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Best Famous John Berryman Poems

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by John Berryman | |

Sonnet 96

 It will seem strange, no more this range on range
Of opening hopes and happenings.
Strange to be One's name no longer.
Not caught up, not free.
Strange, not to wish one's wishes onward.
Strange, The looseness, slopping, time and space estrange.
Strangest, and sad as a blind child, not to see Ever you, never to hear you, endlessly Neither you there, nor coming.
Heavy change!— An instant there is, Sophoclean, true, When Oedipus must understand: his head— When Oedipus believes—tilts like a wave, And will not break, only iov iov Wells from his dreadful mouth, the love he led: Prolong to Procyon this.
This begins my grave.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 111: I miss him. When I get back to camp

 I miss him.
When I get back to camp I'll dig him up.
Well, he can prop & watch, can't he, pink or blue, and I will talk to him.
I miss him.
Slams, grand or any, aren't for the tundra much.
One face-card will do.
It's marvellous how four sit down—beyond my thought how many tables sometimes are in forgotten clubs across & down the world.
Your fever conned us, pal.
Will it work out, my solitaire? The blubber's safe in the tubs, the dogs are still, & all's well .
nine long times I loosed & buried.
Then I shot him dead.
I don't remember why.
The Captain of the supply ship, playing for dimes, thinks I killed him.
The black cards are red and where's the others? I—

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 78: Op. posth. no. 1

 Darkened his eye, his wild smile disappeared,
inapprehensible his studies grew,
nourished he less & less
his subject body with good food & rest,
something bizarre about Henry, slowly sheared
off, unlike you & you,

smaller & smaller, till in question stood
his eyeteeth and one block of memories
These were enough for him
implying commands from upstairs & from down,
Walt's 'orbic flex,' triads of Hegel would
incorporate, if you please,

into the know-how of the American bard
embarrassed Henry heard himself a-being,
and the younger Stephen Crane
of a powerful memory, of pain,
these stood the ancestors, relaxed & hard,
whilst Henry's parts were fleeing.

More great poems below...

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 134: Sick at 6 and sick again at 9

 Sick at 6 & sick again at 9
was Henry's gloomy Monday morning oh.
Still he had to lecture.
They waited, his little children, for stricken Henry to rise up yet once more again and come oh.
They figured he was a fixture, nuts to their bolds, keys to their bloody locks.
One day the whole affair will fall apart with a rustle of fire, a wrestle of undoing, as of tossed clocks, and somewhere not far off a broken heart for hire.
He had smoked a pack of cigarettes by 10 & was ready to go.
Peace to his ashes then, poor Henry, with all this gas & shit blowing through it four times in 2 hours, his tail ached.
He arose, benign, & performed.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 9: Deprived of his enemy shrugged to a standstill

 Deprived of his enemy, shrugged to a standstill
horrible Henry, foaming.
Fan their way toward him who will in the high wood: the officers, their rest, with p.
echoing: his girl comes, say, conned in to test if he's still human, see, therefore she get on the Sheriff's mike & howl 'Come down, come down'.
Therefore he un-budge, furious.
He'd flee but only Heaven hangs over him foul.
At the crossways, downtown, he dreams the folks are buying parsnips & suds and paying rent to foes.
He slipt & fell.
It's golden here in the snow.
A mild crack: a far rifle.
Bogart's duds truck back to Wardrobe.
Fancy the brain from hell held out so long.
Let go.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 113: or Amy Vladeck or Riva Freifeld

 or Amy Vladeck or Riva Freifeld

That isna Henry limping.
That's a hobble clapped on mere Henry by the most high GOD for the freedom of Henry's soul.
—The body's foul, cried god, once, twice, & bound it— For many years I hid it from him successfully— I'm not clear how he found it But now he has it—much good may it do him in the vacant spiritual of space— only Russians & Americans to as it were converse with—weel, one Frenchman to liven up the airless with one nose & opinions clever & grim.
God declared war on Valerie Trueblood, against Miss Kaplan he had much to say O much to say too.
My memory of his kindness comes like a flood for which I flush with gratitude; yet away he shouldna have put down Miss Trueblood.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 94: Ill lay he long upon this last return

