William Meredith

W
William Meredith
Accidents of Birth
Je vois les effroyables espaces de l’Univers qui m’enferment, et je me trouve attaché à un coin de cette vaste étendue, sans savoir pourquoi je suis plutôt en ce lieu qu’en un autre, ni pourquoi ce peu de temps qui m’est donné à vivre m’est assigné à ce point plutôt qu'à un autre de toute l’éternité qui m’a précédé, et de toute qui me suit.

—Pascal, Pensées sur la religion


The approach of a man’s life out of the past is history, and the approach of time out of the future is mystery. Their meeting is the present, and it is consciousness, the only time life is alive. The endless wonder of this meeting is what causes the mind, in its inward liberty of a frozen morning, to turn back and question and remember. The world is full of places. Why is it that I am here?

—Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House
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Consequences
I. Of Choice
Despair is big with friends I love,
Hydrogen and burning jews.
I give them all the grief I have
But I tell them, friends, I choose, I choose,

Don’t make me say against my glands
Or how the world has treated me.
Though gay and modest give offense
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“Do Not Embrace Your Mind’s New Negro Friend”
Do not embrace your mind’s new negro friend
Or embarrass the blackballed jew with memberships:
There must be years of atonement first, and even then
You may still be the blundering raconteur
With the wrong story, and they may still be free.

If you are with them, if even mind is friend,
There will be plenty to do: give the liars lessons
Who have heard no rumors of truth for a long time
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Five Accounts of a Monogamous Man
I. He Thinks of the Chinese Snake Who Is the Beginning and the End
If you or I should die
That day desire would not renew
Itself in any bed.
The old snake of the world, eternity
That holds his tail in his mouth,
Would spit it out
And ease off through the grass
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Hazard Faces a Sunday in the Decline
We need the ceremony of one another,
meals served, more love,
more handling of one another with love, less
casting out of those who are not
of our own household.

‘This turkey is either not cooked
enough or it’s tough.’
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The Jain Bird Hospital in Delhi
Outside the hotel window, unenlightened pigeons
weave and dive like Stukas on their prey,
apparently some tiny insect brother.
(In India, the attainment of nonviolence
is considered a proper goal for human beings.)
If one of the pigeons should fly into the illusion

of my window and survive (the body is no illusion
when it’s hurt) he could be taken across town to the bird
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Navy Field
Limped out of the hot sky a hurt plane,
Held off, held off, whirring pretty pigeon,
Hit then and scuttled to a crooked stop.
The stranger pilot who emerged—this was the seashore,
War came suddenly here—talked to the still mechanics
Who nodded gravely. Flak had done it, he said,
From an enemy ship attacked.
They wheeled it with love
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Notes for an Elegy
The alternative to flying is cowardice,
And what is said against it excuses, excuses;
Its want was always heavy in those men’s bodies
Who foresaw it in some detail; and failing that,
The rest were shown through its skyey heats and eases
In sleep, awoke uncertain whether their waking cry
Had been falling fear only, or love and falling fear.
When the sudden way was shown, its possibility
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Politics
Tonight Hazard’s father and stepmother are having
jazz for McGovern. In the old game-room
the old liberals listen as the quintet builds
crazy houses out of skin and brass, crumbling
the house of decorum, everybody likes that.

For decades they have paid for the refurbishing
of America and they have not got their money’s worth.
Now they listen, hopeful,
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Rhode Island
Here at the seashore they use the clouds over & over
again, like the rented animals in Aïda.
In the late morning the land breeze
turns and now the extras are driving
all the white elephants the other way.
What language are these children shouting in?
He is lying on the beach listening.

The sand knocks like glass, struck by bare heels.
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Thoughts on One’s Head
(In Plaster, with a Bronze Wash) A person is very self-conscious about his head.
It makes one nervous just to know it is cast
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The Wreck of the Thresher
(Lost at Sea, April 10, 1963) I stand on the ledge where rock runs into the river
As the night turns brackish with morning, and mourn the drowned.
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The Illiterate
Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone;
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says than to ask someone.
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