Antioch Review, Arts in Society, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best Articles and Stories, Carolina Quarterly, Carleton Miscellany, Chelsea Review, Chicago Review, Chicago Review Anthology (1959), Coastlines, Contact 3, December, Epoch, Galley Sail Review, Metronome (Jazz Yearbook, 1959), The Nation, New Campus Writing 3, New Orleans Poetry Journal, Odyssey Chapbook 1, The Outsider, New York Herald Tribune, Poetry Magazine (Chicago), Riverside Poetry 3, Satis, Saturday Review, Mt. Shasta Review (MSS), Transatlantic Review, Views, The Wormwood Review.
I have also to thank the Corporation of Yaddo and the MacDowell Association for affording me an opportunity to complete the book.
I did not want to be old Mr Garbage man, but uncle dog Who rode sitting beside him. Uncle dog had always looked To me to be truck-strong Wise-eyed, a cur-like Ford Of a dog. I did not want To be Mr Garbage man because All he had was cans to do. Uncle dog sat there me-beside-him Emptying nothing. Barely even Looking from garbage side to side: Like rich people in the backseats Of chauffeur-cars, only shaggy In an unwagging tall-scrawny way. Uncle dog belonged any just where He sat, but old Mr Garbage man Had to stop at everysingle can. I thought. I did not want to be Mr. Everybody calls them that first. A dog is said, Dog! Or by name. I would rather be called Rover Than Mr. And sit like a tough Smart mongrel beside a garbage man. Uncle dog always went to places Unconcerned, without no hurry. Independent like some leashless Toot. Honourable among scavenger Can-picking dogs. And with a bitch At every other can. And meat: His for the barking. Oh, I wanted To be uncle dog--sharp, high fox- Eared, cur-Ford truck-faced With his pick of the bones. A doing, truckman's dog And not a simple child-dog Nor friend to man, but an uncle Travelling, and to himself-- And a bitch at every second can.
It is after midnight. Another noon And I'll be back in class, teaching midnight. All the lunched-up faces. And me, a moon Without a tie. They leave my class looking For death. My examples are all myself. The fluorescent lights are ghouls, I tell them. Never smile beneath them. They eat teeth. And last week I brought a body into class, And nailed it to the blackboard-with three-inch Lengths of chalk. Standing, then, in front of it, I managed to murder their attention. It was like the first time I called the roll: And the dead all came to life. My zombies. Without attention.--I put them to death. Yes, you were right Charlie: I'll never stand Before them, and let them see themselves: taught, By me.
It was a hole, a levelled, paved, black, white hole, A green hole, a blue hole, grass, sky, bill-boards, air And we were in the hole--into the air, trees Grass ... into what were the trees, the sky, in us. And we were in the air, the hole that went through Itself. All around us there was what we were Passing through, inside, inside, inside ourselves. And the hole was humming, clear, laned, green and paved With black stripes. And there was nothing, the minutes, Miles, when you thought of them, when they made you them, The Buick, the speed, the dead skunks at the skunk- Crossing, the deer,--I pressed down on the horn, My hand became a fist, became a sound, a hole At the end of my wrist, braked, and the thing was dead. * * * So, said Death, the deer, sitting there, between us, With the great, white butterfly,--and we were off, Riding through air, through trees, through grass...and we were In the hole, and over the hole, and the hole Went on forever, into the trees, grass, the sky That was there, within us, paved, black, white, a rock A ghost, a Buick-thing, turnpike ... a token.