 Ill lay he long, upon this last return,
The doctors put everything in the hospital into reluctant Henry and the nurses took it out & put it back, smiling like fiends, with their eternal 'we.
' Henry did a slow burn, collapsing his dialogue to their white ears & shiny on the flanges.
Sanka he drank until his memories blurred & Valerie was coming, lower he sank and lovely.
Teddy on his handlebars perched, her.
One word he heard insistent his broad shortcomings, then lay still.
That middle-sized wild man was ill.
A hospital is where it all has a use, so is a makar.
So is substantial God, tuning in from abroad.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 65: A freaking ankle crabbed his blissful trips

 A freaking ankle crabbed his blissful trips,
this whiskey tastes like California
but is Kentucky,
like Berkeley where he truly worked at it
but nothing broke all night—no fires—one dawn,
crowding his luck,

flowed down along the cliffs to the Big Sur
where Henry Miller's box is vomit-green
and Henry bathed in sulphur
lovely, hot, over the sea, like Senator
Cat, relaxed & sober, watery
as Tivoli, sir.
No Christmas jaunts for fractured cats.
Hot dog, the world is places where he will not go this wintertide or again.
Does Striding Edge block wild the sky as then when Henry with his mystery was two & twenty, high on the hog?

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 88: Op. posth. no. 11

 In slack times visit I the violent dead
and pick their awful brains.
Most seem to feel nothing is secret more to my disdain I find, when we who fled cherish the knowings of both worlds, conceal more, beat on the floor, where Bhain is stagnant, dear of Henry's friends, yellow with cancer, paper-thin, & bent even in the hospital bed racked with high hope, on whom death lay hands in weeks, or Yeats in the London spring half-spent, only the grand gift in his head going for him, a seated ruin of a man courteous to a junior, like one of the boarders, or Dylan, with more to say now there's no hurry, and we're all a clan.
You'd think off here one would be free from orders.
I didn't hear a single word.
I obeyed.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 31: Henry Hankovitch con guítar

 Henry Hankovitch, con guítar,
did a short Zen pray,
on his tatami in a relaxed lotos
fixin his mind on nuffin, rose-blue breasts,
and gave his parnel one French kiss;
enslaving himself he withdrew from his blue

Florentine leather case an Egyptian black
& flickt a zippo.
Henry & Phoebe happy as cockroaches in the world-kitchen woofed, with all away.
The International flame, like despair, rose or like the foolish Paks or Sudanese Henry Hankovitch, con guítar, did a praying mantis pray who even more obviously than the increasingly fanatical Americans cannot govern themselves.
Swedes don't exist, Scandanavians in general do not exist, take it from there.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 93: General Fatigue stalked in and a Major-General

 General Fatigue stalked in, & a Major-General,
Captain Fatigue, and at the base of all
pale Corporal Fatigue,
and curious microbes came, came viruses:
and the Court conferred on Henry, and conferred on Henry
the rare Order of Weak.
—How come dims one these wholesome elsers oh? Old polymaths, old trackers, far from home, say how thro' auburn hairtidbits of youth's grey climb.
My beauty id off duty!— Henry relives a lady, how down vain, spruce in her succinct parts, spruce everywhere.
They fed like muscles and lunched after, between, before.
He tracks her, hunched (propped on red table elbows) at her telephone, white rear bare in the air.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 102: The sunburnt terraces which swans make home

 The sunburnt terraces which swans make home
with water purling, Macchu Pichu died
like Delphi long ago—
a message to Justinian closing it out,
the thousand years' authority, although
tho' never found exactly wrong

political patterns did indeed emerge;
the Oracle was conservative, like Lippmann,
roared the winds on the height,
The Shining Ones behind the shrine, whose verge
saw the impious plunged, 6000 statures
above the Temple shone

plundered, centuries plundered, first the gold
then bronze & marble, then the plinths,
then the dead nerve—
root-canal-work, ugh.
I—I still hold for the saviour of teeth, & I embrace only he threw me a vicious

by John Berryman | |

The Curse

 Oh, lay my ashes on the wind
That blows across the sea.
And I shall meet a fisherman Out of Capri, And he will say, seeing me, "What a Strange Thing! Like a fish's scale or a Butterfly's wing.
" Oh, lay my ashes on the wind That blows away the fog.
And I shall meet a farmer boy Leaping through the bog, And he will say, seeing me, "What a Strange Thing! Like a peat-ash or a Butterfly's wing.
" And I shall blow to YOUR house And, sucked against the pane, See you take your sewing up And lay it down again.
And you will say, seeing me, "What a strange thing! Like a plum petal or a Butterfly's wing.
" And none at all will know me That knew me well before.
But I will settle at the root That climbs about your door, And fishermen and farmers May see me and forget, But I'll be a bitter berry In your brewing yet.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 104: Welcome grinned Henry welcome fifty-one!

