[Whenever I Make a New Poem,]

- 1926-1971

Whenever I make a new poem,
the old ones sound like gibberish.
How can they ever make sense in a book?

Let them say:
“He seems to have lived in the mountains.
He traveled now and then.
When he appeared in cities,
he was almost always drunk.

“Most of his poems are lost.
Many of those we have were found in
letters to his friends.

“He had a very large number of friends.”

The Basic Con

Those who can’t find anything to live for,
always invent something to die for.

Then they want the rest of us to
die for it, too.

Monologue of One Whom the Spring Found Unaccompanied

It happens, at times,
That the route becomes beautiful
The incline gentle and the landscape rich
And on the heavy air the smell of growing things

We think the secret hidden in the land
Or month or year
Or traced upon the chart by which we go,
But do not tinker so with subtleties

You brush the secret with your hand,
As the arm swings, striding.

Gone, you’ll know how much more real her absence is
With sound of her that’s missing now in every sound
With walk of her that’s missing now in every passer-by

Who speaks incessantly
Speaks of how the buds unfold
Of how these days the twigs are fat
Of how all things begin to bloom

How every god-damned thing begins to bloom.

[The Image, as in a Hexagram:]

The image, as in a Hexagram:

The hermit locks his door against the blizzard.
He keeps the cabin warm.

All winter long he sorts out all he has.
What was well started shall be finished.
What was not, should be thrown away.

In spring he emerges with one garment
and a single book.

The cabin is very clean.

Except for that, you’d never guess
anyone lived there.

Related Poems

Trying Too Hard to Write a Poem Sitting on the Beach

Planted among driftwood
I watch the tide go out
It pulls the sundown with it
& across this scene & against the wind
Man on a motorbike white crash-helmet
His young son rides the gas tank before him
Slows down for the creek mouth
& not too fast up the beach north

Flat dull whistle buoy heard again
and though the wind is right the bell buoy is inaudible

Fat seagull picks at a new hake skeleton
Choosily—not hungry walks away
Returns a moment later,
Room for a few more bites inside

Here comes a family of five
Man prodding with a stick whatever the children test
                          with their fingers
Mama is bundled up naturally cold & yellow plastic bucket
Complaining a little “. . . kind of a long way from the car . . .”

The children explore ahead the beach goes on forever & they
Will see it all this evening they aren’t tired

Motorbike man coming back slows down for them
               & for the creek mouth

Fog joined into fat clouds cover the sun
Move south stretching rivers & islands of blue
Fine moving sheets & shafts of light on the water horizon

I’m not making it, I’m cold, I go into the house.

The Uses of Poetry

I've fond anticipation of a day
O'erfilled with pure diversion presently,
For I must read a lady poesy
The while we glide by many a leafy bay,

Hid deep in rushes, where at random play
The glossy black winged May-flies, or whence flee
Hush-throated nestlings in alarm,
Whom we have idly frighted with our boat's long sway.

For, lest o'ersaddened by such woes as spring
To rural peace from our meek onward trend,
What else more fit? We'll draw the latch-string

And close the door of sense; then satiate wend,
On poesy's transforming giant wing,
To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend.

The Secrets of Poetry

Very long ago when the exquisite celadon bowl
that was the mikado's favorite cup got broken,
no one in Japan had the skill and courage
to mend it. So the pieces were taken back
to China with a plea to the emperor
that it be repaired. When the bowl returned, 
it was held together with heavy iron staples.
The letter with it said they could not make it
more perfect. Which turned out to be true.