The Ballad of the Children of the Czar

T
1

The children of the Czar
Played with a bouncing ball

In the May morning, in the Czar’s garden,
Tossing it back and forth.

It fell among the flowerbeds
Or fled to the north gate.

A daylight moon hung up
In the Western sky, bald white.

Like Papa’s face, said Sister,
Hurling the white ball forth.


2

While I ate a baked potato
Six thousand miles apart,

In Brooklyn, in 1916,
Aged two, irrational.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt
Was an Arrow Collar ad.

O Nicholas! Alas! Alas!
My grandfather coughed in your army,

Hid in a wine-stinking barrel,
For three days in Bucharest

Then left for America
To become a king himself.


3

I am my father’s father,
You are your children’s guilt.

In history’s pity and terror
The child is Aeneas again;

Troy is in the nursery,
The rocking horse is on fire.

Child labor! The child must carry
His fathers on his back.

But seeing that so much is past
And that history has no ruth

For the individual,
Who drinks tea, who catches cold,

Let anger be general:
I hate an abstract thing.


4

Brother and sister bounced
The bounding, unbroken ball,

The shattering sun fell down
Like swords upon their play,

Moving eastward among the stars
Toward February and October.

But the Maywind brushed their cheeks
Like a mother watching sleep,

And if for a moment they fight
Over the bouncing ball

And sister pinches brother
And brother kicks her shins,

Well! The heart of man is known:
It is a cactus bloom.


5

The ground on which the ball bounces
Is another bouncing ball.

The wheeling, whirling world
Makes no will glad.

Spinning in its spotlight darkness,
It is too big for their hands.

A pitiless, purposeless Thing,
Arbitrary and unspent,

Made for no play, for no children,
But chasing only itself.

The innocent are overtaken,
They are not innocent.

They are their father’s fathers,
The past is inevitable.


6

Now, in another October
Of this tragic star,

I see my second year,
I eat my baked potato.

It is my buttered world,
But, poked by my unlearned hand,

It falls from the highchair down
And I begin to howl.

And I see the ball roll under
The iron gate which is locked.

Sister is screaming, brother is howling,
The ball has evaded their will.

Even a bouncing ball
Is uncontrollable,

And is under the garden wall.
I am overtaken by terror

Thinking of my father’s fathers,
And of my own will.
50
Rating:

Comment form:

*Max text - 500. Manual moderation.

Similar Poems:

O Ye Tongues by Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton
First Psalm

Let there be a God as large as a sunlamp to laugh his heat at you.

Let there be an earth with a form like a jigsaw and let it fit for all of ye.

Let there be the darkness of a darkroom out of the deep. A worm room.

Let there be a God who sees light at the end of a long thin pipe and lets it in.

Let God divide them in half.

Let God share his Hoodsie.

Let the waters divide so that God may wash his face in first light.
Read Poem
0
49
Rating:

And Now She Has Disappeared in Water by Diane Wakoski
Diane Wakoski
For Marilyn who died in January april 1
Read Poem
0
67
Rating:

Staggerlee wonders by James Baldwin
James Baldwin
1

I always wonder
what they think the niggers are doing
while they, the pink and alabaster pragmatists,
are containing
Russia
and defining and re-defining and re-aligning
China,
Read Poem
0
83
Rating:

The Ball Poem by John Berryman
John Berryman
What is the boy now, who has lost his ball.
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over—there it is in the water!
No use to say 'O there are other balls':
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
Read Poem
0
40
Rating:

brothers by Lucille Clifton
Lucille Clifton
(being a conversation in eight poems between an aged Lucifer and God, though only Lucifer is heard. The time is long after.) 1
invitation

Read Poem
0
49
Rating:

Eleven Addresses to the Lord by John Berryman
John Berryman
1

Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,
inimitable contriver,
endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,
thank you for such as it is my gift.

I have made up a morning prayer to you
containing with precision everything that most matters.
‘According to Thy will’ the thing begins.
Read Poem
0
56
Rating:

Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
PART I
'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,
And the owls have awakened the crowing cock;
Tu—whit! Tu—whoo!
And hark, again! the crowing cock,
How drowsily it crew.
Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff bitch;
From her kennel beneath the rock
She maketh answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
Ever and aye, by shine and shower,
Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
Some say, she sees my lady's shroud.

Read Poem
0
62
Rating:

Heart’s Needle by W. D. Snodgrass
W. D. Snodgrass
For Cynthia

When he would not return to fine garments and good food, to his houses and his people, Loingseachan told him, “Your father is dead.” “I’m sorry to hear it,” he said. “Your mother is dead,” said the lad. “All pity for me has gone out of the world.” “Your sister, too, is dead.” “The mild sun rests on every ditch,” he said; “a sister loves even though not loved.” “Suibhne, your daughter is dead.” “And an only daughter is the needle of the heart.” “And Suibhne, your little boy, who used to call you “Daddy”—he is dead.” “Aye,” said Suibhne, “that’s the drop that brings a man to the ground.”
He fell out of the yew tree; Loingseachan closed his arms around him and placed him in manacles.—AFTER THE MIDDLE-IRISH ROMANCE, THE MADNESS OF SUIBHNE
Read Poem
0
103
Rating:

Sister Helen by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
"Why did you melt your waxen man
Sister Helen?
To-day is the third since you began."
"The time was long, yet the time ran,
Little brother."
(O Mother, Mary Mother,
Three days to-day, between Hell and Heaven!)
Read Poem
0
52
Rating: