Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When the Loud Eaves Rattle as with Waves Above Me Blue at the Prow of My Desire, or: Born One Hundred Thirty Years Ago Today

I mentioned I had never played my Sillyass Deserted Island Five Game with poets when I wrote John Ashbery's birthday post this past July and after much thought why I don't I've discovered it's simply because I always did it with music and musicians and can't stop though it's sillyassedness I celebrate and I never did it with poets - there was no Casey Kasem countdown show of poets on Saturdays, no poets Top Ten in the back of Rolling Stone - and don't want to start now. Still, if I was to create an inner circle of contenders for a Sillyass Deserted Island Five Game of Poets, William Carlos Williams would be in it.


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. 


If a man can say of his life or
any moment of his life, There is
nothing more to be desired! his state
becomes like that told in the famous
double sonnet--but without the
sonnet’s restrictions. Let him go look
at the river flowing or the bank
of late flowers, there will be one
small fly still among the petals
in whose gauzy wings raised above
its back a rainbow shines. The world
to him is radiant and even the fact
of poverty is wholly without despair.

So it seems until these rouse
to him pictures of the systematically
starved--for a purpose, at the mind’s
proposal. What good then the
light winged fly, the flower or
the river--too foul to drink of or
even to bathe in? The 90 story building
beyond the ocean that a rocket
will span for destruction in a matter
of minutes but will not
bring him, in a century, food or
relief of any sort from his suffering.

The world too much with us? Rot!
the world is not half enough with us--
the rot of a potato with
a healthy skin, a rot that is
never revealed till we are about to
eat--and it revolts us. Beauty?
Beauty should make us paupers,
should blind us, rob us--for it
does not feed the sufferer but makes
his suffering a fly-blown putrescence
and ourselves decay--unless
the ecstasy be general.


Now that I have cooled to you
Let there be gold of tarnished masonry,
Temples soothed by the sun to ruin   
That sleep utterly.
Give me hand for the dances,            
Ripples at Philae, in and out,         
And lips, my Lesbian,         
Wall flowers that once were flame.         

Your hair is my Carthage         
And my arms the bow,         
And our words arrows         
To shoot the stars         
Who from that misty sea         
Swarm to destroy us.         

But you there beside me—         
Oh how shall I defy you,         
Who wound me in the night         
With breasts shining         
Like Venus and like Mars?         
The night that is shouting Jason         
When the loud eaves rattle         
As with waves above me         
Blue at the prow of my desire.