
Once shorn of all his dignities and titles,
Divested of his testicles and eyes?

by Anthony Hecht, 1923-2004

*Cf. Joshua 10.12-13; when Joshua asked the sun and moon to stand still, “the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies”
** Proverbial town (in England) known for its foolish inhabitants.
*** Cf. King Lear 3.4. 101 ff,. where Lear encounters Edgar, disguised in rags as a madman, laments, “Is man no more than this?” and says, “unaccomodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, fork’d animal as thou art.” Notes from [The Poem of the Week]


The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted -
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all

A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

by Gary Soto

Looking Around, Believing

How strange that we can begin at anytime.
With two feet we get down the street.
With a hand we undo the rose.
With an eye we lift up the peach tree
And hold it up to the wind--white blossoms
At our feet. Like today. I started
In the yard with my daughter,
With my wife poking at a potted geranium,
And now I am walking down the street,
Amazed that the sun is only so high,
Just over the roof, and a child
Is singing through a rolled newspaper
And a terrier is leaping like a flea
And at the bakery I pass, a palm
Like a suctioning starfish, is pressed
To the window. We're keeping busy--
This way, that way, we're making shadows
Where sunlight was, making words
Where there was only noise in the trees.

by Gary Soto

Great political poem about El Salvador:

The Colonel

WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace. On
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them-
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.
By Carolyn Forché
May 1978
All lines from “The Colonel” from The Country Between Us by Carolyn Forché, Copyright (c) 1981 by Carolyn Forché. Originally appeared in Women’s International Resource Exchange. Used by Permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Additional territory: Virginia Barber, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
Source: The Country Between Us (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1981)


Randall Jarrell reads his poem “The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner” featuring the composition “God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters” by Moby:

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

by Randall Jarrell, 1914–1965


Big Daddy Lipscomb, who used to help them up
After he'd pulled them down, so that "the children
Won't think Big Daddy's mean"; Big Daddy Lipscomb,
Who stood unmoved among the blockers, like the Rock
Of Gibraltar in a life insurance ad,
Until the ball carrier came, and Daddy got him;
Big Daddy Lipscomb, being carried down an aisle
Of women by Night Train Lane, John Henry Johnson,
And Lenny Moore; Big Daddy, his three ex-wives,
His fiancee, and the grandfather who raised him
Going to his grave in five big Cadillacs;
Big Daddy, who found football easy enough, life 
     hard enough
To--after his last night cruising Baltimore
In his yellow Cadillac--to die of heroin;
Big Daddy, who was scared, he said: "I've been 
Most of my life. You wouldn't think so to look at me.
It gets so bad I cry myself to sleep--" his size
Embarrassed him, so that he was helped by smaller 
And hurt by smaller men; Big Daddy Lipscomb
Has helped to his feet the last ball carrier, Death.

The big black man in the television set
Whom the viewers stared at--sometimes, almost 
Is a blur now; when we get up to adjust the set,
It's not the set, but a NETWORK DIFFICULTY.
The world won't be the same without Big Daddy.
Or else it will be.

by Randall Jarrell, 1914–1965

“Say Good-bye to Big Daddy” appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1967

The Bird of Night

A shadow is floating through the moonlight.
Its wings don’t make a sound.
Its claws are long, its beak is bright.
Its eyes try all the corners of the night.
It calls and calls: all the air swells and heaves
And washes up and down like water.
The ear that listens to the owl believes
In death. The bat beneath the eaves,
The mouse beneath the stone are still as death.
The owl’s air washes them like water.
The owl goes back and forth inside the night,
And the night holds its breath. 

by Randall Jarrell, 1914–1965


A bat is born 
Naked and blind and pale. 
His mother makes a pocket of her tail 
And catches him. He clings to her long fur 
By his thumbs and toes and teeth. 
And then the mother dances through the night 
Doubling and looping, Soaring, somersaulting- 
Her baby hangs on underneath. 
All night, in happiness, she hunts and flies. 
Her high sharp cries 
Like shining needlepoints of sound 
Go out into the night and echoing back, 
Tell her what they have touched. 
She hears how far it is, how big it is, 
Which way it’s going: 
She lives by hearing. 
The mother eats the moths and gnats she catches 
In full flight, in full flight. 
The mother drinks the water of the pond, 
She skims across. Her baby hangs on tight. 
Her baby drinks the milk she makes him 
In moonlight or starlight, in mid-air. 
Their single shadow, printed on the moon 
Or fluttering across the stars, 
Whirls on all night. At daybreak, 
The tired mother flaps home to her rafter. 
The others all are there. 
They hang themselves up by their toes, 
They wrap themselves in their brown wings. 
Bunched upside-down, they sleep in air. 
Their sharp ears, their sharp teeth, their quick sharp faces 
Are dull and slow and mild. 
All the bright day, as the mother sleeps, 
She folds her wings about her sleeping child. 

