Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

This poem is in the public domain.

Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness

And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn

The majesty and burning of the child's death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

Deep with the first dead lies London's daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp. Used with permission.

I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

 

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

 

III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

translated by Pierre Joris

Black milk of morning we drink you evenings
we drink you at noon and mornings we drink you at night
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with the snakes he writes
he writes when it darkens to Deutschland your golden hair Margarete
he writes and steps in front of his house and the stars glisten and he whistles his dogs to come
he whistles his jews to appear let a grave be dug in the earth
he commands us play up for the dance

Black milk of dawn we drink you at night
we drink you mornings and noontime we drink you evenings
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with the snakes he writes
he writes when it turns dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margarete
Your ashen hair Shulamit we dig a grave in the air there one lies at ease

He calls jab deeper into the earth you there and you other men sing and play
he grabs the gun in his belt he draws it his eyes are blue
jab deeper your spades you there and you other men continue to play for the dance

Black milk of dawn we drink you at night
we drink you at noon we drink you evenings
we drink you and drink
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamit he plays with the snakes

He calls out play death more sweetly death is a master from Deutschland
he calls scrape those fiddles more darkly then as smoke you’ll rise in the air
then you’ll have a grave in the clouds there you’ll lie at ease

Black milk of dawn we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Deutschland
we drink you evenings and mornings we drink and drink
death is a master from Deutschland his eye is blue
he strikes you with lead bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his dogs on us he gifts us a grave in the air
he plays with the snakes and dreams death is a master from Deutschland

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamit


Todesfuge

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends
wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts
wir trinken und trinken
wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
er schreibt es und tritt vor das Haus und es blitzen die Sterne er pfeift seine Rüden herbei
er pfeift seine Juden hervor läßt schaufeln ein Grab in der Erde

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich morgens und mittags wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng

Er ruft stecht tiefer ins Erdreich ihr einen ihr andern singet und spielt
er greift nach dem Eisen im Gurt er schwingts seine Augen sind blau
stecht tiefer die Spaten ihr einen ihr andern spielt weiter zum Tanz auf

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags und morgens wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith er spielt mit den Schlangen

Er ruft spielt süßer den Tod der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
er ruft streicht dunkler die Geigen dann steigt ihr als Rauch in die Luft
dann habt ihr ein Grab in den Wolken da liegt man nicht eng

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
wir trinken dich abends und morgens wir trinken und trinken
er Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland sein Auge ist blau
er trifft dich mit bleierner Kugel er trifft dich genau
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete

er hetzt seine Rüden auf uns er schenkt uns ein Grab in der Luft
er spielt mit den Schlangen und träumet der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland

dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith

Copyright © 2020 by Pierre Joris. From Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020) by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris. Used with the permission of the translator.

 

in memory of Joseph Brodsky

Joseph, yes, you know the beat.
Wystan Auden’s metric feet
Marched to it, unstressed and stressed,
Laying William Yeats to rest.

Therefore, Joseph, on this day,
Yeats’s anniversary,
(Double-crossed and death-marched date,
January twenty-eight),

Its measured ways I tread again
Quatrain by constrained quatrain,
Meting grief and reason out
As you said a poem ought.

Trochee, trochee, falling: thus
Grief and metre order us.
Repetition is the rule,
Spins on lines we learnt at school.

Repetition, too, of cold
In the poet and the world,
Dublin Airport locked in frost,
Rigor mortis in your breast.

Ice no axe or book will break,
No Horatian ode unlock,
No poetic foot imprint,
Quatrain shift or couplet dint,

Ice of Archangelic strength,
Ice of this hard two-faced month,
Ice like Dante’s in deep hell
Makes your heart a frozen well.

Pepper vodka you produced
Once in Western Massachusetts
With the reading due to start
Warmed my spirits and my heart

But no vodka, cold or hot,
Aquavit or uisquebaugh
Brings the blood back to your cheeks
Or the colour to your jokes,

Politically incorrect
Jokes involving sex and sect,
Everything against the grain.
Drinking, smoking like a train.

In a train in Finland we
Talked last summer happily,
Swapping manuscripts and quips,
Both of us like cracking whips

Sharpened up and making free,
Heading west for Tampere
(West that meant for you, of course,
Lenin’s train-trip in reverse).

Nevermore that wild speed-read,
Nevermore your tilted head
Like a deck where mind took off
With a mind-flash and a laugh,

Nevermore that rush to pun
Or to hurry through all yon
Jammed enjambments piling up
As you went above the top,

Nose in air, foot to the floor,
Revving English like a car
You hijacked when you robbed its bank
(Russian was your reserve tank).

Worshipped language can’t undo
Damage time has done to you:
Even your peremptory trust
In words alone here bites the dust.

Dust-cakes, still—see Gilgamesh
Feed the dead. So be their guest.
Do again what Auden said
Good poets do: bite, break their bread.

“Audenesque” from Electric Light by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 2001 by Seamus Heaney.

for Michele Antoinette Pray-Griffiths

Ordinary days deliver joy easily
again & I can't take it. If I could tell you
how her eyes laughed or describe
the rage of her suffering, I must
admit that lately my memories
are sometimes like a color
warping in my blue mind.
Metal abandoned in rain.

My mother will not move.

Which is to say that
sometimes the true color of
her casket jumps from my head
like something burnt down
in the genesis of a struck flame.
Which is to say that I miss
the mind I had when I had
my mother. I own what is yet.
Which means I am already
holding my own absence
in faith. I still carry a faded slip of paper
where she once wrote a word
with a pencil & crossed it out.

From tree to tree, around her grave
I have walked, & turned back
if only to remind myself
that there are some kinds of
peace, which will not be
moved. How awful to have such
wonder. The final way wonder itself
opened beneath my mother's face
at the last moment. As if she was
a small girl kneeling in a puddle
& looking at her face for the first time,
her fingers gripping the loud,
wet rim of the universe.

Copyright © 2019 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Someone must’ve gone fetched him out,
towed the drowned, wing-wrecked bird
through a slick of his own feathery want,
though, more likely, he passed out
from knowing, and the falling distance
made the surface turn hard to his body.
It must’ve mattered to his father, who,
winged himself, had to watch fishermen
circle his son, like figures in a painting,
pondering as if there were meaning in water.
Is this any way to treat the ones who flee
and wash ashore, prodding their bodies
with toe, stick, a disbelieving finger?
This morning, walking along the road,
I found a hummingbird against the curb,
marveled at the glasswork of its stillness,
how the light was falling too, so I could
see shifting green and blue, the tiny cage,
the dark needle of its bill, the dark eyes
the ants will carry away. I can’t say
if it died from wanting too much
or from finding what it wanted too much.
Surely, Icarus had the heart of a hummingbird.
If they revived him, would he have risen
back into the sky, damaged wiser,
or, bratty, simply blamed his crap wings?
I nudged the bird with my shoe, not expecting,
but half wishing, a startling burst
through our myth-brightened world.
But the boy who ODed in a Porta-Potty,
was no bird at all. When his father found him,
his sun-jonesing heart large from hovering,
his friends—junk-caked, booze-skanked
themselves—turned away, puked in a ditch,
praying he’d break the surface of his misery.
Even outside the funeral home, dark coats
blocks long, dragging in suits they last wore
at graduation, for some sliver of rachis
and vane jutting out where wings might be,
they do not want to die, they only want
to feel less, less this. The way we, too,
standing in a line of pity and scorn, curse
all this away, we who love those
who love the air, the sudden lift and veer.

Copyright © 2017 James Hoch. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017

When did I know that I’d have to carry it around
in order to have it when I need it, say in a pocket,

the dark itself not dark enough but needing to be
added to, handful by handful if necessary, until

the way my mother would sit all night in a room
without the lights, smoking, until she disappeared?

Where would she go, because I would go there.
In the morning, nothing but a blanket and all her

absence and the feeling in the air of happiness.
And so much loneliness, a kind of purity of being

and emptiness, no one you are or could ever be,
my mother like another me in another life, gone

where I will go, night now likely dark enough
I can be alone as I’ve never been alone before.

Copyright © 2019 by Stanley Plumly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

The brow of a horse in that moment when
The horse is drinking water so deeply from a trough
It seems to inhale the water, is holy.

