“Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams” — Kenneth Koch

“Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams”

by

Kenneth Koch


1

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next
summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

2

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

3

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten
years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

4

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy, and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

“A Sort of Song” — William Carlos Williams

“Classic Scene” — William Carlos Williams

“Classic Scene”

by

William Carlos Williams


A power-house
in the shape of
a red brick chair
90 feet high

on the seat of which
sit the figures
of two metal
stacks–aluminum–

commanding an area
of squalid shacks
side by side–
from one of which

buff smoke
streams while under
a grey sky
the other remains

passive today–

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Classic Landscape, 1931 by Charles Sheeler (1883–1965)

“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

 

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

 

“Tree and Sky” — William Carlos Williams

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“Spring” — William Carlos Williams

“Pigheaded Poet” — William Carlos Williams

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“Fire Spirit” — William Carlos Williams

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“Trees” — William Carlos Williams

“The Girl” — William Carlos Williams

the girl

“The Uses of Poetry” — William Carlos Williams

uses

“To Greet a Letter-Carrier” — William Carlos Williams

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“At the Bar” — William Carlos Williams

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“May 1st Tomorrow” — William Carlos Williams

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“Drugstore Library” — William Carlos Williams

“Fragment” — William Carlos Williams

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