William Carlos Williams

W
William Carlos Williams
Spring and All: Chapter XIII Thus, weary of life
Thus, weary of life, in view of the great consummation which awaits us — tomorrow, we rush among our friends congratulating ourselves upon the joy soon to be. Thoughtless of evil we crush out the marrow of those about us with our heavy cars as we go happily from place to place. It seems that there is not time enough in which to speak the full of our exaltation. Only a day is left, one miserable day, before the world comes into its own. Let us hurry ! Why bother for this man or that ? In the offices of the great newspapers a mad joy reigns as they prepare the final extras. Rushing about, men bump each other into the whirring presses. How funny it seems. All thought of misery has left us. Why should we care ? Children laughingly fling themselves under the wheels of the street cars, airplanes crash gaily to the earth. Someone has written a poem.

Oh life, bizarre fowl, what color are your wings ? Green, blue, red, yellow, purple, white, brown, orange, black, grey ? In the imagination, flying above the wreck of ten thousand million souls, I see you departing sadly for the land of plants and insects, already far out to sea. (Thank you, I know well what I am plagiarising) Your great wings flap as you disappear in the distance over the pre-Columbian acres of floating weed.

The new cathedral overlooking the park, looked down from its towers today, with great eyes, and saw by the decorative lake a group of people staring curiously at the corpse of a suicide : Peaceful, dead young man, the money they have put into the stones has been spent to teach men of life’s austerity. You died and teach us the same lesson. You seem a cathedral, celebrant of the spring which shivers for me among the long black trees.
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Spring and All: III The farmer in deep thought
The farmer in deep thought
is pacing through the rain
among his blank fields, with
hands in pockets,
in his head
the harvest already planted.
A cold wind ruffles the water
among the browned weeds.
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Spring and All: XI In passing with my mind
In passing with my mind
on nothing in the world

but the right of way
I enjoy on the road by

virtue of the law —
I saw

an elderly man who
smiled and looked away
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Spring and All: XIV Of death
Of death
the barber
the barber
talked to me

cutting my
life with
sleep to trim
my hair —
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Spring and All: XIX This is the time of year
This is the time of year
when boys fifteen and seventeen
wear two horned lilac blossoms
in their caps — or over one ear

What is it that does this ?

It is a certain sort —
drivers for grocers or taxidrivers
white and colored —
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Spring and All: XXV Somebody dies every four minutes
Somebody dies every four minutes
in New York State —

To hell with you and your poetry —
You will rot and be blown
through the next solar system
with the rest of the gases —

What the hell do you know about it ?

AXIOMS
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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
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This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
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Kora in Hell: Improvisations XXII
XXII

1
This is a slight stiff dance to a waking baby whose arms have been lying curled back above his head upon the pillow, making a flower—the eyes closed. Dead to the world! Waking is a little hand brushing away dreams. Eyes open. Here’s a new world.

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There is nothing the sky-serpent will not eat. Sometimes it stops to gnaw Fujiyama, sometimes to slip its long and softly clasping tongue about the body of a sleeping child who smiles thinking its mother is lifting it.

2 Security, solidity—we laugh at them in our clique. It is tobacco to us, this side of her leg. We put it in our samovar and make tea of it. You see the stuff has possibilities. You think you are opposing the rich but the truth is you’re turning toward authority yourself, to say nothing of religion. No, I do not say it means nothing. Why everything is nicely adjusted to our moods. But I would rather describe to you what I saw in the kitchen last night—overlook the girl a moment: there over the sink (1) this saucepan holds all, (2) this colander holds most, (3) this wire sieve lets most go and (4) this funnel holds nothing. You appreciate the progression. What need then to be always laughing? Quit phrase making—that is, not of course—but you will understand me or if not—why—come to breakfast sometime around evening on the fourth of January any year you please; always be punctual where eating is concerned.

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My little son’s improvisations exceed min: a round stone to him’s a loaf of bread or “this hen could lay a dozen golden eggs.” Birds fly about his bedstead; giants lean over him with hungry jaws; bears roam the farm by summer and are killed and quartered at a thought. There are interminable stories at eating time full of bizarre imagery, true grotesques, pigs that change to dogs in the telling, cows that sing, roosters that become mountains and oceans that fill a soup plate. There are groans and growls, dun clouds and sunshine mixed in a huge phantasmagoria that never rests, never ceased to unfold into—the day’s poor little happenings. Not that alone. He has music which I have not. His tunes follow no scale, no rhythm—alone the mood in odd ramblings up and down, over and over with a rigor of invention that rises beyond the power to follow except in some more obvious flight. Never have I heard so crushing a critique as those desolate inventions, involved half-hymns, after his first visit to a Christian Sunday school.