I refuse to explain.

When the horse had gone the water in the trough, 
All through the empty summer,

Went on reflecting clouds & stars.

The horse cropping grass in a field, 
And the fly buzzing around its eyes, are more real 
Than the mist in one corner of the field.

Or the angel hidden in the mist, for that matter.

Members of the Committee on the Ineffable,
Let me illustrate this with a story, & ask you all
To rest your heads on the table, cushioned,
If you wish, in your hands, &, if you want,
Comforted by a small carton of milk
To drink from, as you once did, long ago,
When there was only a curriculum of beach grass,
When the University of Flies was only a distant humming.

In Romania, after the war, Stalin confiscated
The horses that had been used to work the fields.
"You won't need horses now," Stalin said, cupping
His hand to his ear, "Can't you hear the tractors
Coming in the distance? I hear them already."

The crowd in the Callea Victoria listened closely
But no one heard anything. In the distance
There was only the faint glow of a few clouds.
And the horses were led into boxcars & emerged
As the dimly remembered meals of flesh
That fed the starving Poles
During that famine, & part of the next one-- 
In which even words grew thin & transparent,
Like the pale wings of ants that flew
Out of the oldest houses, & slowly
What had been real in words began to be replaced
By what was not real, by the not exactly real.
"Well, not exactly, but. . ." became the preferred
Administrative phrasing so that the man
Standing with his hat in his hands would not guess
That the phrasing of a few words had already swept
The earth from beneath his feet. "That horse I had,
He was more real than any angel,
The housefly, when I had a house, was real too,"
Is what the man thought.
Yet it wasn't more than a few months
Before the man began to wonder, talking
To himself out loud before the others,
"Was the horse real? Was the house real?"
An angel flew in and out of the high window
In the factory where the man worked, his hands
Numb with cold. He hated the window & the light
Entering the window & he hated the angel.
Because the angel could not be carved into meat
Or dumped into the ossuary & become part
Of the landfill at the edge of town,
It therefore could not acquire a soul,
And resembled in significance nothing more
Than a light summer dress when the body has gone.

The man survived because, after a while, 
He shut up about it.

Stalin had a deep understanding of the kulaks, 
Their sense of marginalization & belief in the land;

That is why he killed them all.

Members of the Committee on Solitude, consider
Our own impoverishment & the progress of that famine,
In which, now, it is becoming impossible
To feel anything when we contemplate the burial,
Alive, in a two-hour period, of hundreds of people.
Who were not clichés, who did not know they would be
The illegible blank of the past that lives in each
Of us, even in some guy watering his lawn

On a summer night. Consider

The death of Stalin & the slow, uninterrupted
Evolution of the horse, a species no one,
Not even Stalin, could extinguish, almost as if
What could not be altered was something
Noble in the look of its face, something

Incapable of treachery.

Then imagine, in your planning proposals,
The exact moment in the future when an angel
Might alight & crawl like a fly into the ear of a horse,
And then, eventually, into the brain of a horse,
And imagine further that the angel in the brain
Of this horse is, for the horse cropping grass
In the field, largely irrelevant, a mist in the corner
Of the field, something that disappears,
The horse thinks, when weight is passed through it,
Something that will not even carry the weight
Of its own father
On its back, the horse decides, & so demonstrates
This by swishing at a fly with its tail, by continuing
To graze as the dusk comes on & almost until it is night.

Old contrivers, daydreamers, walking chemistry sets,
Exhausted chimneysweeps of the spaces
Between words, where the Holy Ghost tastes just
Like the dust it is made of,
Let's tear up our lecture notes & throw them out
The window.
Let's do it right now before wisdom descends upon us
Like a spiderweb over a burned-out theater marquee,
Because what's the use?
I keep going to meetings where no one's there,
And contributing to the discussion;
And besides, behind the angel hissing in its mist
Is a gate that leads only into another field,
Another outcropping of stones & withered grass, where
A horse named Sandman & a horse named Anastasia
Used to stand at the fence & watch the traffic pass.
Where there were outdoor concerts once, in summer,
Under the missing & innumerable stars.