by Randall Jarrell, 1914–1965



Granny Scarecrow

Tears flowed at the chapel funeral,
more beside the grave on the hill. Nevertheless,
after the last autumn ploughing,
they crucified her old flowered print housedress
live on a pole.

Marjorie and Emily, shortcutting to school,
used to pass and wave; mostly Gran would wave back.
Two white Sunday gloves
flapped good luck from the crossbar; her head's plastic sack
would nod, as a rule.

But when winter arrived, her ghost thinned.
The dress began to look starved in its field of snowcorn.
One glove blew off and was lost.
The other hung blotchy with mould from the hedgerow, torn
by the wind.

Emily and Marjorie noticed this.
Without saying why, they started to avoid the country way
through the cornfield. Instead they walked
from the farm up the road to the stop, where they
caught the bus.

And it caught them. So in time they married.
Marjorie, divorced, rose high in the catering profession.
Emily had children and grandchildren, though,
with the farm sold, none found a cross to fit their clothes when
Emily and Marjorie died.

by Anne Stevenson


Feet that could be clawed but are not ...
Arms that might have flown but did not ...
No one said 'Let there be angels!' but the birds

Whose choirs fling alleluias over the sea,
Herring gulls, black backs carolling raucously
While cormorants dry their wings on a rocky stable.

Plovers that stoop to sanctify the land
And scoop small, roundy mangers in the sand,
Swaddle a saviour each in a speckled shell.

A chaffinchy fife unreeling in the marsh
Accompanies the tune a solo thrush
Half sings, half talks in riffs of wordless words,

As hymns flare up from tiny muscled throats,
Robins and hidden wrens whose shiny notes
Tinsel the precincts of the winter sun.

What loftier organ than these pipes of beech,
Pillars resounding with the jackdaws' speech,
And poplars swayed with light like shaken bells?

Wings that could be hands, but are not ...
Cries that might be pleas but cannot
Question or disinvent the stalker's gun,

Be your own hammerbeam angels of the air
Before, in the maze of space, you disappear,
Stilled by our dazzling anthrocentric mills.

by Anne Stevenson


In the pull-out bed with my brother
in my grandfather’s Riverton apartment
my knees and ankles throbbed from growing,
pulsing so hard they kept me awake—
or was it the Metro North train cars
flying past the apartment, rocking the walls,
or was it the sound of apartment front doors
as heavy as prison doors clanging shut?
Was the Black Nation whispering to me
from the Jet magazines stacked on the floor, or
was it my brother’s unfamiliar ions
vibrating, humming in his easeful sleep?
Tomorrow, as always, Grandfather will rise
to the Spanish-Town cock’s crow deep in his head
and perform his usual ablutions,
and prepare the apartment for the day,
and peel fruit for us, and prepare a hot meal
that can take us anywhere, and onward.
Did sleep elude me because I could feel
the heft of unuttered love in his tending
our small bodies, love a silent, mammoth thing
that overwhelmed me, that kept me awake
as my growing bones did, growing larger
than anything else I would know?

by Elizabeth Alexander



It wasn't as if we knew nothing before.
After all, colored girls must know many
things in order to survive. Not only
could I sew buttons and hems, but I could
make a dress and pantaloons from scratch.
I could milk cows, churn butter, feed chickens,
clean their coops, wring their necks, pluck and cook them.
I cut wood, set fires, and boiled water
to wash the clothes and sheets, then wrung them dry.
And I could read the Bible. Evenings
before the fire, my family tired
from unending work and New England cold,
they'd close their eyes. My favorite was Song of Songs.
They most liked when I read, "In the beginning."


