Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

Best Famous Depression Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Depression poems. This is a select list of the best famous Depression poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Depression poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of depression poems.

Search for the best famous Depression poems, articles about Depression poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Depression poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See also: Best Member Poems

Go Back

by Barry Tebb |


 Here is a silence I had not hoped for

This side of paradise, I am an old believer

In nature’s bounty as God’s grace

To us poor mortals, fretting and fuming

At frustrated lust or the scent of fame 

Coming too late to make a difference

Blue with white vertebrae of cloud forms

Riming the spectrum of green dark of poplars

Lined like soldiers, paler the hue of hawthorn 

With the heather beginning to bud blue

Before September purple, yellow ragwort

Sways in the wind as distantly a plane hums

And a lazy bee bumbles by.
A day in Brenda’s flat, mostly play with Eydie, My favourite of her seven cats, they soothe better Than Diazepan for panic Seroxat for grief Zopiclone to make me sleep.
I smoke my pipe and sip blackcurrant tea Aware of the ticking clock: I have to be back To talk to my son’s key nurse when she comes on For the night shift.
Always there are things to sort, Misapprehensions to untangle, delusions to decipher, Lies to expose, statistics to disclose, Trust Boards And team meetings to attend, ‘Mental Health Monthly’ To peruse, funds for my press to raise – the only one I ever got will leave me out of pocket.
A couple sat on the next bench Are earnestly discussing child custody, broken marriages, Failed affairs, social service interventions – Even here I cannot escape complexity "I should never have slept with her once we split" "The kids are what matters when it comes to the bottom line" "Is he poisoning their minds against me?" Part of me nags to offer help but I’ve too much On already and the clock keeps ticking.
"It’s a pity she won’t turn round and clip his ear" But better not to interfere.
Damn my bloody superego Nattering like an old woman or Daisy nagging About my pipe and my loud voice on buses – No doubt she’s right – smoking’s not good And hearing about psychosis, medication and end-on-sections Isn’t what people are on buses for.
I long for a girl in summer, pubescent With a twinkle in her eye to come and say "Come on, let’s do it!" I was always shy in adolescence, too busy reading Baudelaire To find a decent whore and learn to score And now I’m probably impotent with depression So I’d better forget sex and read more of Andr? Green On metaphor from Hegel to Lacan and how the colloquium At Bonneval changed analytic history, a mystery I’ll not unravel if I live to ninety.
Ignorance isn’t bliss, I know enough to talk the piss From jumped-up SHO’s and locums who’d miss vital side effects And think all’s needed is a mother’s kiss.
I’ll wait till the heather’s purple and bring nail scissors To cut and suture neatly and renew my stocks Of moor momentoes vased in unsunny Surrey.
Can you believe it? Some arseholes letting off fireworks On the moor? Suburban excesses spread like the sores Of syphilis and more regulations in a decade of Blair Than in the century before.
"Shop your neighbours.
Prove it.
Bring birth certificates to A&E If you want NHS treatment free.
Be careful not to bleed to death While finding the certificate.
Blunkett wants us all to have ID Photo cards, genetic codes, DNA database, eye scans, the lot – And kiss good-bye to the last bits of freedom we’ve got" "At the end of the day she shopped me and all I’d done Was take a few pound from the till ’cos Jenny was ill And I didn’t have thirteen quid to get the bloody prescription done" To-morrow I’ll be back in the Great Wen, Two days of manic catching up and then Thistledown, wild wheat, a dozen kinds of grass, The mass of beckoning hills I’d love to make A poet’s map of but never will.
"Oh to break loose" Lowell’s magic lines Entice me still but slimy Fenton had to have his will And slate it in the NYB, arguing that panetone Isn’t tin foil as Lowell thought.
James you are a dreadful bore, A pedantic creep like hundreds more, five A4 pages Of sniping and nit-picking for how many greenbacks? A thousand or two I’d guess, they couldn’t pay you less For churning out such a king-size mess But not even you can spoil this afternoon Of watching Haworth heather bloom.

by Anne Sexton |

The Fury Of Rainstorms

 The rain drums down like red ants, 
each bouncing off my window.
The ants are in great pain and they cry out as they hit as if their little legs were only stitche don and their heads pasted.
And oh they bring to mind the grave, so humble, so willing to be beat upon with its awful lettering and the body lying underneath without an umbrella.
Depression is boring, I think and I would do better to make some soup and light up the cave.

by Alexander Pushkin |

The Wish

 I shed my tears; my tears – my consolation;
And I am silent; my murmur is dead,
My soul, sunk in a depression’s shade,
Hides in its depths the bitter exultation.
I don’t deplore my passing dream of life -- Vanish in dark, the empty apparition! I care only for my love’s infliction, And let me die, but only die in love!

