William Carlos Williams.

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A BOOK OF POEMS

AL QUE QUIERE!



By William Carlos Williams

THE TEMPERS
[London: Elkin Mathews]



A BOOK OF POEMS

AL QUE QUIERE!



BY



WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS




BOSTON

THE FOUR SEAS COMPANY
1917



Copyright, 1917, by

THE FOUR SEAS COMPANY



The Four Seas Press
Boston, Mass., U. S. A.



ff



Habia sido un arbusto desmedrado que pro-
longa sus filamentos hasta encontrar el humus
necesario en una tierra neuva. Y como me
nutria ! Me nutria con la beatitud con que las
hojas tremulas de clorofila se extienden al sol;
con la beautitud con que una raiz encuentra un
cadaver en descomposition ; con la beatitud con
que los convalecientes dan sus pasos vacilantes
en las mananas de primivera, banadas de luz ; . . .

RAFAEL AREVALO MARTINEZ



M?8397



Many of the poems in this book have appeared
in magazines, especially in Poetry, Others, The
Egoist, and The Poetry Journal



CONTENTS

PAGE

SUB TERRA 13

PASTORAL 14

CHICKORY AND DAISIES 15

METRIC FIGURE 16

WOMAN WALKING 17

GULLS 18

APPEAL 19

IN HARBOR 20

WINTER SUNSET 21

APOLOGY 22

PASTORAL 23

LOVE SONG 24

M. B 25

~ TRACT 26

PROMENADE 29

EL HOMBRE 31

HERO 31

LIBERTAD! IGUALDAD! FRATERNIDAD! 32

CANTHARA 33

MUJER 33

SUMMER SONG 34

LOVE SONG 35

[7]



CONTENTS

PAGE

FOREIGN 35

A PRELUDE 36

HISTORY 37

WINTER QUIET 42

DAWN 42

GOOD NIGHT 43

DANSE RUSSE 44

PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN BED 45

VIRTUE 47

CONQUEST 49

PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN WITH A BAD

HEART 49

KELLER GEGEN DOM 50

SMELL 52

BALLET 52

SYMPATHETIC PORTRAIT OF A CHILD 54

THE OGRE 55

RIPOSTE 56

THE OLD MEN 57

PASTORAL 57

SPRING STRAINS 58

TREES 59

A PORTRAIT IN GREYS 60

[8]



PAGE

INVITATION 61

DlVERTIMIENTO 62

JANUARY MORNING 62

To A SOLITARY DISCIPLE 67

DEDICATION FOR A PLOT OF GROUND 69

K. McB 70

LOVE SONG 71

THE WANDERER 75



[9]



AL QUE QUIERE !



SUB TERRA

Where shall I find you,

you my grotesque fellows

that I seek everywhere

to make up my band?

None, not one

with the earthy tastes I require;

the burrowing pride that rises

subtly as on a bush in May.

Where are you this day,

you my seven year locusts

with cased wings?

Ah my beauties how I long !

That harvest

that shall be your advent

thrusting up through the grass,

up under the weeds

answering me,

that shall be satisfying !

The light shall leap and snap

that day as with a million lashes !

Oh, I have you ; yes
you are about me in a sense:
playing under the blue pools
that are my windows,
but they shut you out still,
there in the half light.

[13]



Fcr the simple tiuth is

that the ugh I see you clear enough

you are not there !

It is not that it is you,
you I want !

God, if I could fathom
the guts of shadows !

You to come with me

poking into negro houses

with their gloom and smell!

In among children

leaping around a dead dog!

Mimicking

onto the lawns of the rich!

You!

to go with me a-tip-toe,

head down under heaven,

nostrils lipping the wind !



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 yards 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.



CHICKORY AND DAISIES

i.

Lift your flowers
on bitter stems
chickory !
Lift them up

out of the scorched ground!
Bear no foliage
but give yourself
wholly to that!

[15]



Strain under them

you bitter stems

that no beast eats

and scorn greyness !

Into the heat with them:

cool!

luxuriant ! sky-blue !

The earth cracks and

is shriveled up;

the wind moans piteously;

the sky goes out

if you should fail.

ii.

I saw a child with daisies
for weaving into the hair
tear the stems
with her teeth !



METRIC FIGURE

There is a bird in the poplars !
It is the sun!

The leaves are little yellow fish
swimming in the river.
The bird skims above them,
day is on his wings.
Phoebus !

