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Best Famous Weldon Kees Poems

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Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

The Bell From Europe

 The tower bell in the Tenth Street Church
Rang out nostalgia for the refugee
Who knew the source of bells by sound.
We liked it, but in ignorance.
One meets authorities on bells infrequently.
Europe alone made bells with such a tone, Herr Mannheim said.
The bell Struck midnight, and it shook the room.
He had heard bells in Leipzig, Chartres, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Rome.
He was a white-faced man with sad enormous eyes.
Reader, for me that bell marked nights Of restless tossing in this narrow bed, The quarrels, the slamming of a door, The kind words, friends for drinks, the books we read, Breakfasts with streets in rain.
It rang from europe all the time.
That was what Mannheim said.
It is good to know, now that the bell strikes noon.
In this day's sun, the hedges are Episcopalian As noon is marked by the twelve iron beats.
The rector moves ruminantly among the gravestones, And the sound of a dead Europe hangs in the streets.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

A Distance From The Sea

 To Ernest Brace

"And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was
about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto
me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and
write them not.
" --REVELATIONS, x, 4.
That raft we rigged up, under the water, Was just the item: when he walked, With his robes blowing, dark against the sky, It was as though the unsubstantial waves held up His slender and inviolate feet.
The gulls flew over, Dropping, crying alone; thin ragged lengths of cloud Drifted in bars across the sun.
There on the shore The crowd's response was instantaneous.
He Handled it well, I thought--the gait, the tilt of the head, just right.
Long streaks of light were blinding on the waves.
And then we knew our work well worth the time: The days of sawing, fitting, all those nails, The tiresome rehearsals, considerations of execution.
But if you want a miracle, you have to work for it, Lay your plans carefully and keep one jump Ahead of the crowd.
To report a miracle Is a pleasure unalloyed; but staging one requires Tact, imagination, a special knack for the job Not everyone possesses.
A miracle, in fact, means work.
--And now there are those who have come saying That miracles were not what we were after.
But what else Is there? What other hope does life hold out But the miraculous, the skilled and patient Execution, the teamwork, all the pain and worry every miracle involves? Visionaries tossing in their beds, haunted and racked By questions of Messiahship and eschatology, Are like the mist rising at nightfall, and come, Perhaps to even less.
Grave supernaturalists, devoted worshippers Experience the ecstasy (such as it is), but not Our ecstasy.
It was our making.
Yet sometimes When the torrent of that time Comes pouring back, I wonder at our courage And our enterprise.
It was as though the world Had been one darkening, abandoned hall Where rows of unlit candles stood; and we Not out of love, so much, or hope, or even worship, but Out of the fear of death, came with our lights And watched the candles, one by one, take fire, flames Against the long night of our fear.
We thought That we could never die.
Now I am less convinced.
--The traveller on the plain makes out the mountains At a distance; then he loses sight.
His way Winds through the valleys; then, at a sudden turning of a path, The peaks stand nakedly before him: they are something else Than what he saw below.
I think now of the raft (For me, somehow, the summit of the whole experience) And all the expectations of that day, but also of the cave We stocked with bread, the secret meetings In the hills, the fake assassins hired for the last pursuit, The careful staging of the cures, the bribed officials, The angels' garments, tailored faultlessly, The medicines administered behind the stone, That ultimate cloud, so perfect, and so opportune.
Who managed all that blood I never knew.
The days get longer.
It was a long time ago.
And I have come to that point in the turning of the path Where peaks are infinite--horn-shaped and scaly, choked with thorns.
But even here, I know our work was worth the cost.
What we have brought to pass, no one can take away.
Life offers up no miracles, unfortunately, and needs assistance.
Nothing will be the same as once it was, I tell myself.
--It's dark here on the peak, and keeps on getting darker.
It seems I am experiencing a kind of ecstasy.
Was it sunlight on the waves that day? The night comes down.
And now the water seems remote, unreal, and perhaps it is.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

The Smiles Of The Bathers

 The smiles of the bathers fade as they leave the water,
And the lover feels sadness fall as it ends, as he leaves his love.
The scholar, closing his book as the midnight clock strikes, is hollow and old: The pilot's relief on landing is no release.
These perfect and private things, walling us in, have imperfect and public endings-- Water and wind and flight, remembered words and the act of love Are but interruptions.
And the world, like a beast, impatient and quick, Waits only for those who are dead.
No death for you.
You are involved.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

