Of the Surface of Things

Wallace Stevens - 1879-1955
I

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
        hills and a cloud.

II

From my balcony, I survey the yellow air,
Reading where I have written,
"The spring is like a belle undressing."

III

The gold tree is blue,
The singer has pulled his cloak over his head.
The moon is in the folds of the cloak.

More by Wallace Stevens

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Related Poems

Diary [Surface]

Spring is not so very promising as it is the thing
that looking back was fire, promising:
ignition, aspiration; it was not under my thumb.

Now when I pretend a future it is the moment
he holds the thing I say new-born,
delicate, sure to begin moving but

I am burned out of it like the melody underneath
(still not under my thumb)--
was he ambiguous, amphibian?

Underneath, his voice, the many ways
he gathers oxygen; it will not stop raining
until the buds push through the brittle trees.

If they fail we will not survive,
washed and washed with rain, will we?
No,we are not there yet.

She is pushing me two ways until
I am inside the paradox, the many lungs,
and they're at it again, gathering oxygen;

no wonder I am wrung out
holding out for the promise of
something secret, after--