From Elegy by Larry Levis. Copyright © 1997 by the estate of Larry Levis. Reproduced by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

If our angels hover above us,
they will see a darkening cornfield, the spectral traces
of lightning bugs, and two brothers
lying among the stalks.  
We come because sometimes it is hard to live.

The cornstalks, limp under the tropical sun,
revive in the cool of twilight.
The angels will know we have been here for hours.
They will land and rest their feathers around us
and whisper soothing names of winged things: finch, monarch,
whippoorwill, ptarmigan, Daedalus, Icarus, Gabriel ...

The angels will bend down and touch their faces
onto ours and borrow our eyes: Earlier,
a horse slipped, breaking its leg.  
A boy stood beside his younger brother. 
Their father came into the stable, carrying a gun.
Quails flitted out of a bamboo tree; the boy 

traced the trail that had led him here,
the field tilled by the dead horse,
where his brother laid down,
dust on his cheeks.

From Imago by Joseph O. Legaspi (CavanKerry Press, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the poet.

  Vivian St. John (1881-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

You think I'm crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is

A train inside this iris.

It's a child's finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child's nail,

A darkened porthole lit by the white, angular face

Of an old woman, or perhaps the boy beside her in the stuffy,
Hot compartment. Her hair is silver, & sweeps

Back off her forehead, onto her cold and bruised shoulders.

The prairies fail along Chicago. Past the five
Lakes. Into the black woods of her New York; & as I bend

Close above the iris, I see the train

Drive deep into the damp heart of its stem, & the gravel
Of the garden path

Cracks under my feet as I walk this long corridor

Of elms, arched
Like the ceiling of a French railway pier where a boy

With pale curls holding

A fresh iris is waving goodbye to a grandmother, gazing
A long time

Into the flower, as if he were looking some great

Distance, or down an empty garden path & he believes a man 
Is walking toward him, working

Dull shears in one hand; & now believe me: The train

Is gone. The old woman is dead, & the boy. The iris curls,
On its stalk, in the shade

Of those elms: Where something like the icy & bitter fragrance

In the wake of a woman who's just swept past you on her way
Home

& you remain.

From Study for the World's Body, published by HarperCollins, 1994. Copyright © 1991 by David St. John. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

This is what our dying looks like.
You believe in the sun. I believe
I can’t love you. Always be closing,
Said our favorite professor before
He let the gun go off in his mouth.
I turned 29 the way any man turns
In his sleep, unaware of the earth
Moving beneath him, its plates in
Their places, a dated disagreement.
Let’s fight it out, baby. You have
Only so long left—a man turning
In his sleep—so I take a picture.
I won’t look at it, of course. It’s
His bad side, his Mr. Hyde, the hole
In a husband’s head, the O
Of his wife’s mouth. Every night,
I take a pill. Miss one, and I’m gone.
Miss two, and we’re through. Hotels
Bore me, unless I get a mountain view,
A room in which my cell won’t work,
And there’s nothing to do but see
The sun go down into the ground
That cradles us as any coffin can.

Copyright © 2010 by Jericho Brown. Used by permission of the author.

