“The Song of the Demented Priest” — John Berryman

“The Song of the Demented Priest”

by

John Berryman


I put those things there.—See them burn.
The emerald the azure and the gold
Hiss and crack, the blues & greens of the world
As if I were tired. Someone interferes
Everywhere with me. The clouds, the clouds are torn
In ways I do not understand or love.

Licking my long lips, I looked upon God
And he flamed and he was friendlier
Than you were, and he was small. Showing me
Serpents and thin flowers; these were cold.
Dominion waved & glittered like the flare
From ice under a small sun. I wonder.

Afterward the violent and formal dancers
Came out, shaking their pithless heads.
I would instruct them but I cannot now,—
Because of the elements. They rise and move,
I nod a dance and they dance in the rain
In my red coat. I am the king of the dead.

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“Baseball and Classicism” — Tom Clark

“Baseball and Classicism”

by

Tom Clark


Every day I peruse the box scores for hours
Sometimes I wonder why I do it
Since I am not going to take a test on it
And no one is going to give me money

The pleasure’s something like that of codes
Of deciphering an ancient alphabet say
So as brightly to picturize Eurydice
In the Elysian Fields on her perfect day

The day she went 5 for 5 against Vic Raschi

“4th of July” — William Carlos Williams

“4th of July”

by

William Carlos Williams


I

The ship moves
but its smoke
moves with the wind
faster than the ship

— thick coils of it
through leafy trees
pressing
upon the river

II

The heat makes
this place of the woods
a room
in which two robins pain

crying
distractedly
over the plight of
their unhappy young

III

During the explosions
at dawn, the celebrations
I could hear
a native cuckoo

in the distance
as at dusk, before
I’d heard
a night hawk calling

“Haymaking” — William Carlos Williams

“Haymaking”

by

William Carlos Williams


The living quality of
the man’s mind
stands out

and its covert assertions
for art, art, art!
painting

that the Renaissance
tried to absorb
but

it remained a wheat field
over which the
wind played

men with scythes tumbling
the wheat in
rows

the gleaners already busy
it was his own—
magpies

the patient horses no one
could take that
from him

 

die_heuernte
Haymaking (July), 
1565 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569)

 

“A Postcard from the Volcano” — Wallace Stevens

“A Postcard from the Volcano”

by

Wallace Stevens


Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion-house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look
And what we said of it became

A part of what it is … Children,
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,

Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,

A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.

“Tree and Sky” — William Carlos Williams

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“Poem Beginning with a Line of Wittgenstein” — Donald Hall

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I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough (Walt Whitman)

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From Leaves of Grass, illustrated by Rockwell Kent.

“Himself let him unknown contain” — Tom Clark

“Himself let him unknown contain”

by

Tom Clark


Wyatt, with no insurance on his own head,
watching the execution of Anne Boleyn
from his cell in the Tower, while beyond
on Tower Hill her lovers also are executed,

reflects upon his wasted virtue and now
redundant innocence, rueful he ever did
let his name be known beyond the door of
his soul or hung his star from fate thrones.

(see also)

“next to of course god america i” — e.e. cummings

“next to of course god america i”

by

e.e. cummings


“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water.

“Lament” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Lament”

by

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I’ll make you little jackets;
I’ll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There’ll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

“War Is Kind” — Stephen Crane

“War Is Kind”

by

Stephen Crane


Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift, blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

“American Airlines Sutra” — Ishmael Reed

“American Airlines Sutra”

by

Ishmael Reed


put yr cup on my tray
the stewardess said 40,000
feet up. (well i’ve
never done it that way. what
have i got to lose.)

i climb into a cab & the
woman driver is singing
along with Frank Sinatra
“how was your flight coming in?”

(another one. these americans,
only one thing on their
minds).

The Soul of Wine — Carlos Schwabe

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The Soul of Wine, 1900 by Carlos Schwabe (1866–1926)

Illustration for Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire.

“The Soul of Wine”

by

Charles Baudelaire

English translation by

William Aggeler


One night, the soul of wine was singing in the flask:
“O man, dear disinherited! to you I sing
This song full of light and of brotherhood
From my prison of glass with its scarlet wax seals.

I know the cost in pain, in sweat,
And in burning sunlight on the blazing hillside,
Of creating my life, of giving me a soul:
I shall not be ungrateful or malevolent,

For I feel a boundless joy when I flow
Down the throat of a man worn out by his labor;
His warm breast is a pleasant tomb
Where I’m much happier than in my cold cellar.

Do you hear the choruses resounding on Sunday
And the hopes that warble in my fluttering breast?
With sleeves rolled up, elbows on the table,
You will glorify me and be content;

I shall light up the eyes of your enraptured wife,
And give back to your son his strength and his color;
I shall be for that frail athlete of life
The oil that hardens a wrestler’s muscles.

Vegetal ambrosia, precious grain scattered
By the eternal Sower, I shall descend in you
So that from our love there will be born poetry,
Which will spring up toward God like a rare flower!”

 

“What Kind of Times Are These” — Adrienne Rich

“What Kind of Times Are These”

by

Adrienne Rich


There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted

who disappeared into those shadows.

 

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled

this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,

our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,

its own ways of making people disappear.

 

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods

meeting the unmarked strip of light—

ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:

I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

 

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you

anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these

to have you listen at all, it’s necessary

to talk about trees.

“Points of View” — Ishmael Reed

“Points of View”

by

Ishmael Reed


The  pioneers and the indians
disagree about a lot of things
for example, the pioneer says that
when you meet a bear in the woods
you should yell at him and if that
doesn’t work, you should fell him
The indians say that you should
whisper to him softly and call him by
loving nicknames
No one’s bothered to ask the bear
what he thinks

We must not say so