Friday, January 28, 2005

Romance Moderne

Romance Moderne

Tracks of rain and light linger in
the spongy greens of a nature whose
flickering mountain--bulging nearer,
ebbing back into the sun
hollowing itself away to hold a lake,--
or brown stream rising and falling at the roadside, turning about,
churning itself white, drawing
green in over it,--plunging glassy funnels

And--the other world--
the windshield a blunt barrier:
Talk to me. Sh! they would hear us.
--the backs of their heads facing us--
The stream continues its motion of
a hound running over rough ground.

Trees vanish--reappear--vanish:
detached dance of gnomes--as a talk
dodging remarks, glows and fades.
--The unseen power of words--
And now that a few of the moves
are clear the first desire is
to fling oneself out at the side into
the other dance, to other music.

Peer Gynt. Rip Van Winkle. Diana.
If I were young I would try a new alignment--
alight nimbly from the car, Good-bye!--
Childhood companions linked two and two
criss-cross: four, three, two, one.
Back into self, tentacles withdrawn.
Feel about in warm self-flesh.
Since childhood, since childhood!
Childhood is a toad in the garden, a
happy toad. All toads are happy
and belong in gardens. A toad to Diana!

Lean forward. Punch the steerman
behind the ear. Twirl the wheel!
Over the edge! Screams! Crash!
The end. I sit above my head--
a little removed--or
a thin wash of rain on the roadway
--I am never afraid when he is driving,--
interposes new direction,
rides us sidewise, unforseen
into the ditch! All threads cut!
Death! Black. The end. The very end--

I would sit separate weighing a
small red handful: the dirt of these parts,
sliding mists sheeting the alders
against the touch of fingers creeping
to mine. All stuff of the blind emotions.
But--stirred, the eye seizes
for the first time--The eye awake!--
anything, a dirt bank with green stars
of scrawny weed flattened upon it under
a weight of air--For the first time!--
or a yawning depth: Big!
Swim around in it, through it--
all directions and find
vitreous seawater stuff--
God how I love you!--or, as I say,
a plunge into the ditch. The End. I sit
examining my red handful. Balancing
--this--in and out--agh.

Love you? It's
a fire in the blood, willy-nilly!
It's the sun coming up in the morning.
Ha, but it's the grey moon too, already up
in the morning. You are slow.
Men are not friends where it concerns
a woman? Fighters. Playfellows.
White round thighs! Youth! Sighs--!
It's the fillip of novelty. It's--

Mountains. Elephants humping along
against the sky--indifferent to
light withdrawing its tattered shreds,
worn out with embraces. It's
the fillip of novelty. It's a fire in the blood.

Oh get a flannel shirt, white flannel
or pongee. You'd look so well!
I married you because I liked your nose.
I wanted you! I wanted you
in spite of all they'd say --

Rain and light, mountain and rain,
rain and river. Will you love me always?
--A car overturned and two crushed bodies
under it.--Always! Always!
And the white moon already up.
White. Clean. All the colors.
A good head, backed by the eye--awake!
backed by the emotions--blind--
River and mountain, light and rain--or
rain, rock, light, trees--divided:
rain-light counter rocks-trees or
trees counter rain-light-rocks or--

Myriads of counter processions
crossing and recrossing, regaining
the advantage, buying here, selling there
--You are sold cheap everywhere in town!--
lingering, touching fingers, withdrawing
gathering forces into blares, hummocks,
peaks and rivers--rivers meeting rock
--I wish that you were lying there dead
and I sitting here beside you.--
It's the grey moon--over and over.
It's the clay of these parts.


Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Overture to a Dance of Locomotives

Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams

Overture to a Dance of Locomotives

Men with picked voices chant the names

of cities in a huge gallery: promises
that pull through descending stairways
to a deep rumbling.

The rubbing feet
of those coming to be carried quicken a
grey pavement into soft light that rocks
to and fro, under the domed ceiling,
across and across from pale
earthcolored walls of bare limestone.

Covertly the hands of a great clock
go round and round! Were they to
move quickly and at once the whole
secret would be out and the shuffling
of all ants
be done forever.