It is he that is making
[16]



the great gleam among the poplars !

It is his singing

outshines the noise

of leaves clashing in the wind.



WOMAN WALKING

An oblique cloud of purple smoke

across a milky silhouette

of house sides and tiny trees

a little village

that ends in a saw edge

of mist-covered trees

on a sheet of grey sky.

To the right, jutting in,
a dark crimson corner of roof.
To the left, half a tree:

what a blessing it is
to see you in the street again,
powerful woman,
coming with swinging haunches,
breasts straight forward,
supple shoulders, full arms
and strong, soft hands (I ve felt them)
carrying the heavy basket.
I might well see you oftener!
And for a different reason

[17]



than the fresh eggs

you bring us so regularly.

Yes, you, young as I,

with boney brows,

kind grey eyes and a kind mouth ;

you walking out toward me

from that dead hillside!

I might well see you oftener.



GULLS

My townspeople, beyond in the great

world,

are many with whom it were far more
profitable for me to live than here with

you.

These whirr about me calling, calling!
and for my own part I answer them,

loud as I can,
but they, being free, pass !
I remain ! Therefore, listen !
For you will not soon have another

singer.

First I say this : you have seen

the strange birds, have you not, that

sometimes
rest upon our river in winter?

[18]



Let them cause you to think well then

of the storms

that drive many to shelter. These things
do not happen without reason.

And the next thing I say is this :

I saw an eagle once circling against the

clouds

over one of our principal churches
Easter, it was a beautiful day! :
three gulls came from above the river
and crossed slowly seaward!
Oh, I know you have your own hymns, I

have heard them
and because I knew they invoked some

great protector

I could not be angry with you, no matter
how much they outraged true music

You see, it is not necessary for us to leap

at each other,

and, as I told you, in the end
the gulls moved seaward very quietly.



APPEAL

You who are so mighty,
crimson salamander,
hear me once more.



I lay among the half burned sticks

at the edge of the fire.

The fiend was creeping in.

I felt the cold tips of fingers

O crimson salamander!

Give me one little flame,

one!

that I may bind it

protectingly about the wrist

of him that flung me here,

here upon the very center !

This is my song.



IN HARBOR

Surely there, among the great docks, is

peace, my mind ;

there with the ships moored in the river.
Go out, timid child,
and snuggle in among the great ships

talking so quietly.
Maybe you will even fall asleep near

them and be
lifted into one of their laps, and in the

morning
There is always the morning in which to

remember it all !

[20]



Of what are they gossiping? God knows.

And God knows it matters little for we
cannot understand them.

Yet it is certainly of the sea, of that
there can be no question.

It is a quiet sound. Rest! That s all
I care for now.

The smell of them will put us to sleep
presently.

Smell ! It PS the sea water mingling here
into the river

at least so it seems perhaps it is some
thing else but what matter?

The sea water! It is quiet and smooth

here!
How slowly they move, little by little

trying
the hawsers that drop and groan with

their agony.
Yes, it is certainly of the high sea they

are talking.



WINTER SUNSET

Then I raised my head
and stared out over
the blue February waste
to the blue bank of hill
with stars on it

[21]



in strings and festoons

but above that:

one opaque

stone of a cloud

just on the hill

left and right

as far as I could see;

and above that

a red streak, then

icy blue sky!

It was a fearful thing
to come into a man s heart
at that time: that stone
over the little blinking stars
they d set there.



APOLOGY

Why do I write today?

The beauty of
the terrible faces
of our nonentities
stirs me to it:

colored women

day workers

old and experienced

returning home at dusk

[22]



in cast off clothing

faces like

old Florentine oak.

Also

the set pieces

of your faces stir me

leading citizens

but not

in the same way.



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

and his tread

is more majestic than

that of the Episcopal minister

approaching the pulpit

of a Sunday.

These things
astonish me beyond words.



LOVE SONG

Daisies are broken

petals are news of the day

stems lift to the grass tops

they catch on shoes

part in the middle

leave root and leaves secure.

Black branches
carry square leaves
to the wood s top.
They hold firm
break with a roar
show the white !

Your moods are slow
the shedding of leaves

[24]



and sure

the return in May!

We walked

in your father s grove

and saw the great oaks

lying with roots

ripped from the ground.



M. B.

Winter has spent this snow

out of envy, but spring is here!