DEAR GEORGE--There was this sound. It was leaves. It was outside the windows, outside The house I live in, the house that is Inside two other houses. And leaves. It was just leaves. And the wind was leaves. And there was the sound ... someplace in it There was silence. Something that can kill you. Worse than kill you. Make you into leaves. Leaves in the leaves. Wind. Or the thing fear Must always want, when there is nothing. --I kept hearing it, the leaves against Themselves. And the houses empty. Myself And the sound. And my gun.--I went out, Then, and shot the leaves. The trees. The wind. I shot the wind, it was almost flesh, It was leaves.--It fell down on the lawn, The uncut lawn. I shot it again. And put it in my pocket. And walked In the trees. And shot moths. And fire-flies. And my shadow, in the moonlight. Leaves ... * * * And then my wife was there, George. Calling. Talking to me. Begging. But her voice-- It was not her at all. It was sound, The sound of death in the sound of life. --Yet the voice, there was a voice. The leaves. The night moths. It was her voice. Only, As one must hear it, from the ghosts, the thing-ghosts She felt she would become. Leaves. Of sound, Of darkness, fire; of leaves, gnats & stones. --A voice like the single sound of death Rapt, nun-toned, voiceless; and without sound ... Mindless.--Incredible. Selfless. Fixed. And she claimed she loved me. And loved me. But as a ghost. As a thing. A thing That must say, that must sound, all things Alike, in the one way. And that must Be heard as it is, by all the death That is within one. That listens, speaks Without surprise. And that is the ghost That was one's flesh. Divorced into death.
I DEAR GEORGE--It is odd about the ghosts. They are here again. In fact, they are Here all the time--I _choose_ to see them. I mean I can try not to, and not See them. But they're _there_, and they're real. It's as if they were inside the air At night, in my bedroom. And about The size of a man. Worse than before: Before, at least, I'd know they were gone. I was pretty good about it, George When it was my father; and even When it was God--wasn't I? But now It's just something sort of blank, and there. I'm having a dream. Then suddenly There it is--complete. It's eerie, George. You wake up and there's your dream: alive. Not even in your head, but breathing, The way the air breathes, when it's alive. Only now it's always alive. And white In about the space of a man--_there_. But like I say, I choose to see it. It's hard. I can't even remember The way it was before. How was it, Before? And why are they here again? I don't want to see ghosts! they mean things. They're an obligation--aren't they, George? And it's almost one to see them. Well ... 2 Not much else is new. Great grandma died; I shook hands with people, had some gin And slept with Blanche. My best love has come After funerals. It's the women-- What makes them like that, George? after death: After someone else's death ... or theirs. Remember Katz? he'd sleep with corpses. He must have sensed that in them, the thing In them perhaps that becomes a ghost. I asked Blanche. Only then the ghost came. Blanche wouldn't look at it. Goddamn you! She said.--It had been such a good lay. She hadn't minded before, when God Was there--though then of course I hadn't Mentioned it. What sort of ghosts are they? Dad and God I know; but not women. What are they, George? What makes them like that? 3 I am getting better with people. Like shaking hands at the funeral: I did it well, with restraint, smiling And enjoying it. Because we're all ghosts. I told them: great grandma's dead, but we Are too. Blanche saw the humour of it All the ghosts of it; but not the death. She laughed. And then we slept together All afternoon--until the ghosts came. That's another thing; they come alone And yet you can't help but have the sense Of their being plural. And always I could go off with them. Honestly! But I'm afraid to die, George--and die.
It is good that death lives in old houses, best that lean or lean not, and are the colours of itself. One time, shape, smell, colours and all were the tellings and fire seemed the right killing most fast remove; ... the house lent up itself risen in the flames, and smoked, offering its billions self; dust and the fire went through appearing in moments at the windows, chimney, doors, as a joke and finally the two that leave any tumbling left, and the ashes forestayed no part of the same coming new.
What it was, was this: the stars Had died for the night, and shone; And God, God also shone, Up, straight up, at the very Top of the sky. The street Was one of the better suburbs Of the night, and was a leaf, Or the colour of one in the Moonlit dark. She, my mother, Went to the window; it was As late as night could be To her. She looked at the wind, Still, the wind, ... never having blown. And in the morning, now, of sleep, The stars, the moon & God began Once more, away, into the sky. --And she, my mother, slept ... In her window, in her sky.
It was in my sleep; I was awake and watching the alarm clock. The baby, the belly of my wife, kicked me: eight months to nine. It was time to be born, to ring, to be awake. The night had been revisions; and the clock had been strange, being set at five and by its numbers' light. The belly kicked me, again; my dream poked back at it (with an elbow). I rubbed it, sorry across the navel. My wife slept behind dreams ... behind her belly. And the baby was there, for the first time in my life. I was sleeping again poking damnit! with my elbow. And being bellied. There can be no putting in, with a wife ... the immaculate belly-maker swells in a baby's last six weeks. A boy should like that; he'd have me in his crib! 'Morning dad'! carrying around her belly like his shield. I'd turn his nose down, into the night. And fall asleep... The sun was ready to begin us all. I was not yet ready to be begun: Damn the bellying thing! it was in the window, in my sleep-revising both the belly and my eyes. The day! The night had been awake to be an image, and it had become a question: neither of night, babies nor of the sun. I tried to sense the navel with my elbow. The baby would seem to have appreciated this; he pushed to guide me to it. It was not his--his was but his own, and what it drew from her, within ... To hell with sustenance! This was something left to me, the navel I had married. It is true of course I have my own: but mine was done, fulfilled, closed and sensitive to touch. It had been, in its pressing to my wife's, a comma. It was time to be born, to ring. Just then I'd like to have been her son, her daughter: or even some wholly wife-embodied navel. The night had yet to be revised; -my wife to be awakened: and the clock, to be observed and kicked, by day.
I still heard Auntie Blue After she did not want to come down Again: she was skypaper, way up Too high to pull down. The wind Liked her a lot, and she was lots of noise And sky on the end of the string: And the string jumped hard all of a sudden, And the sky never even breathed, But was like it always was, slow and close Far-away blue, like poor dead Uncle Blue. Auntie Blue was gone, and I could not Think of her face; and the string fell down Slowly for a long time. I was afraid to pull it Down. Auntie Blue was in the sky, Just like God. It was not my birthday Anymore: and everybody knew, and dug A hole, and put a stone on it Next to Uncle Blue's stone, and he died Before I was even born; and it was too bad It was so hard to pull her down; and flowers.
The hundred-dollar cats, the sixty- Dollar dogs; the lions, the tigers; The six, miniature, white, snake-eating Fish; the snakes, the monkeys (with grins like Gelded poodles); the parakeets, owls Flamingos, pink pigeons and the small, headless Proprietor, silky, creeping & jewelled.
The inflected apteryx (or kiwi) would appear To be a rudimentary, an essentially Webster-bird. The apteryx (from the Greek a + Pteryx) does not fly, and, in fact Lacks all regard (and need) for flight. Flat-breastboned, hen-sized and scratchy, The apteryx stands on two, declining And unlikely chicken-legs. It ooou's for food Through a long, thin reed-like beak: Insects, snails, crippled fleas and berries. The nostrils of the apteryx Are at the last half-inch of its beak. And the bird--not quite extinct--survives Under government protection. It reproduces Slowly, and in public, burrow hiding. If its hairs were feathers, ocellated Aphrodisiacal, the sleepy--marginal--asterisk-eyed Apteryx . . . could (conceivably) strut, cock And play the peacock; however, with its one hint Of a tail, and grayish, short shag-brown hair The apteryx would seem content to ooou. And Its beak alone, apt & straight, endears one To it;--but when it curls itself, extinct Within its sleeping back (by day) Enwhiskering its ooou, the apteryx returns Upon the government and Webster of it all.
Three-toed, one-headed, its wings the size Of chicken-feet--and largest (next to The ostrich) of all existing birds... The emu stands, colossal, ratite Six feet high its god enplumaged, dark Hidden in the dismal, drooping, soft Brown hair. Its hips, hump, its bulge, perhaps Of flightlessness, or sky--appears as speed; The stunted cause, the be feathered, round Sloping, still embodiment of speed. The emu runs, swoop-skims, a two-shanked One humped, egg-hatched camel:--the bird most Like a camel. Avoiding deserts However, the emu inhabits Open fields, and forests--where, keeping In small companies, it feeds on fruit (Of the emu tree), herbage & roots . . . Now and then booming, with subsequent, And peculiarly hurried efforts, At breeding. Extinct, in Tasmania On Kangaroo, King & Wing Islands, The bird is found, and in small numbers, In South-Eastern Australia. IT BREEDS. Its nest, as if it had been rolled in And humped (in reverse), is a shallow Sandy, green-egg filled pit--the eggs of which, all Nine (to thirteen), are incubated By the cock, an earnest, familial Type of ostrich. The young, at birth, bear thin Length-striped down--are wattleless, and walk; Cursëd, crane-necked, blank, dull adult-eyed Baby, camel, ostrich-ducks ... in file Swift, point-beaked, mothered, three-toed, one-headed --an image, but for the stripes (and down), Of itself, in age. Its booming note, god And size, are at rest in it, in its Conspicuous state of egglessness. It screams, booms, bounds ...BECOMES IMMENSE, FLIES Extinct, shaggy, stripeless (in age) FLOATS Its head in the camel clouds, the hump The bulge, the sandlessness that is God.
The dodo is two feet high, and laughs. A parrot, swan-sized, pig-, scale-legged Bird. Neither parrot, nor pig--nor swan. Its beak is the beak of a parrot, A bare-cheeked, wholly beaked and speechless Parrot. A bird incapable of Anything--but laughter. And silence: A silence that is laughter--and fact, And a denial of fact (and bird). It is a sort of turkey, only Not a turkey; not anything.--Not Able to sing, not able to dance Not able to fly, not able to ... Cook.--The Dutch called it the 'nauseous bird', Walguögel, 'the uncookable.' Its existence (extinct as it is) Is from the Portuguese: Doudo, 'dumb', 'Stupid', 'silly'. And the story of its Having been eaten, in the genus Of the solitaire (on Rodrigues Island) by hogs, certain sailors & monkeys:-- Didus ineptus.--A bird that aided Its own digestion, of seeds & leaves, By swallowing large stones. It has been called, Though with birds (extinct or otherwise) Crosses are a lie, a cross between A turkey and a pigeon. The first, It is claimed, won out; and, having won, Took flight from flight (its wings but tails, gray Yellow tufted white). And for reasons As yet unknown. Its beak is laughter And shines, in indifference--and size. It has the meaning, for some, of wings: Wings that have become a face: embodied In a beak... and half the dodo's head... It laughs--silence, its mind, extends from its ears: Its laugh, from wings, like wrists, to bill, to ears.
She lies upon a tawny mat of effluence--and leopard spots. And he ('he's hers and she knows it!') Can but barely be seen ... crouched and to the left of her. One ear, an eyebrow and a bit of cheek are all that show of him. The caption (again) suggests that it is fun ('fabulous fun') being female At a time like this! And, indeed, it looks like fun. Her eyes are huge and subtly closed as leopard spots; and her lips are spread. She is, in fact, a deodored leopardess about to take the male. But again, the caption: You are the very air he breathes (the male is hard upon her). She appears to be undisturbed by this; and with both shaved armpits bared, she arches For him. One is inclined to think of her as being altogether without fear; she smiles, And takes the male. Neither deodorant, nor effluence, could do more. She smiles, and she lies there, the very air he breathed.(ADVERTISEMENT)
Portrayed here is a special flesh, And a special brand Of cigarette. The luxurious white paper has, In fact, a sister in the woman. Her neck And arms are long, costly and white. Their skin supplants, for one's eyes-- For the moment of regard--her soft bones And mild, smoking veins. The filter-mouthpiece has, as well, its equal In the woman. She is recessed Into a customed world. Smoked fugues Drift across the background; and only the flavour, Classic in taste, may ever touch your lips, or eyes. She is herself a flavour. And lit, both she And her world recede, trailing a taste And only the finest smoke. 'Yorker & Hedges.' One must not follow--one may only gape And buy, and puff. The taste, however, Still lingers after; and the aura Of a restrained, and barely burning world. Can such a Yorkness ever be attained by one? This is not the question here; but rather, This woman, in a tobacco context: one involving Flesh, ashlessness and a filtered bit of fire.
They had killed Momma's brother Johnny Nine-and-a-half times, in the war. There Wasn't hardly anything left, when He got home: of Johnny, or of Momma. I mean he came home without his arms, Without his ears, without his brains, or Hair; without his loving everyone, and women That made Momma mad. He didn't like Love no more, or Momma, and he had Been married in between all the times He was killed. Nine-and-a-half times! And Momma had cried and cried and said It was like his being killed. The Army, And President Roosevelt, General Eisenhower. . . . They were all sorry, And Momma ate the letters, and the envelopes; The telegrams, and then Johnny; the Purple Heart, the White Heart, the gold Star, Daddy & all of Johnny's wives. And Momma was all that there was left.