The mother who packs her daughter's valise,
tucks a Bible between the muslin layers.
The father who shoes horses and fixes
clocks and other intricate things that break
saves coins in their largest preserving jar
'til the day for which they have waited comes.
See Mother wash and oil and comb and braid
Daughter's thick brown hair for the very last time.
Does "good-bye" mean we hope or mean we weep?
Does it mean remember all you know, or
come back as soon as you can, or do not?
Does it mean go now, or I do not know?
Good-bye, Daughter, says Mother. She watches
the horse and buggy 'til it fades from view.


Teacher is bewildered when packages
and letters come from far to say how brave,
how visionary, how stare-down-the-beast
is Prudence Crandall of Canterbury.
Work, she says, there is always work to do,
not in the name of self but in the name,
the water-clarity of what is right.
We crave radiance in this austere world,
light in the spiritual darkness.
Learning is the one perfect religion,
its path correct, narrow, certain, straight.
At its end it blossoms and billows
into vari-colored polyphony:
the sweet infinity of true knowledge.

by Elizabeth Alexander


Part 4: Matins: James Brown and His Famous Flames Tour the South, 1958

"Please, Please, Please" on the charts permits
Four canary yellow sequined suits
And a hulking Coupe de Ville--bought on credit
For the Alabama-Georgia roadhouse circuit.
Half last night they drove from Athens, taking turns
At the wheel. The radio hissed National Guards
In Little Rock, static filling Jackie Wilson's
"Lonely Teardrops." Parked near Macon in a soybean field,
They sleep with heads in towels to protect
Their kingly pompadours, and as the pre-dawn
Mist burns off, they wake to knocks against
The windshield. A cruiser with its siren on
Dyes the fog bright red. Don't you niggers know your place?
A billy club, a face, the windshield breaks.

by David Wojahn, b. 1953-

Part 23: “‘It’s Only Rock and Roll, but I Like It’:
The Fall of Saigon

The guttural stammer of the chopper blades
Raising arabesques of dust, tearing leaves
From the orange trees lining the Embassy compound;
One chopper left, and a CBS cameraman leans 
From inside its door, exploiting the artful
Mayhem. Somewhere a radio blares the Stones,
"I like it, like it, yes indeed..." Carts full
Of files blaze in the yard. Flak-jacketed marines
Gunpoint the crowd away. The overloaded chopper strains
And blunders from the roof. An ice-cream-suited
Saigonese drops his briefcase; both hands
Now cling to the airborne skis. The camera gets
It all: the marine leaning out the copter day,
His fists beating time. Then the hands giving way."

by David Wojahn, b. 1953-

To see David Wojan’s poem “Jimmie Rogers’ Last Blue Yodel, 1933” click here



Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

by Stevie Smith

From New Selected Poems, c1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.


Mr. Over is dead
He died fighting and true
And on his tombstone they wrote
Over to You.

And who pray is this You
To whom Mr. Over is gone?
Oh if we only knew that
We should not do wrong.

But who is this beautiful You
We all of us long for so much
Is he not our friend and our brother
Our father and such?

Yes he is this and much more
This is but a portion
A sea-drop in a bucket
Taken from the ocean

So the voices spake
Softly above my head
And a voice in my heart cried: Follow
Where he has led

And a devil’s voice cried: Happy
Happy the dead.

by Stevie Smith (1950)

From New Selected Poems, c1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

The Face

There is a face I know too well,
A face I dread to see,
So vain it is, so eloquent
Of all futility.

It is a human face that hides
A monkey soul within,
That bangs about, that beats a gong,
That makes a horrid din.

Sometimes the monkey soul will sprawl
Athwart the human eyes,
And peering forth, will flesh its pads,
And utter social lies.

So wretched is this face, so vain,
So empty and forlorn,
You well may say that better far
This face had not been born.

by Stevie Smith

From New Selected Poems, c1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.


She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt
Someone she loved once passed by – too late

to feign indifference to that casual nod.
“How nice” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon…”but for the grace of God…”

They stand a while in flickering light, rehearsing
the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive, ”
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”

by Gwen Harwood, 1920–1995

Home of Mercy*

By two and two the ruined girls are walking
at the neat margin of the convent grass
into the chapel, counted as they pass
by an old nun who silences their talking.

They smooth with roughened hands the clumsy dress
that hides their ripening bodies. Memories burn
like incense as towards plaster saints they turn
faces of mischievous children in distress.

