William Carlos Williams: Selected Poetry.
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The Poet


The Sun Bathers

A tramp thawing out
on a doorstep
against an east wall
Nov. 1, 1933:

a young man begrimed
and in an old
army coat
wriggling and scratching

while a fat negress
in a yellow-house window
nearby
leans out and yawns

into the fine weather



This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold



An Early Martyr

Rather than permit him
to testify in court
Giving reasons
why he stole from
Exclusive stores
then sent post-cards
To the police
to come and arrest him
——if they could——
They railroaded him
to an asylum for
The criminally insane
without trial

The prophylactic to
madness
Having been denied him
he went close to
The edge out of
frustration and
Doggedness——

Inflexible, finally they
had to release him——
The institution was
"overcrowded"
They let him go
in the custody of
A relative on condition
that he remain
Out of the state——
——

They "cured" him all
right
But the set-up
he fought against
Remains——
and his youthful deed
Signalizing
the romantic period
Of a revolt
he served well
Is still good——

Let him be
a factory whistle
That keeps blaring——
Sense, sense, sense!
so long as there's
A mind to remember
and a voice to
carry it on——
Never give up
keep at it!
Unavoided, terrifying
to such bought
Courts as he thought
to trust to but they
Double-crossed him.



Flowers by the Sea



When over the flowery, sharp pasture's
edge, unseen, the salt ocean

lifts its form——chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

but color and the movement——or the shape
perhaps——of restlessness, whereas

the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem



Proletarian Portrait

A big young bareheaded woman
in an apron

Her hair slicked back standing
on the street

One stockinged foot toeing
the sidewalk

Her shoe in her hand. Looking
intently into it

She pulls out the paper insole
to find the nail

That has been hurting her



The Yachts



contend in a sea which the land partly encloses
shielding them from the too-heavy blows
of an ungoverned ocean which when it chooses

tortures the biggest hulls, the best man knows
to pit against its beatings, and sinks them pitilessly.
Mothlike in mists, scintillant in the minute

brilliance of cloudless days, with broad bellying sails
they glide to the wind tossing green water
from their sharp prows while over them the crew crawls

ant-like, solicitously grooming them, releasing,
making fast as they turn, lean far over and having
caught the wind again, side by side, head for the mark.

In a well guarded arena of open water surrounded by
lesser and greater craft which, sycophant, lumbering
and flitting follow them, they appear youthful, rare

as the light of a happy eye, live with the grace
of that in the mind is feckless, free and
naturally to be desired. Now the sea which holds them

is moody, lapping their glossy sides, as if feeling
for some slightest flaw but fails completely.
Today no race. Then the wind comes again. The yachts

move, jockeying for a start, the signal is set and they
are off. Now the waves strike at them but they are too
well made, they slip through, though they take in canvas.

Arms with hands grasping seek to clutch at the prows.
Bodies thrown recklessly in the way are cut aside.
It is a sea of faces about them in agony, in despair

until the horror of the race dawns staggering the mind,
the whole sea become an entanglement of watery bodies
lost to the world bearing what they cannot hold. Broken,

beaten, desolate, reaching from the dead to be taken up
they cry out, failing, failing! their cries rising
in waves still as the skillful yachts pass over.



Catholic Bells


Tho' I'm no Catholic
I listen hard when the bells
in the yellow-brick tower
of their new church

ring down the leaves
ring in the frost upon them
and the death of the flowers
ring out the grackle

toward the south, the sky
darkened by them, ring in
the new baby of Mr. and Mrs,
Krantz which cannot

for the fat of its cheeks
open well its eyes, ring out
the parrot under its hood
jealous of the child

ring in Sunday morning
and old age which adds as it
takes away. Let them ring
only ring! over the oil

painting of a young priest
on the church wall advertising
last week's Novena to St.
Anthony, ring for the lame

young man in black with
gaunt cheeks and wearing a
Derby hat, who is hurrying
to 11 o'clock Mass (the

grapes still hanging to
the vines along the nearby
Concordia Halle like broken
teeth in the head of an

old man) Let them ring
for the eyes and ring for
the hands and ring for
the children of my friend

who no longer hears
them ring but with a smile
and in a low voice speaks
of the decisions of her

daughter and the proposals
and betrayals of her
husband's friends. O bells
ring for the ringing!

the beginning and the end
of the ringing! Ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring!
Catholic bells——



To Be Hungry is to Be Great

The small, yellow grass-onion,
spring's first green, precursor
to Manhattan's pavements, when
plucked as it comes, in bunches,
washed, split and fried in
a pan, though inclined to be
a little slimy, if well cooked
and served hot on rye bread
is to beer a perfect appetizer——
and the best part
of it is they grow everywhere.