3
This song is to Phyllis! By this deep snow I know it’s springtime, not ring time! Good God no! The screaming brat’s a sheep bleating, the rattling crib-side sheep shaking a bush. We are young! We are happy! says Colin. What’s an icy room and the sun not up? This song is to Phyllis. Reproduction lets death in, says Joyce. Rot, say I. to Phyllis this song is!

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Kora in Hell: Improvisations XXVII
XXVII

1
This particular thing, whether it be four pinches of four divers white powders cleverly compounded to cure surely, safely, pleasantly a painful twitching of the eyelids or say a pencil sharpened at one end, dwarfs the imagination, makes logic a butterfly, offers a finality that sends us spinning through space, a fixity the mind could climb forever, a revolving mountain, a complexity with a surface of glass; the gist of poetry. D.C. al fin.

2
There is no thing that with a twist of the imagination cannot be something else. Porpoises risen in a green sea, the wind at nightfall bending the rose-red grasses and you—in your apron running to catch—say it seems to you to be your son. How ridiculous! You will pass up into a cloud and look back at me, not count the scribbling foolish that puts wings to your heels, at your knees.

3
Sooner or later as with the leaves forgotten the swinging branch long since and summer: they scurry before a wind on the frost-baked ground—have no place to rest—somehow invoke a burst of warm days not of the past nothing decayed: crisp summer!—neither a copse for resurrected frost eaters but a summer removed undestroyed a summer of dried leaves scurrying with a screech, to and fro in the half dark—twittering, chattering, scraping. Hagh!

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Seeing the leaves dropping from the high and low branches the thought rise: this day of all others is the one chosen, all other days fall away from it on either side and only itself remains in perfect fullness. It is its own summer, of its leaves as they scrape on the smooth ground it must build its perfection. The gross summer of the year is only a halting counterpart of those fiery days of secret triumph which in reality themselves paint the year as if upon a parchment, giving each season a mockery of the warmth or frozenness which is within ourselves. The true seasons blossom or wilt not in fixed order but so that many of them may pass in a few weeks or hours whereas sometimes a whole life passes and the season remains of a piece from one end to the other.
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Kora in Hell: Improvisations XI

XI
1
Why pretend to remember the weather two years back? Why not? Listen close then repeat after others what they have just said and win a reputation for vivacity. Oh feed upon petals of edelweiss! one dew drop, if it be from the right flower, is five years’ drink!

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Having once taken the plunge the situation that preceded it becomes obsolete which a moment before was alive with malignant rigidities.

2
When beldams dig clams their fat hams (it’s always beldams) balanced near Tellus’s hide, this rhinoceros pelt, these lumped stone—buffoonery of midges on a bull’s thigh—invoke,—what you will: birth’s glut, awe at God’s craft, youth’s poverty, evolution of a child’s caper, man’s poor inconsequence. Eclipse of all things; sun’s self turned hen’s rump.

Cross a knife and fork and listen to the church bells! It is the harvest moon’s made wine of our blood. Up over the dark factory into the blue glare start the young poplars. They whisper: It is Sunday! It is Sunday! But the laws of the country have been stripped bare of leaves. Out over the marshes flickers our laughter. A lewd anecdote’s the chase. On through the vapory heather! And there at banter’s edge the city looks at us sidelong with great eyes—lifts to its lips heavenly milk! Lucina, O Lucina! beneficent cow, how have we offended thee?

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Hilariously happy because of some obscure wine of the fancy which they have drunk four rollicking companions take delight in the thought that they have thus evaded the stringent laws of the county. Seeing the distant city bathed in moonlight and staring seriously at them they liken the moon to a cow and its light to milk.
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Kora in Hell: Improvisations XIV
XIV

1
The brutal Lord of All will rip us from each other—leave the one to suffer here alone. No need belief in god or hell to postulate that much. The dance: hands touching, leaves touching—eyes looking, clouds rising—lips touching, cheeks touching, arm about . . . Sleep. Heavy head, heavy arm, heavy dream—: Of Ymir’s flesh the earth was made and of his thoughts were all the gloomy clouds created. Oya!

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Out of bitterness itself the clear wine of the imagination will be pressed and the dance prosper thereby.

