Monday, October 25, 2010

Born Ninety-Six Years Ago Today


John Berryman
As he grew famous - ah, but what is fame? -
he lost his old obsession with his name,
things seemed to matter less,
including the fame - a television team came
from another country to make a film of him
which did not him distress:

he enjoyed the hard work & he was good at that,
so they all said - the charming Englishmen
among the camera & the lights
mathematically wandered in his pub & livingroom
doing their duty, as too he did it,
but where are the delights

of long-for fame, unless fame makes him feel easy?
I am cold & weary, said Henry, fame makes me feel lazy,
yet I must do my best.
It doesn't matter, truly. It doesn't matter truly.
It seems to be solely a matter of continuing Henry
voicing & obsessed.


John Berryman

Panic and shock, together. They are all going away.
Henry took down his black four-in-hand & his black bowtie
and put away all other ties.
It is a pleasant Sunday summer afternoon,
I have been sick five times. Can I go on?
I am a half-closed book.
Exalted figures passed before Henry's eyes,
passed & withdrew. Retaining his faculties
barely, his trajectory,
his heart still beating in his empty breast,
he hollow-hearted waved to them going by
& out of sight.
I feel a final chill. This is cold sweat
that will not leave me now. Maybe it's time
to throw in my own hand.
But there are secrets, secrets, I may yet -
hidden in history & theology, hidden in rhyme -
come on to understand.

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