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Best Famous Weldon Kees Poems

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by Weldon Kees | |

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.


by Weldon Kees | |

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.


by Weldon Kees | |

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.


by Weldon Kees | |

Late Evening Song

 For a while
Let it be enough:
The responsive smile,
Though effort goes into it.
Across the warm room Shared in candlelight, This look beyond shame, Possible now, at night, Goes out to yours.
Hidden by day And shaped by fires Grown dead, gone gray, That burned in other rooms I knew Too long ago to mark, It forms again.
I look at you Across those fires and the dark.


by Weldon Kees | |

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.


by Weldon Kees | |

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.


by Weldon Kees | |

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.


by Weldon Kees | |

Interregnum

 Butcher the evil millionaire, peasant,
And leave him stinking in the square.
Torture the chancellor.
Leave the ambassador Strung by his thumbs from the pleasant Embassy wall, where the vines were.
Then drill your hogs and sons for another war.
Fire on the screaming crowd, ambassador, Sick chancellor, brave millionaire, And name them by the name that is your name.
Give privilege to the wound, and maim The last resister.
Poison the air And mew for peace, for order, and for war.
View with alarm, participant, observer, Buried in medals from the time before.
Whisper, then believe and serve and die And drape fresh bunting on the hemisphere From here to India.
This is the world you buy When the wind blows fresh for war.
Hide in the dark alone, objector; Ask a grenade what you are living for, Or drink this knowledge from the mud.
To an abyss more terrible than war Descend and tunnel toward a barrier Away from anything that moves with blood.


by Weldon Kees | |

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.


by Weldon Kees | |

The Beach

 Squat, unshaven, full of gas,
Joseph Samuels, former clerk
in four large cities, out of work,
waits in the darkened underpass.
In sanctuary, out of reach, he stares at the fading light outside: the rain beginning: hears the tide that drums along the empty beach.
When drops first fell at six o'clock, the bathers left.
The last car's gone.
Sun's final rays reflect upon the streaking rain, the rambling dock.
He takes an object from his coat and holds it tightly in his hand (eyes on the stretch of endless sand).
And then, in darkness, cuts his throat.