 Welcome, grinned Henry, welcome, fifty-one!
I never cared for fifty, when nothing got done.
The hospitals were fun in certain ways, and an honour or so, but on the whole fifty was a mess as though heavy clubs from below and from—God save the bloody mark—above were loosed upon his skull & soles.
O love, what was you loafing of that fifty put you off, out & away, leaving the pounding, horrid sleep by day, nights naught but fits.
I pray the opening decade contravene its promise to be as bad as all the others.
Is there something Henry miss in the jungle of the gods whom Henry's prayer to? Empty temples—a decade of dark-blue sins, son, worse than you.

by John Berryman | |

Sonnet 104 - A spot of poontang on a five-foot piece

 A spot of poontang on a five-foot piece,
Diminutive, but room enough .
like clay To finger eager on some torrid day .
Who'd throw her black hair back, and hang, and tease.
Never, not once in all one's horny lease To'have had a demi-lay, a pretty, gay, Snug, slim and supple-breasted girl for play .
She bats her big, warm eyes, and slides like grease.
And cuff her silly-hot again, mouth hot And wet her small round writhing—but this screams Suddenly awake, unreal as alkahest, My god, this isn't what I want!—You tot The harrow-days you hold me to, black dreams, The dirty water to get off my chest.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 98: I met a junior--not so junior--and

 I met a junior—not so junior—and
a-many others, who knew 'him' or 'them'
long ago, slightly,
whom I know.
It was the usual cocktail party, only (my schedule being strict) beforehand.
I worked.
Then they kept the kids away with their own questions, over briefest coffee.
Then kids drove me to my city.
I think of the junior: once my advanced élève, sweetnatured, slack a little, never perhaps to make, in my opinion then, it.
In my opinion, after a decade, now.
He publishes.
The place was second-rate and is throwing up new buildings.
He'll be, with luck, there always.
—Mr Bones, stop that damn dismal.
—Why can't we all the same be? —Dr Bones, how?

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 17: Muttered Henry:—Lord of matter thus

 Muttered Henry:—Lord of matter, thus:
upon some more unquiet spirit knock,
my madnesses have cease.
All the quarter astonishes a lonely out & back.
They set their clocks by Henry House, the steadiest man on the block.
And Lucifer:—I smell you for my own, by smug.
—What have I tossed you but the least (tho' hard); fit for your ears.
Your servant, bored with horror, sat alone with busy teeth while his dislike increased unto himself, in tears.
And he:—O promising despair, in solitude— —End there.
Your avenues are dying: leave me: I dove under the oaken arms of Brother Martin, St Simeon the Lesser Theologian, Bodhidharma, and Baal Shem Tov.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 96: Under the table no. That last was stunning

 Under the table, no.
That last was stunning, that flagon had breasts.
Some men grow down cursed.
Why drink so, two days running? two months, O seasons, years, two decades running? I answer (smiles) my question on the cuff: Man, I been thirsty.
The brake is incomplete but white costumes threaten his rum, his cointreau, gin-&-sherry, his bourbon, bugs um all.
His go-out privilege led to odd red times, since even or especially in hospital things get hairy.
He makes it back without falling.
He sleep up a short storm.
He wolf his meals, lamb-warm.
Their packs bump on their' -blades, tan canteens swing, for them this day my dawn's old, Saturday's IT, through town toward a Scout hike.
For him too, up since two, out for a sit now in the emptiest freshest park, one sober fling before correspondence & breakfast.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 86: Op. posth. no. 9