A leaning pyramid of sunlight, narrowing
out at a high window, moves by the clock:
disaccordant hands straining out from
a center: inevitable postures infinitely
Porters in red hats run on narrow platforms.
This way ma'am!
--important not to take
the wrong train!
Lights from the concrete
ceiling hang crooked but--
Poised horizontal
on glittering parallels the dingy cylinders
packed with a warm glow--inviting entry--
pull against the hour. But brakes can
hold a fixed posture till--
The whistle!

Not twoeight. Not twofour. Two!

Gliding windows. Colored cooks sweating
in a small kitchen. Taillights--

In time: twofour!
In time: twoeight!

--rivers are tunneled: trestles
cross oozy swampland: wheels repeating
the same gesture remain relatively
stationary: rails forever parallel
return on themselves infinitely.
The dance is sure.

I am reminded deeply of an experience I had when barely six from my own personal travels. Our family passed ofen through Penn Station for a many houred lay over on our way north to Maine to visit my grandparents . It was in between moves from Taiwan to Georgia.

Both heartsick and aware for the very first time of what it was like to leave friends behind. I was struck with awe watching a large clock keep time above the epitome of a teeming life force passing through. A young man perched upon a chair and did something that delights my little girl heart even as I recall it.

All alone off in his own cosmos he whistled a tune, pure and sweet. The notes bounced off the walls and filled the station with bursts of birdsong. I watched his lips in careful curiosity, how slack they were and he allowed them to move up and down his face as if they had a will of their own. He stood up and sauntered down the walk way hands shoved casually in his pockets, hat brim at a rakish angle in a rumpled white shirt and creased blue pants that bespoke hours of travel.

It began with You Are My Sunshine and a tip of his hat with a smile; a nod revealing coppery red hair that stood up on end; he wearily ran his fingers through it. There was a briefcase at his side. Yet through his happy tune I saw an aerialist spangled in close fitting garments sailing across the rails with derring do as his notes danced upon the air while people marched to a different tune in stark contrast. People spoke in lowered voices of rhythmic repetition. A raucous mess amidst flashes of red images reflected off of gray as it all rattled along in a universal ballet.

I could feel the whistler's small town coziness sink into my soul with joy profound; he was pouring fourth an astonishing cascade of warbles, bell tones, tremolos and trills. I have never met anyone who could whistle like that since.

Soon the passer bys fell silent as he performed a Faustian opera I could feel his joyful insanity, its life affirming humor was palliative. His art was the translation of music through his very soul. Indeed inside the auditorium as the mouth music swooped and dove, sometimes hollow and shimmering. The audience seemed to drift about, smiling and bouncing gently on toes, then joining in whistling like starlings settling down for the night.

Overture to a Dance of Locomotives is a prologue to adventure. With the chaos of the modern urban civilization clanging about, through Williams' "eye," he paints for us with his words concepts and movements clearly related to the fascination that the metropolis held for him, it is a likely possibility that it may have been in Penn Station from where Mr. Williams. received his inspiration as his rounds as a doctor took him through there many times.

The verbal gestures of William's overture convey movement as "covertly the hands of a great clock go round and round!", the dingy cylinders of the train, a whistle, and rails are all poised horizontal as William Carlos Williams employs his trademark painterly technique and begins by attracting the readers attention to the intended action, a train paused in the last moments, waiting for the Conductor to shout All a board!


Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Goodnight

Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams

A Goodnight

    Go to sleep--though of course you will not--
    to tideless waves thundering slantwise against
    strong embankments, rattle and swish of spray
    dashed thirty feet high, caught by the lake wind,
    scattered and strewn broadcast in over the steady
    car rails! Sleep, sleep! Gulls' cries in a wind-gust
    broken by the wind; calculating wings set above
    the field of waves breaking.
    Go to sleep to the lunge between foam-crests,
    refuse churned in the recoil. Food! Food!
    Offal! Offal! that holds them in the air, wave-white
    for the one purpose, feather upon feather, the wild
    chill in their eyes, the hoarseness in their voices--
    sleep, sleep . . .