Robinson

 The dog stops barking after Robinson has gone.
His act is over.
The world is a gray world, Not without violence, and he kicks under the grand piano, The nightmare chase well under way.
The mirror from Mexico, stuck to the wall, Reflects nothing at all.
The glass is black.
Robinson alone provides the image Robinsonian.
Which is all of the room--walls, curtains, Shelves, bed, the tinted photograph of Robinson's first wife, Rugs, vases panatelas in a humidor.
They would fill the room if Robinson came in.
The pages in the books are blank, The books that Robinson has read.
That is his favorite chair, Or where the chair would be if Robinson were here.
All day the phone rings.
It could be Robinson Calling.
It never rings when he is here.
Outside, white buildings yellow in the sun.
Outside, the birds circle continuously Where trees are actual and take no holiday.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

The Furies

 Not a third that walks beside me,
But five or six or more.
Whether at dusk or daybreak Or at blinding noon, a retinue Of shadows that no door Excludes.
--One like a kind of scrawl, Hands scrawled trembling and blue, A harelipped and hunchbacked dwarf With a smile like a grapefruit rind, Who jabbers the way I do When the brain is empty and tired And the guests no longer care: A clown, who shudders and suddenly Is a man with a mouth of cotton Trapped in a dentist's chair.
Not a third that walks beside me, But five or six or more: One with his face gone rotten, Most hideous of all, Whose crutches shriek on the sidewalk As a fingernail on a slate Tears open some splintered door Of childhood.
Down the hall We enter a thousand rooms That pour the hours back, That silhouette the walls With shadows ripped from war, Accusing and rigid, black As the streets we are discolored by.
The crutches fall to the floor.
Not a third that walks beside me, But five or six, or more Than fingers or brain can bear-- A monster strung with guts, A coward covered with hair, Matted and down to his knees, Murderers, liars, thieves, Moving in darkened rows Through daylight and evening air Until the eyelids close, Snapped like the blades of a knife, And your dream of their death begins.
Possessors and possessed, They keep the bedside wake As a doctor or a wife Might wait the darkness through Until the pale daybreak-- Protectors of your life.
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The End Of The Library

 When the coal
Gave out, we began
Burning the books, one by one;
First the set
Of Bulwer-Lytton
And then the Walter Scott.
They gave a lot of warmth.
Toward the end, in February, flames Consumed the Greek Tragedians and Baudelaire, Proust, Robert Burton And the Po-Chu-i.
Ice Thickened on the sills.
More for the sake of the cat, We said, than for ourselves, Who huddled, shivering, Against the stove All winter long.
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The Doctor Will Return

 The surgical mask, the rubber teat
Are singed, give off an evil smell.
You seem to weep more now that heat Spreads everywhere we look.
It says here none of us is well.
The warty spottings on the figurines Are nothing you would care to claim.
You seem to weep more since the magazines Began revivals on the Dundas book.
It says here you were most to blame.
But though I cannot believe that this is so, I mark the doctor as a decent sort.
I mix your medicine and go Downstairs to leave instructions for the cook.
It says here time is getting short.
That I can believe.
I hear you crying in your room While watching traffic, reconciled.
Out in the park, black flowers are in bloom.
I picked some once and pressed them in a book.
You used to look at them, and smile.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

1926

 The porchlight coming on again,
Early November, the dead leaves
Raked in piles, the wicker swing
Creaking.
Across the lots A phonograph is playing Ja-Da.
An orange moon.
I see the lives Of neighbors, mapped and marred Like all the wars ahead, and R.
Insane, B.
with his throat cut, Fifteen years from now, in Omaha.
I did not know them then.
My airedale scratches at the door.
And I am back from seeing Milton Sills And Doris Kenyon.
Twelve years old.
The porchlight coming on again.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

A Pastiche For Eve

 Unmanageable as history: these
Followers of Tammuz to the land
That offered no return, where dust
Grew thick on every bolt and door.
And so the world Chilled, and the women wept, tore at their hair.
Yet, in the skies, a goddess governed Sirius, the Dog, Who shines alike on mothers, lesbians, and whores.
What are we governed by? Dido and Carrie Chapman Catt arrange themselves as statues near The playground and the Tivoli.
While warming up the beans, Miss Sanders broods on the Rhamnusian, the whole earth worshipping Her godhead.
Later, vegetables in Athens.
Chaste in the dungeon, swooning with voluptuousness, The Lady of the Castle weds pure Christ, the feudal groom.
Their bowels almost drove Swift mad.
"Sad stem, Sweet evil, stretching out a lion's jaws," wrote Marbode.
Now we cling together in our caves.
That not impossible she That rots and wrinkles in the sun, the shadow Of all men, man's counterpart, sweet rois Of vertew and of gentilness.
.
.
The brothel and the crib endure.
Past reason hunted.
How we die! Their pain, their blood, are ours.
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The Upstairs Room

