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Best Famous Kenneth Patchen Poems

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by Kenneth Patchen |

The Artists Duty

 So it is the duty of the artist to discourage all traces of shame
To extend all boundaries
To fog them in right over the plate
To kill only what is ridiculous
To establish problem
To ignore solutions
To listen to no one
To omit nothing
To contradict everything
To generate the free brain
To bear no cross
To take part in no crucifixion
To tinkle a warning when mankind strays
To explode upon all parties
To wound deeper than the soldier
To heal this poor obstinate monkey once and for all

To verify the irrational
To exaggerate all things
To inhibit everyone
To lubricate each proportion
To experience only experience

To set a flame in the high air
To exclaim at the commonplace alone
To cause the unseen eyes to open

To admire only the abrsurd
To be concerned with every profession save his own
To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty
To desire an electrifiable intercourse with a female alligator
To lift the flesh above the suffering
To forgive the beautiful its disconsolate deceit

To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss


It is the artist’s duty to be alive
To drag people into glittering occupations

To blush perpetually in gaping innocence
To drift happily through the ruined race-intelligence
To burrow beneath the subconscious
To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason
To obey each outrageous inpulse
To commit his company to all enchantments.

by Kenneth Patchen |

The Orange Bears

 The Orange bears with soft friendly eyes
Who played with me when I was ten,
Christ, before I'd left home they'd had
Their paws smashed in the rolls, their backs
Seared by hot slag, their soft trusting
Bellies kicked in, their tongues ripped
Out, and I went down through the woods
To the smelly crick with Whitman
In the Haldeman-Julius edition,
And I just sat there worrying my thumbnail
Into the cover---What did he know about
Orange bears with their coats all stunk up with soft coal
And the National Guard coming over
From Wheeling to stand in front of the millgates
With drawn bayonets jeering at the strikers?

I remember you would put daisies
On the windowsill at night and in
The morning they'd be so covered with soot
You couldn't tell what they were anymore.

A hell of a fat chance my orange bears had!

by Kenneth Patchen |

The Naked Land

 A beast stands at my eye.

I cook my senses in a dark fire.
The old wombs rot and the new mother
Approaches with the footsteps of a world.

Who are the people of this unscaled heaven?
What beckons?
Whose blood hallows this grim land?
What slithers along the watershed of my human sleep?

The other side of knowing ...
Caress of unwaking delight ... O start
A sufficient love! O gently silent forms
Of the last spaces.

by Kenneth Patchen |

Let Us Have Madness

 Let us have madness openly. 
O men Of my generation. 
Let us follow 
The footsteps of this slaughtered age: 
See it trail across Time's dim land 
Into the closed house of eternity 
With the noise that dying has, 
With the face that dead things wear-- 
nor ever say 
We wanted more; we looked to find
An open door, an utter deed of love, 
Transforming day's evil darkness; 
but We found extended hell and fog Upon the earth,
and within the head 
A rotting bog of lean huge graves.

by Kenneth Patchen |

Fall of the Evening Star

 Speak softly; sun going down
Out of sight. Come near me now.

Dear dying fall of wings as birds
complain against the gathering dark...

Exaggerate the green blood in grass;
the music of leaves scraping space;

Multiply the stillness by one sound;
by one syllable of your name...

And all that is little is soon giant,
all that is rare grows in common beauty

To rest with my mouth on your mouth
as somewhere a star falls

And the earth takes it softly, in natural love...
Exactly as we take each other...
and go to sleep...

by Kenneth Patchen |

The Hangmans Great Hands

 And all that is this day. . . 
The boy with cap slung over what had been a face. .. 

Somehow the cop will sleep tonight, will make love to his
Anger won't help. I was born angry. Angry that my father was
being burnt alive in the mills; Angry that none of us knew
anything but filth, and poverty. Angry because I was that very
one somebody was supposed To be fighting for 
Turn him over; take a good look at his face...
Somebody is going to see that face for a long time. 
I wash his hands that in the brightness they will shine. 
We have a parent called the earth. 
To be these buds and trees; this tameless bird Within the
ground; this season's act upon the fields of Man. 
To be equal to the littlest thing alive, 
While all the swarming stars move silent through The merest
. .. but the fog of guns. 
The face with all the draining future left blank. . . Those smug
saints, whether of church or Stalin, Can get off the back of
my people, and stay off. Somebody is supposed to be fighting
for somebody. . . And Lenin is terribly silent, terribly silent
and dead.

by Kenneth Patchen |

As We Are So Wonderfully Done With Each Other

 As we are so wonderfully done with each other 
We can walk into our separate sleep 
on floors of music where the milkwhite cloak of childhood 

oh my love, my golden lark, my soft long doll 
Your lips have splashed my dull house with print of flowers 
My hands are crooked where they spilled over your dear 

It is good to be weary from that brilliant work 
It is being God to feel your breathing under me 

A waterglass on the bureau fills with morning..... 
Don't let anyone in to wake us

by Kenneth Patchen |

When We Were Here Together

 when we were here together in a place we did not know, nor one
A bit of grass held between the teeth for a moment, bright hair on the 
What we were we did not know, nor even the grass or the flame of 
hair turning to ash on the wind.
But they lied about that. From the beginning they lied. To the child, 
telling him that there was somewhere anger against him, and a 
hatred against him, and the only reason for his being in the 
But never did they tell him that the only evil and danger was in 
themselves; that they alone were the prisoners and the betrayers; 
that they - they alone - were responsible for what was being done 
in the world.
And they told the child to starve and to kill the child that was within 
him; for only by doing this could he become a useful and adjusted 
member of the community which they had prepared for him.
And this time, alas, they did not lie.
And with the death of the child was born a thing that had neither 
the character of a man nor the character of a child, but was a 
horrible and monstrous parody of the two; and it is in this world 
now that the flesh of man’s spirit lies twisted and despoiled under 
the indifferent stars.
When we were here together in a place we did not know, nor one 
O green the bit of warm grass between our teeth. O beautiful the hair 
of our mortal goddess on the indifferent wind.

by Kenneth Patchen |


 Wherever the dead are there they are and
Nothing more. But you and I can expect
To see angels in the meadowgrass that look
Like cows -
And wherever we are in paradise
in furnished room without bath and
six flights up
Is all God! We read
To one another, loving the sound of the s’s
Slipping up on the f’s and much is good
Enough to raise the hair on our heads, like Rilke and Wilfred Owen

Any person who loves another person, 
Wherever in the world, is with us in this room -
Even though there are battlefields.

by Kenneth Patchen |

The Slums

 That should be obvious
Of course it won't
Any fool knows that.
Even in the winter.
Consider for a moment.
Consider what!
They never have.
Why now?
Certainly it means nothing.
It's all a lie.
What else could it be?
That's right.
Any way you look at it.
A silk hat.
A fat belly.
A nice church to squat in.
My holy ass...
What should they care about?
It's quaint.
Twelve kids on the fire escape...
Flowers on the windowsill...
You're damn right.
That's the way it is.
That's just the way it is.