For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on
   the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night, talking,
   talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues
   shout blind on the phonograph
the rhythm the rhythm—and your memory in my head three years after—
   And read Adonais' last triumphant stanzas aloud—wept, realizing
   how we suffer—
And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,
   prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-
   swers—and my own imagination of a withered leaf—at dawn—
Dreaming back thru life, Your time—and mine accelerating toward Apoca-
   lypse,
the final moment—the flower burning in the Day—and what comes after, 
looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city
a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom
   Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed—
like a poem in the dark—escaped back to Oblivion—
No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,
   trapped in its disappearance,
sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-
   ping each other,
worshipping the God included in it all—longing or inevitability?—while it
   lasts, a Vision—anything more?
It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,
   Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-
   dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant—and
   the sky above—an old blue place.
or down the Avenue to the south, to—as I walk toward the Lower East Side
   —where you walked 50 years ago, little girl—from Russia, eating the
   first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock 
then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?—toward
   Newark—
toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice 
   cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards—
Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,
   and learning to be mad, in a dream—what is this life?
Toward the Key in the window—and the great Key lays its head of light
   on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the
   sidewalk—in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward
   the Yiddish Theater—and the place of poverty
you knew, and I know, but without caring now—Strange to have moved
   thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,
with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on
   the street, fire escapes old as you
—Tho you're not old now, that's left here with me—
Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe—and I guess that dies with
   us—enough to cancel all that comes--What came is gone forever
   every time—
That's good!  That leaves it open for no regret—no fear radiators, lacklove,
   torture even toothache in the end—
Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul—and the lamb, the soul,
   in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change's fierce hunger--hair 
   and teeth—and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,
   braintricked Implacability.
Ai! ai!  we do worse! We are in a fix!  And you're out, Death let you out,
   Death had the Mercy, you're done with your century, done with 
   God, done with the path thru it—Done with yourself at last—Pure
   —Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all—before the
   world—
There, rest.  No more suffering for you.  I know where you've gone, it's good.
No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more 
   fear of Louis,
and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,
   loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands—
No more of sister Elanor,—she gone before you—we kept it secret you
   killed her--or she killed herself to bear with you—an arthritic heart
   —But Death's killed you both—No matter—
Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and
   weeks—forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-
   ity, Chaplin dance in youth,
or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin's at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar
   —by standing room with Elanor & Max—watching also the Capital 
   ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,
with the YPSL's hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts
   pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and
   laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920
all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave—lucky to
   have husbands later—
You made it—I came too—Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and
   will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer—or kill
   —later perhaps—soon he will think—)
And it's the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now
   --tho not you
I didn't foresee what you felt--what more hideous gape of bad mouth came 
   first--to you--and were you prepared?
To go where?  In that Dark--that--in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the 
   Void?  Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream?  Adonoi at last, with
   you?
Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull
   in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon—Deaths-
   head with Halo?  can you believe it?
Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,
   than none ever was?
Nothing beyond what we have—what you had—that so pitiful—yet Tri-
   umph,
to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower—fed to the 
   ground—but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe, 
   shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth
   wrapped, sore—freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.
No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the
   knife—lost
Cut down by an idiot Snowman's icy—even in the Spring—strange ghost 
   thought some—Death—Sharp icicle in his hand—crowned with old
   roses—a dog for his eyes—cock of a sweatshop—heart of electric
   irons.
All the accumulations of life, that wear us out—clocks, bodies, consciousness,
   shoes, breasts—begotten sons—your Communism—'Paranoia' into
   hospitals.
You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later.  You of 
   stroke.  Asleep?  within a year, the two of you, sisters in death.  Is
   Elanor happy?
Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over
   midnight Accountings, not sure.  His life passes—as he sees—and
   what does he doubt now?  Still dream of making money, or that might 
   have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-
   mortality, Naomi?
I'll see him soon.  Now I've got to cut through to talk to you as I didn't
   when you had a mouth.
Forever.  And we're bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson's horses
   —headed to the End.
They know the way—These Steeds—run faster than we think—it's our own
   life they cross—and take with them.

   Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-
ried dreamed, mortal changed—Ass and face done with murder.
   In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under
pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.
   Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,
Father in death.  Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I'm
hymnless, I'm Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore
   Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not
light or darkness, Dayless Eternity—
   Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some
of my Time, now given to Nothing—to praise Thee—But Death
   This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-
derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping
—page beyond Psalm—Last change of mine and Naomi—to God's perfect
Darkness--Death, stay thy phantoms!

II
   Over and over—refrain—of the Hospitals—still haven't written your
history—leave it abstract—a few images
   run thru the mind—like the saxophone chorus of houses and years—
remembrance of electrical shocks.
   By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your
nervousness—you were fat—your next move—
   By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you—
once and for all—when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my
opinion of the cosmos, I was lost—
   By my later burden—vow to illuminate mankind—this is release of
particulars—(mad as you)—(sanity a trick of agreement)—
   But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and
spied a mystical assassin from Newark,
   So phoned the Doctor—'OK go way for a rest'—so I put on my coat
and walked you downstreet—On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,
unaccountably—'Where you goin Lady to Death'? I shuddered—
   and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask
against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma—
   And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of 
the gang?  You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on—to New
York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound—

From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with permission.