 It must have been in March the rug wore through.
Now the day passes and I stare At warped pine boards my father's father nailed, At the twisted grain.
Exposed, where emptiness allows, Are the wormholes of eighty years; four generations' shoes Stumble and scrape and fall To the floor my father stained, The new blood streaming from his head.
The drift Of autumn fires and a century's cigars, that gun's Magnanimous and brutal smoke, endure.
In March the rug was ragged as the past.
The thread rots like the lives we fasten on.
Now it is August, And the floor is blank, worn smooth, And, for my life, imperishable.
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La Vita Nuova

 Last summer, in the blue heat,
Over the beach, in the burning air,
A legless beggar lurched on calloused fists
To where I waited with the sun-dazed birds.
He said, "The summer boils away.
My life Joins to another life; this parched skin Dries and dies and flakes away, Becomes your costume when the torn leaves blow.
" --Thus in the losing autumn, Over the streets, I now lurch Legless to your side and speak your name Under a gray sky ripped apart By thunder and the changing wind.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

Round

 "Wondrous life!" cried Marvell at Appleton House.
Renan admired Jesus Christ "wholeheartedly.
" But here dried ferns keep falling to the floor, And something inside my head Flaps like a worn-out blind.
Royal Cortssoz is dead.
A blow to the Herald-Tribune.
A closet mouse Rattles the wrapper on the breakfast food.
Renan Admired Jesus Christ "wholeheartedly.
" Flaps like a worn-out blind.
Cezanne Would break out in the quiet streets of Aix And shout, "Le monde, c'est terrible!" Royal Cortissoz is dead.
And something inside my head Flaps like a worn-out blind.
The soil In which the ferns are dying needs more Vigoro.
There is no twilight on the moon, no mist or rain, No hail or snow, no life.
Here in this house Dried ferns keep falling to the floor, a mouse Rattles the wrapper on the breakfast food.
Cezanne Would break out in the quiet streets and scream.
Renan Admired Jesus Christ "wholeheartedly.
" And something inside my head Flaps like a worn-out blind.
Royal Cortissoz is dead.
There is no twilight on the moon, no hail or snow.
One notes fresh desecrations on the portico.
"Wondrous life!" cried Marvell at Appleton House.
Written by Weldon Kees | Create an image from this poem

Dead March

 Under the bunker, where the reek of kerosene 
Prepared the marriage rite, leader and whore, 
Imperfect kindling even in this wind, burn on.
Someone in uniform hums Brahms.
Servants prepare Eyewitness stories as the night comes down, as smoking coals await Boots on the stone, the occupying troops.
Howl ministers.
Deep in Kyffhauser Mountain's underground, The Holy Roman Emperor snores on, in sleep enduring Seven centuries.
His long red beard Grows through the table to the floor.
He moves a little.
Far in the labyrinth, low thunder rumbles and dies out.
Twitch and lie still.
Is Hitler now in the Himalayas? We are in Cleveland, or Sioux Falls.
The architecture Seems like Omaha, the air pumped in from Düsseldorf.
Cold rain keeps dripping just outside the bars.
The testicles Burst on the table as the commissar Untwists the vise, removes his gloves, puts down Izvestia.
(Old saboteurs, controlled by Trotsky's Scheming and unconquered ghost, still threaten Novgorod.
) --And not far from the pits, these bones of ours, Burned, bleached, and splintering, are shoveled, ready for the fields.
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Colloquy

 In the broken light, in owl weather,
Webs on the lawn where the leaves end,
I took the thin moon and the sky for cover
To pick the cat's brains and descend
A weedy hill.
I found him groveling Inside the summerhouse, a shadowed bulge, Furred and somnolent.
—"I bring," I said, "besides this dish of liver, and an edge Of cheese, the customary torments, And the usual wonder why we live At all, and why the world thins out and perishes As it has done for me, sieved As I am toward silences.
Where Are we now? Do we know anything?" —Now, on another night, his look endures.
"Give me the dish," he said.
I had his answer, wise as yours.
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The Speakers

 "A equals X," says Mister One.
"A equals B," says Mister Two.
"A equals nothing under the sun But A," says Mister Three.
A few Applaud; some wipe their eyes; Some linger in the shade to see One and Two in neat disguise Decapitating Mister Three.
"This age is not entirely bad.
" It's bad enough, God knows, but you Should know Elizabethans had Sweeneys and Mrs.
Porters too.
The past goes down and disappears, The present stumbles home to bed, The future stretches out in years That no one knows, and you'll be dead.