They kneel: time for the spirit to begin
with prayer its sad recourse to dream and flight
from their intolerable weekday rigour
Each morning they will launder, for their sin
sheets soiled by other bodies, and at night
angels will wrestle them with brutish vigour.*

by Gwen Harwood, 1920–1995

*Original title was “Magdalen Home.”

*refers to the story of Jacob and the angel (Genesis 32)


So the light falls, and so it fell
on branches leaved with flocking birds.
Light stole a city’s weight to swell
the coloured loaf of stone. Your words
hung weightless in my ear: Remember me.

All words except those words were drowned
in the fresh babbling rush of spring.
In summer's dream-filled light one sound
echoed through all the whispering
galleries of green: Remember me.

Rods of light point home the flocking
starlings to wintry trees, and turn
stone into golden ochre, locking
the orbit of my pain. I learn
the weight of light and stone. Remember me.

by Gwen Harwood, 1920–1995

Music by Sigur Rós. A film by David Evans of “At Mornington” by Gwen Harwood:

At Mornington

They told me that when I was taken
To the sea’s edge, for the first time,
I leapt from my father’s arms
And was caught by a wave and rolled
Like a doll among rattling shells;
And I seem to remember my father
Fully clothed, still streaming with water
Half comforting, half angry.
And indeed I remember believing
As a child, I could walk on water-–
The next wave, the next wave-–
It was only a matter of balance.

On what floor are they borne,
These memories of early childhood
Iridescent, fugitive
As light in a sea-wet shell,
While we stand, two friends of middle ages,
By your parents’ grave in silence
Among avenues of the dead
With their cadences of trees,
Marble and granite parting
The quick of autumn grasses.
We have the wholeness of this day
To share as we will between us.

This morning I saw in your garden
Fine pumpkins grown on a trellis
So it seemed that the vines were rising
To flourish the fruits of earth
Above their humble station
In airy defiance of nature
--a parable of myself,
a skinful of elements climbing
from earth to the fastness of light;
now come to that time of life
when our bones begin to wear us,
to settle our flesh in final shape

as the drying face of land
rose out of earth’s seamless waters
I dreamed once, long ago,
That we walked among day-bright flowers
To a bench in the Brisbane gardens
With a pitcher of water between us,
And stayed for a whole day
Talking, and drinking the water.
Then, as night fell, you said
“There is still some water left over.”
We have one day, only one,
But more than enough to refresh us.

At your side among the graves
I think of death no more
Than when, secure in my father’s arms,
I laughed at a hollowed pumpkin
With candle flame for eyesight,
And when I am seized at last
And rolled in one grinding race
Of dreams, pain and memories, love and grief,
From which no hand will save me,
The peace of this day will shine
Like light on the face of the waters
That bear me away for ever.

by Gwen Harwood, 1920–1995

‘pity this busy monster, manunkind’

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
                          A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

by e e cummings

“next to of course god america i”

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

by e e cummings


Dorothy Parker’s poem, “Symptom Recital”, read by Jennifer Jason Leigh in the movie (Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle) about the poet’s life and the days of Algonquin Round Table:


"I do not like my state of mind;
I'm bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn's recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I'm disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I'd be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men....
I'm due to fall in love again."

by Dorothy Parker

From The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Brendan Gill. Copyright 1926 and renewed 1954 by Dorothy Parker. Reprinted with the permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Love Song

My own dear love, he is strong and bold
And he cares not what comes after.
His words ring sweet as a chime of gold,
And his eyes are lit with laughter.
He is jubilant as a flag unfurled—
Oh, a girl, she’d not forget him.
My own dear love, he is all my world,—
And I wish I’d never met him.

My love, he’s mad, and my love, he’s fleet,
And a wild young wood-thing bore him!
The ways are fair to his roaming feet,
And the skies are sunlit for him.
As sharply sweet to my heart he seems
As the fragrance of acacia.
My own dear love, he is all my dreams,—
And I wish he were in Asia.

My love runs by like a day in June,
And he makes no friends of sorrows.
He’ll tread his galloping rigadoon
In the pathway of the morrows.
He’ll live his days where the sunbeams start,
Nor could storm or wind uproot him.
My own dear love, he is all my heart,—
And I wish somebody’d shoot him.

by Dorothy Parker

From The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Brendan Gill. Copyright 1926 and renewed 1954 by Dorothy Parker. Reprinted with the permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.