 The conclusion is growing .
I feel sure, my lord, this august court will entertain the plea Not Guilty by reason of death.
I can say no more except that for the record I add that all the crimes since all the times he died will be due to the breath of unknown others, sweating in theri guilt while my client Henry's brow of stainless steel rests free, as well it may, of all such turbulence, whereof not built Henry lies clear as any onion-peel in any sandwich, say.
He spiced us: there, my lord, the wicked fault lodges: we judged him when we did not know and we did judge him wrong, lying incapable of crime save salt preservative in cases here below adduced.
Not to prolong

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 120: Foes I sniff when I have less to shout

 Foes I sniff, when I have less to shout
or murmur.
Pals alone enormous sounds downward & up bring real.
Loss, deaths, terror.
Over & out, beloved: thanks for cabbage on my wounds: I'll feed you how I feel:— of avocado moist with lemon, yea formaldehyde & rotting sardines O in our appointed time I would I could a touch more fully say my consentless mind.
The senses are below, which in this air sublime do I repudiate.
But foes I sniff! My nose in all directions! I be so brave I creep into an Arctic cave for the rectal temperature of the biggest bear, hibernating—in my left hand sugar.
I totter to the lip of the cliff.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 41: If we sang in the wood (and Death is a German expert)

 If we sang in the wood (and Death is a German expert)
while snows flies, chill, after so frequent knew
so many all nothing,
for lead & fire, it's not we would assert
particulars, but animal; cats mew,
horses scream, man sing.
Or: men pslam.
Man palms his ears and moans.
Death is a German expert.
Scrambling, sitting, spattering, we hurry.
I try to.
Odd & trivial, atones somehow for my escape a bullet splitting my trod-on instep, fiery.
The cantor bubbled, rattled.
The Temple burned.
Lurch with me! phantoms of Varshava.
Slop! When I used to be, who haunted, stumbling, sewers, my sacked shop, roofs, a dis-world ai! Death was a German home-country.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 118: He wondered: Do I love? all this applause

 He wondered: Do I love? all this applause,
young beauties sitting at my feet & all,
and all.
It tires me out, he pondered: I'm tempted to break laws and love myself, or the stupid questions asked me move me to homicide— so many beauties, one on either side, the wall's behind me, into which I crawl out of my repeating voice— the mike folds down, the foolish askers fall over theirselves in an audience of ashes and Henry returns to rejoice in dark & and still, and one sole beauty only who never walked near Henry while the mob was at him like a club: she saw through things, she saw that he was lonely and waited while he hid behind the wall and all.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 67: I dont operate often. When I do

 I don't operate often.
When I do, persons take note.
Nurses look amazed.
They pale.
The patient is brought back to life, or so.
The reason I don't do this more (I quote) is: I have a living to fail— because of my wife & son—to keep from earning.
—Mr Bones, I sees that.
They for these operations thanks you, what? not pays you.
You have seldom been so understanding.
Now there is further a difficulty with the light: I am obliged to perform in complete darkness operations of great delicacy on my self.
—Mr Bones, you terrifies me.
No wonder they didn't pay you.
Will you die? —My friend, I succeeded.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 109: She mentioned worthless and he took it in

 She mentioned 'worthless' & he took it in,
degraded Henry, at the ebb of love—
O at the end of love—
in undershorts, with visitors, whereof
we can say their childlessness is ending.
Love finally took over, after their two adopted: she has a month to go and Henry has (perhaps) many months to go until another Spring wakens another Henry, with far to go; far to go, pal.
My pussy-willow ceased.
The tiger-lily dreamed.
All we dream, uncertain, in Syracuse & here & there: dread we our loves, whereas the National Geographic is on its way somewhere.
We're not.
We're on our way to the little fair and the cops & the flicks & the single flick who'll solve our intolerable problem.

by John Berryman | |

Dream Song 85: Op. posth. no. 8

An eventful thought came to me, who squirm in my hole.
How will the matter end? Who's king these nights? What happened to .
day? Are ships abroad? I would like to but may not entertain a friend.
Save me from ghastly frights, Triune! My wood or word seems to be rotting.
I daresay I'm collapsing.
Worms are at hand.
No, all that froze, I mean the blood.
'O get up & go in' somewhere once I heard.
Nowadays I doze.
It's cold here.
The cold is ultimating.
The cold is cold.
I am—I should be held together by— but I am breaking up and Henry now has come to a full stop— vanisht his vision, if there was, & fold him over himself quietly.