Saturday, May 25, 2019

I Keep a Dog and Bark Myself, or: Born One Hundred Eleven Years Ago Today


Theodore Roethke

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.


Lordy, Roethke. The traditional High Egoslavian Holy Day birthday post, new Siberry (added 2018) addition at end isn't an addition but an unforgivable omission corrected, updated for 2019 with biggerness for blind people like me.

Don't remember when (though I understand the why) I made the Roethke/Swans trill/symbient connection, I could find out but that would be research (and maybe I'll redo everything for 112th, years of copy/paste + additions coding mishaps, don't count on it), important thing is to read the poems OUT LOUD! and listen to the songs LOUD!



Theodore Roethke


When true love broke my heart in half,
I took the whiskey from the shelf,
And told my neighbors when to laugh
I keep a dog, and bark myself.


Ghost cries out to ghost–
But whose afraid of that?
I feel those shadows most
That start from my own feet.



Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,
Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark,
Shoots dangled and drooped,
Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.
And what a congress of stinks!—
Roots ripe as old bait,
Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,
Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.
Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.



In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.


I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?   
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?   
God bless the Ground!  I shall walk softly there,   
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?   
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do   
To you and me; so take the lively air,   
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.   
What falls away is always. And is near.   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I learn by going where I have to go.



Indelicate is he who loathes
The aspect of his fleshy clothes, --
The flying fabric stitched on bone,
The vesture of the skeleton,
The garment neither fur nor hair,
The cloak of evil and despair,
The veil long violated by
Caresses of the hand and eye.
Yet such is my unseemliness:
I hate my epidermal dress,
The savage blood's obscenity,
The rags of my anatomy,
And willingly would I dispense
With false accouterments of sense,
To sleep immodestly, a most
Incarnadine and carnal ghost.


  1. 1.some versions of the surly one one finds on the internet have who's instead of whose

    2.speaking of a train bearing west, and a pullman berth, at the age of 7 my mother and two-years-younger brother and i took a train journey - with a pullman compartment - from near boston to seattle - and then a ship to japan

    that was mid-twentieth century - i claim to be a time traveler from then

    i traveled through space and time last night, in my living room - using amazon prime i watched a movie - an "epic space opera" - i watched in the theater at the time of its release, in 1984 - i had attended it with a woman who later became my fiancee, and somewhat later my ex-fiancee - i liked the movie more this time, accepting its eccentricities instead of being annoyed by them - i watched it alone, as missus charley is back in her country of origin as her father turns 102

    i traveled through space and time yesterday, going into a large marble building completed in 1941, which i had first visited in the 1950s, to look at paintings from the italian renaissance - my companion was my stepsister, whom i met when we were young american teenagers living in italy - military dependents - and our parents were friends - she became my stepsister when we were both middle-aged, three decades ago - she has turned herself into a german woman [albeit she still retains her u.s. citizenship] - she has lived in hamburg since finishing college, and now speaks english with a german accent - who knows if it's good or bad? she had her reasons

    “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
    and rightdoing there is a field.
    I'll meet you there.

    When the soul lies down in that grass
    the world is too full to talk about.”
    ― Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

  2. i just found this at lisa simeone's blog - she doesn't know who wrote this parody of robert frost's stopping by woods on a snowy evening

    I have a pretty good idea whose woods these are, believe me.
    And let me tell you something, my people say he's a complete nobody.
    This guy lives in the village. So what if he sees me stopping here?
    I dare him to sue me! I dare him!

    And by the way, this snow is pathetic.
    These are, by far, the least downy flakes ever!
    I hear they import them from Canada.
    I don't know. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn't. We're looking into it.

    My horse -- he's the most incredible horse, seriously, I have the
    greatest, classiest horses--
    My horse doesn't even know what the hell we're doing here.
    The horses love me though. They do.
    They're always shaking their bells at me, it's very loving.
    It's a beautiful thing.

    Let me tell you something, these woods are an embarrassment.
    They're not dark. They're not deep.
    They're nothing. They're for losers.
    And I cannot wait to sue this guy.
    I cannot wait to sue this guy.