He sits at the breakfast table

in his yellow hair

and disdains even the sun

walking outside

in spangled slippers :

He looks out: there is
a glare of lights
before a theater,
a sparkling lady
passes quickly to
the seclusion of
her carriage.

Presently

under the dirty, wavy heaven
of a borrowed room he will make

[25]



re-inhaled tobacco smoke
his clouds and try them
against the sky s limits!



TRACT

I will teach you my townspeople

how to perform a funeral

for you have it over a troop

of artists

unless one should scour the world

you have the ground sense necessary.

See ! the hearse leads.

I begin with a design for a hearse.

For Christ s sake not black

nor white either and not polished!

Let it be weathered like a farm

wagon

with gilt wheels (this could be
applied fresh at small expense)
or no wheels at all :
a rough day to drag over the ground.

Knock the glass out!

My God glass, my townspeople !

For what purpose? Is it for the dead

to look out or for us to see

how well he is housed or to see



the flowers or the lack of them

or what?

To keep the rain and snow from him?

He will have a heavier rain soon :

pebbles and dirt and what not.

Let there be no glass j JoC

and no upholstery phew !

and no little brass rollers

and small easy wheels on the bottom

my townspeople what are you thinking
of?

A rough plain hearse then
with gilt wheels and no top at ail.
On this the coffin lies
by its own weight.

No wreathes please
especially no hot house flowers.
Some common memento is better,
something he prized and is known by:
his old clothes a few books perhaps
God knows what ! You realize
how we are about these things
my townspeople

something will be found anything
even flowers if he had come to that.

So much for the hearse.
For heaven s sake though see to the
driver !

[27]



Take off the silk hat ! In fact

that s no place at all for him

up there unceremoniously

dragging our friend out to his own

dignity !

Bring him down bring him down !
Low and inconspicuous ! I d not have

him ride

on the wagon at all damn him
the undertaker s understrapper!
Let him hold the reins
and walk at the side
and inconspicuously too !

Then briefly as to yourselves :

Walk behind as they do in France,

seventh class, or if you ride

Hell take curtains ! Go with some

show

of inconvenience; sit openly
to the weather as to grief.
Or do you think you can shut grief in?
What from us ? We who have perhaps
nothing to lose ? Share with us
share with us it will be money
in your pockets.

Go now
I think you are ready.

[28]



PROMENADE

i.

Well, mind, here we have
our little son beside us :
a little diversion before breakfast!

Come, we ll walk down the road

till the bacon will be frying.

We might better be idle?

A poem might come of it?

Oh, be useful. Save annoyance

to Flossie and besides the wind !

It s cold. It blows our

old pants out! It makes us shiver!

See the heavy trees

shifting their weight before it.

Let us be trees, an old house,

a hill with grass on it !

The baby s arms are blue.

Come, move ! Be quieted !

ii.

So. We ll sit here now
and throw pebbles into
this water-trickle.

Splash the water up !
(Splash it up, Sonny!) Laugh!
Hit it there deep under the grass.

[29]



See it splash! Ah, mind,
see it splash! It is alive!
Throw pieces of broken leaves
into it. They ll pass through.
No! Yes just!

Away now for the cows ! But

It s cold!

It s getting dark.

It s going to rain.

No further!

in.

Oh then, a wreath ! Let s
refresh something they
used to write well of.

Two fern plumes. Strip them
to the mid-rib along one side.
Bind the tips with a grass stem.
Bend and intertwist the stalks
at the back. So!
Ah! now we are crowned!
Now we are a poet!

Quickly !

A bunch of little flowers

for Flossie the little ones

only:

a red clover, one

[30]



blue heal-all, a sprig of
bone-set, one primrose,
a head of Indian tobacco, this
magenta speck and this
little lavender !

Home now, my mind !
Sonny s arms are icy, I tell you
and have breakfast!



EL HOMBRE

It s a strange courage
you give me ancient star:

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



HERO

Fool,

put your adventures
into those things
which break ships
not female flesh.

Let there pass
over the mind
the waters of



four oceans, the airs
of four skies!

Return hollow-bellied,

keen-eyed, hard!

A simple scar or two.

Little girls will come

bringing you

roses for your button-hole.



LIBERTAD! IGUALDAD!
FRATERNIDAD !

You sullen pig of a man
you force me into the mud
with your stinking ash-cart !

Brother !

if we were rich
we d stick our chests out
and hold our heads high !