2
To you! whoever you are, wherever you are! (But I know where you are!) There’s Dürer’s “Nemesis” naked on her sphere over the little town by the river—except she’s too old. There’s a dancing burgess by Tenier and Villon’s maitresse—after he’d gone bald and was skin pocked and toothless: she that had him ducked in the sewage drain. Then there’s that miller’s daughter of “buttocks broad and breastes high.” Something of Nietzsche, something of the good Samaritan, something of the devil himself,—can cut a caper of a fashion, my fashion! Hey you, the dance! Squat. leap. Hips to the left. Chin—ha!—sideways! Stand up, stand up ma bonne! you’ll break my backbone. So again!—and so forth till we’re sweat soaked.

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Some fools once were listening to a poet reading his poem. It so happened that the words of the thing spoke of gross matters of the everyday world such as are never much hidden from a quick eye. Out of these semblances, and borrowing certain members from fitting masterpieces of antiquity, the poet began piping up his music, simple fellow, thinking to please his listeners. But they getting the whole matter sadly muddled in their minds made such a confused business of listening that not only were they not pleased at the poet’s exertions but no sooner had he done than they burst out against him with violent imprecations.

3
It’s all one. Richard worked years to conquer the descending cadence, idiotic sentimentalist. Ha, for happiness! This tore the dress in ribbons from her maid’s back and not spared the nails either; wild anger spit from her pinched eyes! This is the better part. Or a child under a table to be dragged out coughing and biting, eyes glittering evilly. I’ll have it my way! Nothing is any pleasure but misery and brokenness. THIS is the only up-cadence. This is where the secret rolls over and opens its eyes. Bitter words spoken to a child ripple in morning light! Boredom from a bedroom doorway thrills with anticipation! The complaints of an old man dying piecemeal are starling chirrups. Coughs go singing on springtime paths across a field; corruption picks strawberries and slow warping of the mind, blacking the deadly walls—counted and recounted—rolls in the grass and shouts ecstatically. All is solved! The moaning and dull sobbing of infants sets blood tingling and eyes ablaze to listen. Speed sings in the heels at long nights tossing on coarse sheets with bruning sockets staring into the black. Dance! Sing! Coil and uncoil! Whip yourselves about! Shout the deliverance! An old woman has infected her blossomy grand-daughter with a blood illness that every two weeks drives the mother into hidden songs of agony, the pad-footed mirage of creeping death for music. The face muscles keep pace. Then a darting about the compass in a tarantelle that wears flesh from bones. Here is dancing! The mind in tatters. And so the music wistfully takes the lead. Ay de mí, Juana la Loca, reina de España, esa está tu canta, reina mía!
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Love Song
I lie here thinking of you:—

the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
heavily
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
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Flowers by the Sea
When over the flowery, sharp pasture’s
edge, unseen, the salt ocean

lifts its form—chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

but color and the movement—or the shape
perhaps—of restlessness, whereas

the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem
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It Is a Living Coral
a trouble

archaically fettered
to produce

E Pluribus Unum an
island

in the sea a Capitol
surmounted

by Armed Liberty—
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The Great Figure
Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
firetruck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

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To a Poor Old Woman
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Between Walls
the back wings
of the

hospital where
nothing

will grow lie
cinders

in which shine
the broken
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The crowd at the ball game
The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them—

all the exciting detail
of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius—
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Danse Russe
If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
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Postlude
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.
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Queen-Anne’s Lace
Her body is not so white as
anemony petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
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The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens
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To Elsie
The pure products of America
go crazy—
mountain folk from Kentucky

or the ribbed north end of
Jersey
with its isolate lakes and

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
old names
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Blizzard
Snow:
years of anger following
hours that float idly down —
the blizzard
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes —
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there —
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.
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Complete Destruction
It was an icy day.
We buried the cat,
then took her box
and set fire to it
in the back yard.
Those fleas that escaped
earth and fire
died by the cold.

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Dedication for a Plot of Ground
This plot of ground
facing the waters of this inlet
is dedicated to the living presence of
Emily Dickinson Wellcome
who was born in England; married;
lost her husband and with
her five year old son
sailed for New York in a two-master;
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Muier
Oh, black Persian cat!
Was not your life
already cursed with offspring?
We took you for rest to that old
Yankee farm, — so lonely
and with so many field mice
in the long grass —
and you return to us
in this condition —!

Oh, black Persian cat.

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Tract
I will teach you my townspeople
how to perform a funeral —
for you have it over a troop
of artists—
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:
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Winter Trees
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

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