Kenneth Koch

K
Kenneth Koch
One Train May Hide Another
(sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya) In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
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Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
1

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next
summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.


2

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
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The Brassiere Factory
Is the governor falling
From a great height?
Arm in arm we fled the brassiere factory,
The motion-boat stayed on the shore!
I saw how round its bottom was
As you walked into southern France—
Upon the light hair of an arm
Cigar bands lay!
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The Circus
I remember when I wrote The Circus
I was living in Paris, or rather we were living in Paris
Janice, Frank was alive, the Whitney Museum
Was still on 8th Street, or was it still something else?
Fernand Léger lived in our building
Well it wasn’t really our building it was the building we lived in
Next to a Grand Guignol troupe who made a lot of noise
So that one day I yelled through a hole in the wall
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Fresh Air
I

At the Poem Society a black-haired man stands up to say
“You make me sick with all your talk about restraint and mature talent!
Haven’t you ever looked out the window at a painting by Matisse,
Or did you always stay in hotels where there were too many spiders crawling on your visages?
Did you ever glance inside a bottle of sparkling pop,
Or see a citizen split in two by the lightning?
I am afraid you have never smiled at the hibernation
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The History of Jazz
I

The leaves of blue came drifting down.
In the corner Madeleine Reierbacher was reading Lorna Doone.
The bay’s water helped to implement the structuring of the garden hose.
The envelope fell. Was it pink or was it red? Consult Lorna Doone.
There, voyager, you will find your answer. The savant grapeade stands
Remember Madeleine Reierbacher. Madeleine Reierbacher says,
“If you are happy, there is no one to keep you from being happy;
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In Love with You

I

O what a physical effect it has on me
To dive forever into the light blue sea
Of your acquaintance! Ah, but dearest friends,
Like forms, are finished, as life has ends! Still,
It is beautiful, when October
Is over, and February is over,
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The Magic of Numbers
The Magic of Numbers—1

How strange it was to hear the furniture being moved around in the apartment upstairs!
I was twenty-six, and you were twenty-two.


The Magic of Numbers—2

You asked me if I wanted to run, but I said no and walked on.
I was nineteen, and you were seven.


The Magic of Numbers—3

Yes, but does X really like us?
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On the Great Atlantic Rainway
I set forth one misted white day of June
Beneath the great Atlantic rainway, and heard:
“Honestly you smite worlds of truth, but
Lose your own trains of thought, like a pigeon.
Did you once ride in Kenneth’s machine?”
“Yes, I rode there, an old man in shorts, blind,
Who had lost his way in the filling station; Kenneth was kind.”
“Did he fill your motionless ears with resonance and stain?”
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To You
I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut
That will solve a murder case unsolved for years
Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window
Through which he saw her head, connecting with
Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red
Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;
For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not
Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a
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Poem for My Twentieth Birthday
Passing the American graveyard, for my birthday
the crosses stuttering, white on tropical green,
the years’ quick focus of faces I do not remember . . .

The palm trees stalking like deliberate giants
for my birthday, and all the hot adolescent memories
seen through a screen of water . . .

For my birthday thrust into the adult and actual:
expected to perform the action, not to ponder
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Bel Canto
The sun is high, the seaside air is sharp,
And salty light reveals the Mayan School.
The Irish hope their names are on the harp,
We see the sheep's advertisement for wool,
Boulders are here, to throw against a tarp,
From which comes bursting forth a puzzled mule.
Perceval seizes it and mounts it, then
The blood-dimmed tide recedes and then comes in again.
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A Momentary Longing to Hear Sad Advice from One Long Dead
Who was my teacher at Harvard. Did not wear overcoat
Saying to me as we walked across the Yard
Cold brittle autumn is you should be wearing overcoat. I said
You are not wearing overcoat. He said,
You should do as I say not do as I do.
Just how American it was and how late Forties it was
Delmore, but not I, was probably aware. He quoted Finnegans Wake to me
In his New York apartment sitting on chair
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To My Father's Business
Leo bends over his desk
Gazing at a memorandum
While Stuart stands beside him
With a smile, saying,
"Leo, the order for those desks
Came in today
From Youngstown Needle and Thread!"
C. Loth Inc., there you are
Like Balboa the conqueror
Of those who want to buy office furniture
Or bar fixtures
In nineteen forty in Cincinnati, Ohio!
Secretaries pound out
Invoices on antique typewriters—
Dactyllographs
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