It is dreams that have destroyed us.

There is no more pride
in horses or in rein holding.
We sit hunched together brooding
our fate.

[32]



Well-
all things turn bitter in the end
whether you choose the right or
the left way

and
dreams are not a bad thing.

CANTHARA

The old black-man showed me

how he had been shocked

in his youth

by six women, dancing

a set-dance, stark naked below

the skirts raised round

their breasts:

bellies flung forward
knees flying!

while

his gestures, against the
tiled wall of the dingy bath-room,
swished with ecstasy to
the familiar music of

his old emotion.



MUJER

Oh, black Persian cat!

Was not your life

already cursed with offspring?

[33]



We took you for rest to that old
Yankee farm, so lonely
and with so many field mice
in the long grass
and you return to us
in this condition !

Oh, black Persian cat.



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?



[34]



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.



FOREIGN

Artsybashev is a Russian.

I am an American.

Let us wonder, my townspeople,

if Artsybashev tends his own fires

as I do, gets himself cursed

for the baby s failure to thrive,

loosens windows for the woman

who cleans his parlor

or has he neat servants

[35]



and a quiet library, an
intellectual wife perhaps and
no children, an apartment
somewhere in a back street or
lives alone or with his mother
or sister

I wonder, my townspeople,
if Artsybashev looks upon
himself the more concernedly
or succeeds any better than I
in laying the world.

I wonder which is the bigger
fool in his own mind.

These are shining topics
my townspeople but
hardly of great moment.



A PRELUDE

I know only the bare rocks of today.
In these lies my brown sea-weed,
green quartz veins bent through the wet

shale ;

in these lie my pools left by the tide
quiet, forgetting waves;

[36]



on these stiffen white star fish ;
on these I slip bare footed!

Whispers of the fishy air touch my body;
"Sisters," I say to them.



HISTORY



A wind might blow a lotus petal

over the pyramids but not this wind.

Summer is a dried leaf.

Leaves stir this way then that
on the baked asphalt, the wheels
of motor cars rush over them,

gas smells mingle with leaf smells.

Oh, Sunday, day of worship ! ! !

The steps to the museum are high.
Worshippers pass in and out.
Nobody comes here today.
I come here to mingle faiance dug
from the tomb, turquoise colored
necklaces and belched wind from the
stomach ; delicately veined basins
of agate, cracked and discolored and
the stink of stale urine !

[37]



Enter! Elbow in at the door.
Men? Women?

Simpering, clay fetish-faces counting
through the turnstile.

Ah!

ii.

This sarcophagus contained the body
of Uresh-Nai, priestess to the goddess

Mut,
Mother of All

Run your finger against this edge !
here went the chisel ! and think
of an arrogance endured six thousand

years
without a flaw !

But love is an oil to embalm the body.

Love is a packet of spices, a strong

smelling liquid to be squirted into

the thigh. No?

Love rubbed on a bald head will make

hair and after? Love is

a lice comber!

Gnats on dung!

"The chisel is in your hand, the block
is before you, cut as I shall dictate:
this is the coffin of Uresh-Nai,
[38]



priestess to the sky goddess, built
to endure forever!

Carve the inside
with the image of my death in
little lines of figures three fingers high.
Put a lid on it cut with Mut bending over
the earth, for my headpiece, and in the

year

to be chosen I will rouse, the lid
shall be lifted and I will walk about
the temple where they have rested me
and eat the air of the place :

Ah these walls are high ! This
is in keeping."

in.

The priestess has passed into her tomb.
The stone has taken up her spirit!
Granite over flesh : who will deny
its advantages?

Your death? water
Sf .lied upon the ground
though water will mount again into rose-
leaves

but you? would hold life still,
even as a memory, when it is over.
Benevolence is rare.

Climb about this sarcophagus, read
what is writ for you in these figures,
[39]



hard as the granite that has held them

with so soft a hand the while

your own flesh has been fifty times

through the guts of oxen, read!

"The rose-tree will have its donor

even though he give stingily.

The gift of some endures

ten years, the gift of some twenty

and the gift of some for the time a

great house rots and is torn down.

Some give for a thousand years to men of

one face, some for a thousand

to all men and some few to all men

while granite holds an edge against

the weather.

Judge then of love !"

IV.

