Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Now That I Have Cooled to You, or: Born 135 Years Ago Yesterday


William Carlos Williams

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

Painting by Charles Demuth. As inside baseball as this blog gets.

2018 UPDATE!

I didn't forget, and I saw this Demuth at the Whitney this past Sunday:

Seven more below the fold.


We buried the cat
then took her box
and set fire to it
in the backyard.
Those fleas that escaped
earth and fire
died by the cold.



Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wake,
    - through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No idea
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.



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 springtime!
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?



Nude bodies like peeled logs
sometimes give off a sweetest
odor, man and woman

under the trees in full excess
matching the cushion of

aromatic pine-drift fallen
threaded with trailing woodbine
a sonnet might be made of it

Might be made of it! odor of excess
odor of pine needles, odor of
peeled logs, odor of no odor
other than trailing woodbine that

has no odor, odor of a nude woman
sometimes, odor of a man.


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.


  1. Reading this:

    It makes me wonder why anyone should be surprised that civilians are targeted when wars are waged. Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't military targets, they were civilian targets. The fire bombing of Dresden was aimed at civilians as was the bombing of London. It's not an accident, it's a strategy to demoralize the "enemy". Every time Israel decides to attack Gaza civilians are targeted as they have been in the recent Palestinian protests. Every time I read about the "Saudi led" war in Yemen I want to pull my hair (or what's left of it) out. It's not a Saudi led war, it's being led by the US and Israel. At any rate I think it's time to stop being "surprised" by civilian deaths. It's not like this is something new under the sun.

    This is why the voting for the lesser evil by liberal assholes makes them assholes, because they are assholes. They don't give a shit about what their lesser evil voting does. All it does is legitimize all the death and destruction. They care so much about racism (except they look the other way when it comes to Israeli racism) global warming, and all the rest of their fucking symbols but all they really care about is a way to feel good about themselves and just how much better they are than anyone who doesn't prescribe to their bullshit. Deep down they just love Donald Trump because it lets them feel superior which is all they care about.

  2. "the mind's game" refers to "the famous double sonnet" - as will rogers said, everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects - i wish i knew which double sonnet was being referred to

    1. williams' 'the mind game' quotes a famous sonnet of wordsworth, and it might be interesting to view the later poem as a response to the earlier - at this time that is left as an exercise for the reader

      christina rossetti's "later life: a double sonnet of sonnets" [1881] has 28 sonnets - here's the one i most enjoyed today (number 5)

      Lord, Thou Thyself art Love and only Thou;
      Yet I who am not love would fain love Thee;
      But Thou alone being Love canst furnish me
      With that same love my heart is craving now.
      Allow my plea! for if Thou disallow,
      No second fountain can I find but Thee;
      No second hope or help is left to me,
      No second anything, but only Thou.
      O Love accept, according my request;
      O Love exhaust, fulfilling my desire:
      Uphold me with the strength that cannot tire,
      Nerve me to labor till Thou bid me rest,
      Kindle my fire from Thine unkindled fire,
      And charm the willing heart from out my breast.