St. Francis Einstein of the Daffodils

On the first visit of Professor Einstein
 to the United States in the spring of 1921

"Sweet land"
at last!
out of sea——
the Venusremembering wavelets
rippling with laughter——
freedom
for the daffodils!
——in a tearing wind
that shakes
the tufted orchards——
Einstein, tall as a violet
in the lattice-arbor corner
is tall as 
a blossomy peartree

O Samos, Samos
dead and buried. Lesbia
a black cat in the freshturned
garden. All dead.
All flesh they sung
is rotten
Sing of it no longer——
Side by side young and old
take the sun together——
maples, green and red
yellowbells
and the vermillion quinceflower
together——

The peartree
with f&156;tid blossoms
sways its high topbranches
with contrary motions
and there are both pinkflowered
and coralflowered peachtrees
in the bare chickenyard
of the old negro
with white hair who hides
poisoned fish-heads
here and there
where stray cats find them——
find them

Spring days
swift and mutable
winds blowing four ways
hot and cold
shaking the flowers——
Now the northeast wind
moving in fogs leaves the grass
cold and dripping. The night
is dark. But in the night
the southeast wind approaches.
The owner of the orchard
lies in bed
with open windows
and throws off his covers
one by one



Paterson: Episode 17

Beat hell out of it
  Beautiful Thing
  spotless cap
and crossed white straps
over the dark rippled cloth——
  Lift the stick
above that easy head
where you sit by the ivied
church, one arm
  buttressing you
long fingers spread out
among the clear grass prongs——
  and drive it down
  Beautiful Thing
that you caressing body kiss
  and kiss again
that holy lawn——
And again: obliquely——
legs curled under you as a
  deer's leaping——
pose of supreme indifference
  sacrament
to a summer's day
  Beautiful Thing
in the unearned suburbs
  then pause
  the arm fallen——
what memories
of what forgotten face
brooding upon that lily stem?

  The incredible
nose straight from the brow
  the empurpled lips
and dazzled half-sleepy eyes
  Beautiful Thing
of some trusting animal
  makes a temple
of its place of savage slaughter
  revealing
the damaged will incites still
  to violence
consummately beautiful thing
and falls about your resting
  shoulders——

Gently! Gently!
as in all things an opposite
  that awakes
the fury, conceiving
  knowledge
by way of despair that has
  no place
to lay its glossy head——
Save only——Not alone!
  Never, if possible
alone! to escape the accepted
  chopping block
and a square hat!——

And as reverie gains and
  your joints loosen
  the trick's done!
Day is covered and we see you——
  but not alone!
drunk and bedragled to release
the strictness of beauty
under a sky full of stars
  Beautiful thing
and a slow moon——

			The car
  had stopped long since
  when the others
came and dragged those out
  who had you there
  indifferent
to whatever the anesthetic
  Beautiful Thing
might slum away the bars——

Reek of it!
  What does it matter?
  could set free
only the one thing——
But you!
——in your white lace dress
  "the dying swan"
and hig heeled slippers——tall
as you already were——
  till your head
through fruitful exaggeration
was reaching the sky and the 
prickles of its ecstasy
  Beautiful Thing!

And the guys from Paterson
  beat up
the guys from Newark and told
them to stay the hell out
of their territory and then
socked you one
  across the nose
  Beautiful Thing
for goof luck and emphasis
  cracking it
till I must believe that all
desired women have had each
  in the end
  a busted nose
and live afterward marked up
  Beautiful Thing
  for memory's sake
to be credible in their deeds

Then back to the party!
  and they maled 
and femaled you jealously
  Beautiful Thing
as if to discover when and 
  by what miracle
there should escape what?
still to be possessed
out of what part
  Beautiful Thing
shoul it look?
  or be extinguished——
Three days in the same dress
  up and down——
  It would take
a Dominie to be patient
  Beautiful Thing
with you——

The stroke begins again——
  regularly
automatic
  contrapuntal to
the flogging
like the beat of famous lines
in the few excellent poems
  woven to make you
  gracious
and on frequent occasions
  foul drunk
  Beautiful Thing
pulse of release
  to the attentive
and obedient mind.


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