    Gentlefooted crowds are treading out your lullaby.
    Their arms nudge, they brush shoulders,
    hitch this way then that, mass and surge at the crossings--
    lullaby, lullaby! The wild-fowl police whistles,
    the enraged roar of the traffic, machine shrieks:
    it is all to put you to sleep,
    to soften your limbs in relaxed postures,
    and that your head slip sidewise, and your hair loosen
    and fall over your eyes and over your mouth,
    brushing your lips wistfully that you may dream,
    sleep and dream--

    A black fungus springs out about the lonely church doors--
    sleep, sleep. The Night, coming down upon
    the wet boulevard, would start you awake with his
    message, to have in at your window. Pay no
    heed to him. He storms at your sill with
    cooings, with gesticulations, curses!
    You will not let him in. He would keep you from sleeping.
    He would have you sit under your desk lamp
    brooding, pondering; he would have you
    slide out the drawer, take up the ornamented dagger
    and handle it. It is late, it is nineteen-nineteen--
    go to sleep, his cries are a lullaby;
    his jabbering is a sleep-well-my-baby; he is
    a crackbrained messenger.

    The maid waking you in the morning
    when you are up and dressing,
    the rustle of your clothes as you raise them--
    it is the same tune.
    At table the cold, greeninsh, split grapefruit, its juice
    on the tongue, the clink of the spoon in
    your coffee, the toast odors say it over and over.

    The open street-door lets in the breath of
    the morning wind from over the lake.
    The bus coming to a halt grinds from its sullen brakes--
    lullaby, lullaby. The crackle of a newspaper,
    the movement of the troubled coat beside you--
    sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep . . .
    It is the sting of snow, the burning liquor of
    the moonlight, the rush of rain in the gutters packed
    with dead leaves: go to sleep, go to sleep.
    And the night passes--and never passes--


Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner
Oct 01 2001.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams



Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner
Oct 01 2001

Monday, January 24, 2005

A Celebration

Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams

A Celebration

A middle-northern March, now as always--

gusts from the South broken against cold winds--

but from under, as if a slow hand lifted a tide,

it moves--not into April--into a second March,

the old skin of wind-clear scales dropping

upon the mold: this is the shadow projects the tree

upward causing the sun to shine in his sphere.

So we will put on our pink felt hat--new last year!

--newer this by virtue of brown eyes turning back

the seasons--and let us walk to the orchid-house,

see the flowers will take the prize tomorrow

at the Palace.

Stop here, these are our oleanders.

When they are in bloom--

You would waste words

It is clearer to me than if the pink

were on the branch. It would be a searching in

a colored cloud to reveal that which now, huskless,

shows the very reason for their being.

And these the orange-trees, in blossom--no need

to tell with this weight of perfume in the air.

If it were not so dark in this shed one could better

see the white.

It is that very perfume

has drawn the darkness down among the leaves.

Do I speak clearly enough?

It is this darkness reveals that which darkness alone

loosens and sets spinning on waxen wings--

not the touch of a finger-tip, not the motion

of a sigh. A too heavy sweetness proves

its own caretaker.

And here are the orchids!

Never having seen

such gaiety I will read these flowers for you:

This is an odd January, died--in Villon's time.

Snow, this is and this the stain of a violet

grew in that place the spring that foresaw its own doom.

And this, a certain July from Iceland:

a young woman of that place

breathed it toward the South. It took root there.

The color ran true but the plant is small.

This falling spray of snow-flakes is

a handful of dead Februaries

prayed into flower by Rafael Arevalo Martinez

of Guatemala.

Here's that old friend who

went by my side so many years: this full, fragile

head of veined lavender. Oh that April

that we first went with our stiff lusts

leaving the city behind, out to the green hill--

May, they said she was. A hand for all of us:

this branch of blue butterflies tied to this stem.

June is a yellow cup I'll not name; August

the over-heavy one. And here are--

russet and shiny,all but March. And March?

Ah, March--

Flowers are a tiresome pastime.

One has a wish to shake them from their pots

root and stem, for the sun to gnaw.

Walk out again into the cold and saunter home

to the fire. This day has blossomed long enough.

I have wiped out the red night and lit a blaze

instead which will at least warm our hands

and stir up the talk.

I think we have kept fair time.

Time is a green orchard.


Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner