William Carlos Williams

                                PASTORAL

                When I was younger
                it was plain to me
                I must make something of myself.
                Older now
                I walk back streets
                admiring the houses
                of the very poor:
                roof out of line with sides
                the yeards cluttered
                with old chicken wire, ashes,
                furniture gone wrong;
                the fences and outhouses
                built of barrel-staves
                and parts of boxes, all,
                if I am fortunate,
                smeared a bluish green
                that properly weathered
                pleases me best
                of all colors.

                            No one
                will believe this
                of vast import to the nation.

 

from Al Que Quiere!, 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                      PASTORAL

                The little sparrows
                hop ingenuously
                about the pavement
                quarreling
                with sharp voices
                over those things
                that interest them.
                But we who are wiser
                shut ourselves in
                on either hand
                and no one knows
                whether we think good
                or evil.
                      Meanwhile,
                the old man who goes about
                gathering dog-lime
                walks in the gutter
                without looking up
                as his tread
                is more majestic than
                that of the Episcopal minister
                approaching the pulpit
                of a Sunday.
                      These things
                astonish me beyond words.

 

from ‘Al Que Quiere’, 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                      EL HOMBRE

                It’s a strange courage
                you give me ancient star:

                Shine alone in the sunrise
                toward which you lend no part!

 

from Al Que Quiere!, 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                SUMMER SONG

                Wanderer moon
                smiling a
                faintly ironical smile
                at this
                brilliant, dew-moistened
                summer morning,–
                a detached
                sleepily indifferent
                smile, a
                wanderer’s smile,–
                if I should
                buy a shirt
                your color and
                put on a necktie
                sky-blue
                where would they carry me?

 

from Al Que Quiere, 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                      LOVE SONG

                Sweep the house clean,
                hang fresh curtains
                in the windows
                put on a new dress
                and come with me!
                The elm is scattering
                its little loaves
                of sweet smells
                from a white sky!

                Who shall hear of us
                in the time to come?
                Let him say there was
                a burst of fragrance
                from black branches.

 

from Al Que Quiere! 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                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
                before my mirror
                waving my shirt round my head
                and singing softly to myself:
                “I am lonelt, lonely.
                I was born to be lonely,
                I am best so!”
                If I admire my arms, flanks, buttocks
                against the yellow drawn shades,–

                Who shall say I am not
                the happy genius of my household?

 

from Al Que Quiere, 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                SPRING STRAINS

                In a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds
                crowded erect with desire against
                the sky–
                            tense blue-grey twigs
                slenderly anchoring them down, drawing
                them in–

                            two blue-grey birds chasing
                a third struggle in circles, angles,
                swift convergings to a point that bursts
                instantly!

                            Vibrant bowing limbs
                pull downward, sucking in the sky
                that bulges from behind, plastering itself
                against them in packed rifts, rock blue
                and dirty orange!

                                                                                But–
                (Hold hard, rigid jointed trees!)
                the blinding and red-edged sun-blur–
                creeping energy, concentrated
                counterforce – welds sky, buds, trees,
                rivets them in one puckering hold!
                Sticks through! Pulls the whole
                counter-pulling mass upward, to the right,
                locks even the opaque, not yet defined
                ground in a terrific drag that is
                loosening the very tap-roots!

                On a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds
                two blue-grey birds, chasing a third,
                at full cry! Now they are
                flung outward and up – disappearing suddenly!

 

from Al Que Quiere, 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                TREES

                Crooked, black tree
                on your little grey-black hillock,
                ridiculously raised one step toward
                the infinite summits of the night:
                even you the few grey stars
                draw upward into a vague melody
                of harsh threads.

                Bent as you are from straining
                against the bitter horizontals of
                a north wind,–there below you
                how easily the long yellow notes
                of poplars flow upward in a descending
                scale, each note secure in its own
                posture–singularly woven.

                All voices are blent willingly
                against the heaving contra-bass
                of the dark but you alone
                warp yourself passionately to one side
                in your eagerness.

 

from Al Que Quiere! 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                     TO A SOLITARY DISCIPLE

                Rather notice, mon cher,
                that the moon is
                tilted above
                the point of the steeple
                than that its color
                is shell-pink.

                Rather observe
                that it is early morning
                than that the sky
                is smooth
                as a turquoise.

                Rather grasp
                how the dark
                converging lines
                of the steeple
                meet at the pinnacle–
                perceive how
                its little ornament
                tries to stop them–

                See how it fails!
                See how the converging lines
                of the hexagonal spire
                escape upward–
                receding, dividing!
                –sepals
                that guard and contain
                the flower!

                Observe
                how motionless
                the eaten moon
                lies in the protecting lines.

                It is true:
                in the light colors
                of morning
                brown-stone and slate
                shine orange and dark blue.

                But observe
                the oppressive weight
                of the squat edifice!
                Observe
                the jasmine lightness
                of the moon.

 

from Al Que Quiere! 1917

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                THE DESOLATE FIELD

                Vast and grey, the sky
                in a simulacrum
                to all but him whose days
                are vast and grey, and–
                In the tall, dried grasses
                a goat stirs
                with nozzle searching the ground.
                –my head is in the air
                but who am I ..?
                And amazed my heart leaps
                at the thought of love
                vast and grey
                yearning silently over me.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                   JANUARY

                Again I reply to the triple winds
                running chromatic fifths of derision
                outside my window:
                                                     Play louder.
                You will not succeed. I am
                bound more to my sentences
                the more you batter at me
                to follow you.
                                         And the wind,
                as before, fingers perfectly
                its derisive music.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                THURSDAY

                I have had my dream–like others–
                and it has come to nothing, so that
                I remain now carelessly
                with feet planted on the ground
                and look up at the sky–
                feeling my clothes around me,
                the weight of my body in my shoes,
                the rim of my hat, air passing in and out
                at my nose–and decide to dream no more.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                SPRING

                O my grey hairs!
                You are truly white as plum blossoms.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                LINES

                Leaves are greygreen,
                the glass broken, bright green.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                BLUEFLAGS

                I stopped the car
                to let the children down
                where the streets end
                in the sun
                at the marsh edge
                and the reeds begin
                and there are small houses
                facing the reeds
                and the blue mist
                in the distance
                with grapevine trellises
                with grape clusters
                small as strawberries
                on the vines
                and ditches
                running springwater
                that continue the gutters
                with willows over them.
                The reeds begin
                like water at a shore
                their pointed petals waving
                dark green and light.
                But blueflags are blossoming
                in the reeds
                which the children pluck
                chattering in the reeds
                high over their heads
                which they part
                with bare arms to appear
                with fists of flowers
                till in the air
                there comes the smell
                of calamus
                from wet, gummy stalks.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                LIGHT HEARTED WILLIAM

                Light hearted William twirled
                his November moustaches
                and, half dressed, looked
                from the bedroom window
                upon the spring weather.

                Height-ya! sighed he gaily
                leaning out to see
                up and down the street
                where a heavy sunlight
                lay beyond some blue shadows.

                Into the room he drew
                his head again and laughed
                to himself quietly
                twirling his green moustaches.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                THE LONELY STREET

                School is over. It is too hot
                to walk at ease. At ease
                in light frocks they walk the streets
                to while the time away.
                They have grown tall. They hold
                pink flames in their right hands.
                In white from head to foot,
                with sidelong, idle look–
                in yellow, floating stuff,
                black sash and stockings–
                touching their avid mouths
                with pink sugar on a stick–
                like a carnation each holds in her hand–
                they mount the lonely street.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                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.

 

from Sour Grapes, 1921

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                SPRING AND ALL

                By the road to the contagious hospital
                under the surge of the blue
                mottled clouds driven from the
                northeast – a cold wind. Beyond, the
                waste of broad, muddy fields
                brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

                patches of standing water
                the scattering of tall trees

                All along the road the reddish
                purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
                stuff of bushes and small trees
                with dead, brown leaves under them
                leafless vines –

                Lifeless in appearence, sluggish
                dazed spring approaches –

                They enter the new world naked,
                cold, uncertain of all
                save that they enter. All about them
                the cold, familiar wind –

                Now the grass, tomorrow
                the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

                One by one objects are defined –
                It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

                But now the stark dignity of
                entrance – Still, the profound change
                had come upon them: rooted, they
                grip down and begin to awaken

from Spring and All, 1923

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                VI

                No that is not it
                nothing that I have done
                nothing
                I have done

                is made up of
                nothing
                and the dipthong

                ae

                together with
                the first person
                singular
                indicative

                of the auxiliary
                verb
                to have

                everything
                I have done
                is the same

                if to do
                is capable
                of an
                infinity of
                combinations

                involving the
                moral
                physical
                and religious

                codes

                for everything
                and nothing
                are synonymous
                when

                energy in vacuo
                has the power
                of confusion

                which only to
                have done nothing
                can make
                perfect

 

from Spring and All, 1923

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                XI

                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

                to the north past a house–
                a woman in blue

                who was laughing and
                leaning forward to look up

                into the man’s half
                averted face

                and a boy of eight who was
                looking at the middle of

                the man’s belly
                at a watchchain–

                The supreme importance
                of this nameless spectacle

                sped me by them
                without a word–

                Why bother where I went?
                for I went spinning on the

                four wheels of my car
                along the wet road until

                I saw a girl with one leg
                over the rail of a balcony

 

from Spring and All, 1923

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                so much depends
                upon

                a red wheel
                barrow

                glazed with rain
                water

                beside the white
                chickens

from Spring and All, 1923

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                                YOUNG SYCAMORE

                I must tell you
                this younf tree
                whose round and firm trunk
                between the wet

                pavement and the gutter
                (where water
                is trickling) rises
                bodily

                into the air with
                one undulant
                thrust half its height–
                and then

                dividing and waning
                sending out
                young branches on
                all sides–

                hung with cocoons–
                it thins
                till nothing is left of it
                but two

                eccentric knotted
                twigs
                bending forward
                hornlike at the top

 

from Poems, 1927

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

2

When I think how my grandmother flirted with me I often wonder why I have not been attracted by women of her type.   SHE was a devil if ever there was one.   When she’d move into a neighborhood she’d go out and clean it up, tonguewise.   She’d lay ’em out, male and female – and then sit back in peace to her mysterious memories and awkward aspirations toward heaven and the hold she’d have still on the world and its accessories.   She buried the keg of elderberry wine under the side of the house, and the stuff she’d eat, not to waste it, would make you shudder.   This was especially after she’d gone nearly blind and had taken up Christian Science so that you couldn’t trust her.   Boy, them was the days.   And the rags she used to wipe the dishes on when she’d have the family up to a meal in her shack on the shore over the Fourth.   Baby, I can still see Pop wiping his knife on the edge of the tablecloth – or something, before he’d use it.   But talk was her best weapon, she could lay you an argument like a steel fence and you might try to get through it for a day or a week or till doomsday and there she’d be still back of it laughing at you.   The only fault she confessed to was a lack of self-assertion.   She was right too.   She liked no society, no gadding – except on some wild pretext, such as a fascination with the bicycle at sixty.   She fell flat with the handle in one eye, but she did it, bloomers and all.   Yet she–   The city stifled her, she could not wait for the spring.   School or no school (they suffered for it later) out she would yank the two grandkids and off she’s track it for the shore, April to snowfall there she’d make her stand.   Nobody could budge her, not even old man Nolan who had his wife eating out of his hand, big and burly as she was.   He never got the best of Emily.   That was it, she had it.   She wanted to be out, away, alone, in the air, by the sea, breathing it in.   She’d lie in the water’s edge every summer’s day till she was eighty.   Sometimes she’d be so weak, all alone there, she couldn’t get up with her wet rags dragging on her.   She’d turn blue with the effort to lift herself on her hands and knees, laughing self consciously the while but doing it, doing it–   She’d envy the birds the cherries they’d eat, or she’d sit and watch them playing and go get crumbs to throw them, or half scrape a fish the boys would be too lazy to clean, disgusted with its smallness–   Lord what a bed she’d sleep in!   I would carry you away with what it had in it.   When she’d come to kiss you, you’d want to but you’d go easy and there’d be a good smell out of her scalp and up her neck–   She liked me, I’d stand up and fight her by the day trying to get her to have clean dish rags or whatever it would be – some moral issue.   All she wanted was to be alone and to have her quiet way.   She had it.   And love.   She wanted that, hot food into the grave, you couldn’t get her without it.   Took my father up to the cemetery the night before he married and made him promise her things over the grave of his dead sister.   God pardon her for it.

 

from Poems, 1927

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                            1. THE WAITRESS

                No wit (and none needed) but
    the silence of her ways, grey eyes in
    a depth of black lashes–
    The eyes look and the look falls.

    There is no way, no way. So close
    one may feel the warmth of the cheek and yet there is
    no way.

    The benefits of poverty are a roughened skin
    of the hands, the broken
    knuckles, the stained wrists.

                Serious. Not as the others.
    All the rest are liars, all but you.
                                        Wait on us.
    Wait on us, the hair held back practically
    by a net, close behind the ears, at the sides of
    the head. But the eyes–
                            but the mouth, lightly (quickly)
    touched with rouge.

    The black dress makes the hair dark, strangely
    enough, and the white dress makes it light.
    There is a mole under the jaw, low under
    thr right ear–

                And what arms!

                                        The glassruby ring
    on the fourth finger of the left hand.

                                        –and the movements
under the scant dress as the weight of the tray
    makes the hips shift forward slightly in lifting
    and beginning to walk–

    The Nominating Committee presents the following
    resolutions, etc. etc. etc. All those
    in favor signify by saying, Aye. Contrariminded,
    No.
      Carried.
                And aye, and aye, and aye!

    And the way the bell-hop runs downstairs:
          ta tuck a
                ta tuck a
                      ta tuck a
                            ta tuck a
                                  ta tuck a
    and the gulls in the open window screaming over the slow
    break of the cold waves–

                O unlit candle with the soft white
    plume, Sunbeam Finest Safety Matches all together in
    a little box–

                And the reflections of both in
    the mirror and the reflection of the hand, writing
    writing–
                Speak to me of her!-

                –and nobody else and nothing else
    in the whole city, not an electric sign of shifting
    colors, fourfoot daisies and acanthus fronds going from
    red to orange, green to blue–forty feet across–

                                        Wait on us, wait
    on us with your momentary beauty to be enjoyed by
    none of us. Neither by you, certainly,
                                                nor by me.

 

with love from Poems, 1928

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                     On hot days
                the sewing machine
                            whirling

                     in the next room
                     in the kitchen

                and men at the bar
                     talking of the strike
                     and cash

 

sultry from The Descent of Winter, 1928

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

10/28

                in this strong light
                the leafless beechtree
                shines like a cloud

                it seems to glow
                of itself
                with a soft stript light
                of love
                over the brittle
                grass

                But there are
                on second look
                a few yellow leaves
                still shaking

                far apart

                just one here one there
                trembling vividly

 

specificularity within a cast-iron-changing season from the Descent of Winter, 1928 by William Carlos Williams

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                To freight cars in the air

                all the slow
                    clank, clank
                    clank, clank
                moving above the treetops

                the
                    wha,     wha
                of the hoarse whistle

                    pah,      pah,      pah
                    pah, pah, pah, pah, pah

                    piece and piece
                    piece and piece
                moving still trippingly
                through the morningmist

                long after the engine
                has fought by
                                          and disappeared

                in silence
                                   to the left

 

obviously, the sound, echoingly, the sound, only, the sound; from the Descent of Winter, 1928 by William Carlos Williams

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

poetry should strive for nothing else, this vividness alone, per se, for itself. The realization of this has its own internal fire that is “like” nothing. Therefore the bastardy of the smile. That thing, the vividness which is poetry by itself, makes the poem. There is no need to explain or compare. Make it and it is a poem. This is modern, not the saga. There are no sagas–only trees now, animals, engines: There’s that.

11/1     I won’t have to powder my nose tonight `cause Billie’s gonna take me home in his car–

                The moon, the dried weeds
                and the Pleiades–

                Seven feet tall
                the dark, dried weedstalks
                make a part of the night
                a red lace
                on the blue milky sky

                Write–
                by a small lamp

                the Pleiades are almost
                nameless
                and the moon is tilted
                and halfgone

                And in runningpants and
                with ecstatic, aesthetic faces
                on the illumined
                signboard are leaping
                over printed hurdles and
                “¼ of their energy comes from bread”

                two
                gigantic highschool boys
                ten feet tall

 

from The Descent of Winter, 1928 by William Carlos Williams

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                THE ATTIC WHICH IS DESIRE:

                                the unused tent
                                of

                                bare beams
                                beyond which

                                directly wait
                                the night

                                and day–
                                Here

                                from the street
                                by

                                   *   *   *
                                   *   S   *
                                   *   O  *
                                   *   D  *
                                   *   A  *
                                   *   *   *

                                ringed with
                                running lights

                                the darkened
                                pane

                                exactly
                                down the center

                                is
                                transfixed

 

from Poems, 1930: the word becomes the poem, nothing beyond the word itself – cf. * SODA * – but everything in it just the same; WCW was an atomist, a catalyst and maybe, even, an alchemist, but he was not a dogmatist or a fantasist and definitely not a rhapsodist, although he was a poet, and very often-enough, didn’t know it

~~~ “WCW” ~~~

                      POEM

                As the cat
                climbed over
                the top of

                the jamcloset
                first the right
                forefoot

                carefully
                then the hind
                stepped down

                into the pit of
                the empty
                flowerpot

 

from Poems, 1930-1931: the care; and bother; to be so; meticulous; about no; thing in; particular; that it; becomes; everything; worthwhile; noticing

 

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