"My flesh is turned to stone. I

have endured my summer. The flurry

of falling petals is ended. Lay

the finger upon this granite. I was

well desired and fully caressed

by many lovers but my flesh

withered swiftly and my heart was

never satisfied. Lay your hands

upon the granite as a lover lays his

hand upon the thigh and upon the

round breasts of her who is

beside him, for now I will not wither,

[40]



now I have thrown off secrecy, now

I have walked naked into the street,

now I have scattered my heavy beauty

in the open market.

Here I am with head high and a

burning heart eagerly awaiting

your caresses, whoever it may be,

for granite is not harder than

my love is open, runs loose among you!

I arrogant against death ! I

who have endured ! I worn against

the years !"

v.

But it is five o clock. Come !
Life is good enjoy it!
A walk in the park while the day lasts.
I will go with you. Look! this
northern scenery is not the Nile, but
these benches the yellow and purple

dusk

the moon there these tired people
the lights on the water!

Are not these Jews and Ethiopians?
The world is young, surely! Young
and colored like a girl that has come

upon
a lover ! Will that do ?



WINTER QUIET

Limb to limb, mouth to mouth
with the bleached grass
silver mist lies upon the back yards
among the outhouses.

The dwarf trees
pirouette awkwardly to it
whirling round on one toe;
the big tree smiles and glances

upward !

Tense with suppressed excitement
the fences watch where the ground
has humped an aching shoulder for

the ecstasy.



DAWN

Ecstatic bird songs pound

the hollow vastness of the sky

with metallic clinkings

beating color up into it

at a far edge, beating it, beating it

with rising, triumphant ardor,

stirring it into warmth,

quickening in it a spreading change,

bursting wildly against it as

dividing the horizon, a heavy sun

lifts himself is lifted

[42]



bit by bit above the edge
of things, runs free at last
out into the open ! lumbering
glorified in full release upward

songs cease,

GOOD NIGHT

In brilliant gas light

I turn the kitchen spigot

and watch the water plash

into the clean white sink.

On the grooved drain-board

to one side is

a glass filled with parsley

crisped green.

Waiting

for the water to freshen
I glance at the spotless floor :
a pair of rubber sandals
lie side by side
under the wall-table,
all is in order for the night.

Waiting, with a glass in my hand
three girls in crimson satin
pass close before me on
the murmurous background of
the crowded opera

it is
[43]



memory playing the clown
three vague, meaningless girls
full of smells and
the rustling sound of
cloth rubbing on cloth and
little slippers on carpet
high-school French
spoken in a loud voice !

Parsley in a glass,

still and shining,

brings me back. I take my drink

and yawn deliciously.

I am ready for bed.



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

danse naked, grotesquely

before my mirror

waving my shirt round my head

and singing softly to myself :

"I am lonely, lonely.

[44]



I was born to be lonely.

I am best so !"

If I admire my arms, my face

my shoulders, flanks, buttocks

against the yellow drawn shades,

who shall say I am not

the happy genius of my household?



PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN BED

There s my things
drying in the corner:
that blue skirt
joined to the grey shirt

I m sick of trouble!

Lift the covers

if you want me

and you ll see

the rest of my clothes

though it would be cold

lying with nothing on !

I won t work
and I ve got no cash.
What are you going to do
about it?

[45]



and no jewelry
(the crazy fools)

But I ve my two eyes

and a smooth face

and here s this! look!

it s high !

There s brains and blood

in there

my name s Robitza !

Corsets

can go to the devil

and drawers along with them !

What do I care !



My two boys?
they re keen !
Let the rich lady
care for them
they ll beat the school
or

let them go to the gutter-
that ends trouble.

This house is empty
isn t it?
Then it s mine
because I need it.

[46]



Oh, I won t starve
while there s the Bible
to make them feed me.

Try to help me
if you want trouble
or leave me alone
that ends trouble.

The county physician
is a damned fool
and you
can go to hell!

You could have closed the door
when you came in ;
do it when you go out.
I m tired.

VIRTUE

Now? Why
whirl-pools of
orange and purple flame
feather twists of chrome
on a green ground
funneling down upon
the steaming phallus-head
of the mad sun himself
blackened crimson !

Now?

[47]



Why-
it is the smile of her
the smell of her

the vulgar inviting mouth of her!
It is Oh, nothing new
nothing that lasts
an eternity, nothing worth
putting out to interest,
nothing

but the fixing of an eye
concretely upon emptiness!

\

Come ! here are


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