THE GREAT FIGURE
William Carlos Williams
Among the rain
I saw the figure 5
on a red
to gong clangs
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.
Painting by Charles Demuth. As inside baseball as this blog gets.
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.
A SORT OF SONG
Let the snake wait under
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
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?
SONNET IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR
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
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 —
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.
I think you are ready.
THE MIND'S GAME
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.