Hello wife, hello world, hello God, I love you; hello certain monsters, Ghosts, office buildings, I love you. Dog, Dog-dogs, cat, cat-cats, I love you. Hello Things-in-Themselves, Things Not Quite In Themselves (but trying), I love you. River-rivers, flower-flowers, clouds And sky; the Trolley Museum in Maine, (With real trolleys); airplanes taking Off; airplanes not taking off; airplanes Landing, I love you. The IRT, BMT; the London subway (Yes, yes, pedants, the Underground) System; the Moscow subway system, All subway systems except the Chicago subway system. Ah, yes, I love you, the Chicago El- Evated. Sexual intercourse, Hello, hello. Love, I love you; Death, I love you; and some other things, as well, I love you. Like what? Walt Whitman Wagner, Henry Miller; a really Extraordinary, one-legged Tijuana whore; I love you, loved You. The Reader's Digest (their splendid, Monthly vocabulary tests), Life And Look ... handball, volleyball, tennis; Croquet, basketball, football, Sixty- Nine; draft beer for a nickel; Women Who will lend you money, Women Who will not; Women, pregnant women; Women who I am making pregnant; Women who I am not making pregnant. Women. Trees, gold fish, silverfish, Coral fish, coral; I love you, I Love you.
It is a jét-delight for me, today to stand flown to you, friends over the body of this... a wellknown soldier. Firing a volley (FIRE!) through the flag, and into his death we note just how little this boy has passed beyond us. The body spurts, black against the flag; and all peer down into its hoIes. Notice how little blood he sheds: this is one of the finer restraints of soldierhood. It is for us to stand and to applaud over this well-(FIRE!!) volleyed corpse, --and now, plunging our tongues into the flag, let us delight in his presence here today.
This is a church, and it is a church. The Lord's house, God's house. His. I worship Here, in this church. In this God's church. I pray. More than this however, more Than this, I look. Not, not at the God, The God I pray to; no, the church, The church I pray in. I squeeze my eyes Into a juice to feel with. And smear The walls. I run my hands all across The God-cross windows (stained yellow, blue . . .) I pray. I pray now to see the church, To see it all, & with all my face. I see the church. With my eyes. My eyes Back now in my head. I see the church. I see the church in my head. It is moist. It is moist and oozes eyes. My eyes. I look at it. It will not stand still. The steeple sways. A bell tolls softly In the distance. This, this church¹s Bell. I blow my nose, hard, and listen, Hard. Then God falls down on me, on my Head, on my eyes-- and I burst who? what? Out of my eyes... into God. Into God.
What will the gods do? There is No place to hide. And how are We to bear them?--after all The photographs are taken, All the images re-cast, (Into rather more useful forms) The ancient saints, priests, choir Boys (and girls) destroyed (organs, The formerly holy stars, The musical spheres ...) Who will care for them, cleanse them, Feed them? What will the gods do?
Rockabye dust in the mourning cradle, rockabye soul in the lowered box, rockabye stone on them all, and flowers; rockabye, rockabye, rock!
The sand seems clouds, and the ship's sail, _her_ There against an empty sky. The blue That it is not, is me; and the sea That is not there, and the sun ... are me. And she is here, beside me; and we Lie in one another's arms upon The couch;--and I am all about her.
It is a perfectly ordinary day. The sun, unseen, is obviously shining. Things are dark; things are light; and there are people. There are people in the water. Though one must Try to imagine the water.--A beach, a day, A sail, the sun. --We are nowhere to be seen. It is evening, it is raining. Lightning. "The day, the sun ..." We strip then, and sleep; Sleep, and swim inside one another.
