22 July 2008

William Carlos Williams

[from William Carlos Williams's Kora in Hell: Improvisations, 1918]


When you hang your clothes on the line you do not expect to see the line broken and them trailing in the mud. Nor would you expect to keep your hands clean by putting them in a dirty pocket. However and of course if you are a market man, fish, cheeses and the like going under your fingers every minute in the hour you would not leave off the business and expect to handle a basket of fine laces without at least mopping yourself on a towel, soiled as it may be. Then how will you expect a fine trickle of words to follow you through the intimacies of this dance without — oh, come let us walk together into the air awhile first. One must be watchman to much secret arrogance before his ways are tuned to these measures. You see there is a dip of the ground between us. You think you can leap up from your gross caresses of these creatures and at a gesture fling it all off and step out in silver to my finger tips. Ah, it is not that I do not wait for you, always! But my sweet fellow — you have broken yourself without purpose, you are — Hark! it is the music! Whence does it come? What! Out of the ground? Is it this that you have been preparing fro me? Ha, goodbye, I have a rendezvous in the tips of three birch sisters. Encouragez vox musiciens! Ask them to play faster. I will return — later. Ah you are kind. — and I? must dance with the wind, make my own snow flakes, whistle a contrapuntal melody to my own fugue! Huzza then, this is the mazurka of the hollow log! Huzza then, this is the dance of rain in the cold trees.


What can it mean to you that a child wears pretty clothes and speaks three languages or that its mother goes to the best shops? It means: July has good need of his blazing sun. But if you pick one berry from the ash tree I'd not know it again for the same no matter how the rain washed. Make my bed of witchhazel twigs, said the old man, since they bloom on the brink of winter.


Truth's a wonder. What difference is it how the best head we have greets his first born these days? What weight has it that the bravest hair of all's gone waiting on cheap tables or the most garrulous lives lonely by a bad neighbor and has her south windows pestered with caterpillars? The nights are long for lice combing or moon dodging — and the net comes in empty again. Or there's been no fish in this fiord since Christian was a baby. Yet     up surges the good zest and the game's on. Follow at my heels, there's little to tell you you'd think a stoopsworth. You'd pick the same faces in a crowd no matter what I'd say. And you'd be right too. The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time. But here's another handful of west wind. White of the night! White of the night. Turn back till I tell you a puzzle: What is it in the stilled face of an old mender man and winter not far off and a darky parts his wool, and wenches wear of a Sunday? It's a sparrow with a crumb in his beak dodging wheels and clouds crossing two ways.

Imaginations (A New Directions Paperbook)

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