DESK OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS:
NOTES TOWARD A SPEECH IN THREE PARTS
Thrown from the chalky cliffs
of death: another birth, and another,
everyone for the moment striving
and well, doing their jobs, or doing
nothing, stung deadpan, waiting,
plopped between one world and some stark
other, the dazed infant inching
up mother's belly, stuck
between that loved breast
and the softly spasming cord.
Drops down, another dusk. Useless
the cloudless sky, the scant flight
of stars. Defeat after such dull
defeat. We are beset
by privilege and woe. We are
divided but no different.
Who will save us? Who will say
all's decided, that, at last,
all's decidedly swell?
Beware the experiment found ingrowing
on the shelf. What is it but life
in want of greater means?
What is it but the crutch of self-love
searching for a wafer-thin faith?
Propped in a deadening appetite
of ease, I recall the quick comedy
of a demonstrating woman
caught by local news, surrounded
by a blue line of courtesy.
To the camera, that escorting cop:
"Your heroes all are dead.
Or should be."
7 FALSE STARTS ON LIVING IN THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD
Wanda, our neighbor, out feuding again with Andy,
her neighbor. His apple trees stop the sun
from reaching her strawberry patch; her ivy's
inching toward his prize flowers. Andy keeps
a fine lawn, I can't argue the fact, for
I've seen him weed through a thunderstorm.
I've seen him drop a trapped squirrel, alive,
over the side of the pool he eases into
each afternoon, because he always said
he'd rather drown than burn.
How you tell apart those who own from those who rent
here on Roosevelt: One, they're white,
Repetition, say, for instance, a scent
that drifts through once a day (meaning
discharge from a plant outside of town,
unseen, headed west with the river,
which is as fast a route as it is deep and near.
I hear that you can fish in it if you want.
If I were you, I'd try not to eat what I caught.)
...She found him on his side, his
open hand reaching for an unreachable hose...
Dana, fleet of foot, passed once
around her house and school, caught
a light at Roosevelt and Sherman Avenue,
and so she stayed in stride
until she reached Riverside Road,
then dropped with a pathway under the street
and welcomed the pale scent of river
seeping into her nose.
To date: paper airplanes and a wind-up race car,
a dustpan, a hat, and a muddy two-wheeled tricycle.
I hold on to all mine; Wanda throws her catches back.
So his apple trees keep the sun
from reaching her strawberry patch
and her ivy's inching toward
his flowers. I'd kill him, I think,
but winter arrives here soon.
Plus there's a war on again. Each evening
at six, dropped bombs test the limits
of every sound-system on the block.
Each of these poems is an anagram of
its source text. All of the letters of the source text have been used,
once and only once, in the composition of the corresponding poem. No letters
have been added and no letters have been left out. Many of the sources
are familiar works by familiar authors, and I have indicated below each
poem the text used. Unless otherwise indicated, titles, epigraphs, section
numbers, and section headings are not to be considered part of the anagram.
FROM THE DESK... is an anagram of W.C.
Williams's "Spring and All," and "This Is Just to Say."
7 FALSE STARTS... is an anagram of the
body and title of W.H. Auden's "The Unknown Citizen."