And I lie there, watching her Through it, like some sick Adam with a Kodak--afraid, Wanting to be alone, dead, Wanting to make a stranger Of Eve. I scratch myself, and keep On watching her. And it is Like a photograph. It is But it does not Occur to me to take--or To throw away the Kodak. I hold it there between us, Laugh, & try to recognize her. Bitch! She's turned the other way; She isn't looking at me! Smiles without looking at me. If I loved her, It wouldn't be so bad. Or if she didn't think I did. I close my eyes on her, And love her, click the shutter. --I take her photograph ... I take six. It is a kind Of love,¹ I say. It doesn't Move me, not one bit,¹ she says. You're invisible,¹ she says. The invisible lover. --But I love you anyway. And your mind,--I mean, like I Love life. And, at the same time, Hate it. The way it stands there, Or seems to stand there, like you: With a Kodak for a hard-on. (Not personal at all, ever But changing, always changing And somehow invisible. "... no more intimate than death.²) I don't know. Maybe it's me.¹
'Let me of you ...' she says. And I scratch. 'Where do the dead go, when the dead die?' 'They go into photographs. Albums. Only they go without their Kodaks.' She snaps me. 'What are you thinking!' she says. 'Of albums. Of photographs. Kodaks.' She snaps me, and then lies down, and cries. I lie down beside her. And cry. She kisses me. And she stands, naked And takes one more of me. And cries. I stand, and take one more of her.-- 'Yes!' She screams, she feels it happening, 'Yes!' 'No!' I say, 'I'm afraid. Please! not yet ... 'Besides, you know how much I hate you.' --She rolls the negative around me, Like a Trojan. And draws me to her. 'Oh,' she says, 'Oh.'--But nothing happens.
The moon.--It is taking my photo. From the back of my head. Through my head. --Of her; of my face; of the sea . . . Of her in my face,--of her, nothing. BITCH! I click the shutter sixty times. My 'flash' makes a moon of her. She screams! She is in my face, in my eyes ... And I throw the camera at her. It goes right through her head. Out across The sea. Into the sky. And the face Of the moon.--It is just waiting there, (With its own, its huge, fast Rolloflex!), Small, dead. Just enough of it to be A moon.--Neither more, nor less. Nor moon. --For an instant, the moon seems her. I aim my 'flash' at it, illuminate, Without my Kodak, and I have it!
And she is nothing. She puts on sand... She looks like clouds. Stands, and is a sail. There against an empty sky. I stand, And am not there at all. Nothing... Nothing of myself, of her, of love. Though, in death, I am all about her. (It is like life, only easy. Still.) And, at last then, I am God. 'Sea, the sky ...' --She is here beside me. I love her.
It is there. And we are there. In it. Walking in it, talking, holding hands. The nickel post-card,--the glossy trees; The water falls, the unsuspecting Deer.--A scene shot from a car window: A slowly moving car, with many Windows, and a good camera. And we are walking in it. We tell Ourselves, quietly, perhaps screaming, ... Quietly, We are walking in it. And our voices sound, somehow, as if We were behind windows, or within. --We embrace, and are in love.--The deer, That we are watching, at the same time (Through cameras, binoculars, eyes ...) Are so perfectly wild, and concerned --With the scene they are, their glossy fate Silence, Nature, their rotogravure pose-- That they remain, not watching; rather, Staring away from us, into the Earnest, green & inoffensive trees.
There is no reason why not to look at death. A good poem also, is also death-contained. I once pulled out all the business feathers Of a crow; he became better, godcomplete, black. Nothing makes barely looking haste to put away The dead: except the 'dead' involved: in business. The earth, the seasons, the poets before they become Poets, make no haste to put away the dead. Nor God The Lord giveth, and He taketh away--by and large Slowly. And without haste. Crow-bombs are here Not my concern, not ordinary bombs. But plain decay (The proper autumnal process subsequent to life). Emphasis need not be placed upon the soul. My point Involves the leaf (as an example), and the unplumaged Crow. Nor is my point one with flesh, and no blood ... But one of death. I am fond of death--and/or The self-contained. This poem may not be said to be About souls. But of things. Feathers and leaves. Leafless trees and the featherless bodies of crows. Finally, let us say, I have been asked to write simply.
The snow began to fall and, pleased With its falling, and the thick Light effect of itself, blackwhite Against the summer, frozen Town, it gathered in momentum Independent of the wind And let itself tumble, with a Quick, sensual uncontrol. . . Like some unmiraculous white Of a woman, stripped & gathered Into the lightest freezings Of herself: --pleased by her being And the thick of herself, as such, Upon the dead spread of streets, steeples And the noon hour of the night.