by Les Murray |

Travels With John Hunter

 We who travel between worlds 
lose our muscle and bone.
I was wheeling a barrow of earth when agony bayoneted me.
I could not sit, or lie down, or stand, in Casualty.
Stomach-calming clay caked my lips, I turned yellow as the moon and slid inside a CAT-scan wheel in a hospital where I met no one so much was my liver now my dire preoccupation.
I was sped down a road.
of treetops and fishing-rod lightpoles towards the three persons of God and the three persons of John Hunter Hospital.
Who said We might lose this one.
Twenty days or to the heat-death of the Universe have the same duration: vaguely half a hour.
I awoke giggling over a joke about Paul Kruger in Johannesburg and missed the white court stockings I half remembered from my prone still voyage beyond flesh and bone.
I asked my friend who got new lungs How long were you crazy, coming back? Five days, he said.
Violent and mad.
Fictive Afrikaner police were at him, not unworldly Oom Paul Kruger.
Valerie, who had sat the twenty days beside me, now gently told me tales of my time-warp.
The operative canyon stretched, stapled, with dry roseate walls down my belly.
Seaweed gel plugged views of my pluck and offal.
The only poet whose liver damage hadn't been self-inflicted, grinned my agent.
A momentarily holed bowel had released flora who live in us and will eat us when we stop feeding them the earth.
I had, it did seem, rehearsed the private office of the grave, ceased excreting, made corpse gases all while liana'd in tubes and overseen by cockpit instruments that beeped or struck up Beethoven's Fifth at behests of fluid.
I also hear when I lay lipless and far away I was anointed first by a mild metaphoric church then by the Church of no metaphors.
Now I said, signing a Dutch contract in a hand I couldn't recognise, let's go and eat Chinese soup and drive to Lake Macquarie.
Was I not renewed as we are in Heaven? In fact I could hardly endure Earth gravity, and stayed weak and cranky till the soup came, squid and vegetables, pure Yang.
And was sane thereafter.
It seemed I'd also travelled in a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards, of flowers and phone calls and letters, concern I'd never dreamed was there when black kelp boiled in my head.
I'd awoken amid my State funeral, nevermore to eat my liver or feed it to the Black Dog, depression which the three Johns Hunter seem to have killed with their scalpels: it hasn't found its way home, where I now dodder and mend in thanks for devotion, for the ambulance this time, for the hospital fork lift, for pethidine, and this face of deity: not the foreknowledge of death but the project of seeing conscious life rescued from death defines and will atone for the human.

by Philip Levine |

On The Meeting Of García Lorca And Hart Crane

 Brooklyn, 1929.
Of course Crane's been drinking and has no idea who this curious Andalusian is, unable even to speak the language of poetry.
The young man who brought them together knows both Spanish and English, but he has a headache from jumping back and forth from one language to another.
For a moment's relief he goes to the window to look down on the East River, darkening below as the early light comes on.
Something flashes across his sight, a double vision of such horror he has to slap both his hands across his mouth to keep from screaming.
Let's not be frivolous, let's not pretend the two poets gave each other wisdom or love or even a good time, let's not invent a dialogue of such eloquence that even the ants in your own house won't forget it.
The two greatest poetic geniuses alive meet, and what happens? A vision comes to an ordinary man staring at a filthy river.
Have you ever had a vision? Have you ever shaken your head to pieces and jerked back at the image of your young son falling through open space, not from the stern of a ship bound from Vera Cruz to New York but from the roof of the building he works on? Have you risen from bed to pace until dawn to beg a merciless God to take these pictures away? Oh, yes, let's bless the imagination.
It gives us the myths we live by.
Let's bless the visionary power of the human— the only animal that's got it—, bless the exact image of your father dead and mine dead, bless the images that stalk the corners of our sight and will not let go.
The young man was my cousin, Arthur Lieberman, then a language student at Columbia, who told me all this before he died quietly in his sleep in 1983 in a hotel in Perugia.
A good man, Arthur, he survived graduate school, later came home to Detroit and sold pianos right through the Depression.
He loaned my brother a used one to compose his hideous songs on, which Arthur thought were genius.
What an imagination Arthur had!

by Donald Justice |

Pantoum Of The Great Depression

 Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
Simply by going on and on We managed.
No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars.
We managed.
No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don't remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus, And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us, And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story? Beyond our windows shone the actual world.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the actual world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.
But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues, But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.
And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

by Rg Gregory |

absinthe and stained glass

absinthe makes the hurt grow fonder
the green fairy burbles what's this 'ere
when vincent (sozzled) knifes his lug off
all spirits then succumb to fear
depression takes the gloss off wonder
and people (lost) tell god to bug off
the twentieth century drowns in sheer
excuse that life is comic blunder
temporality dons its gear
forbidden thought soon rips its gag off

stained glass (you think) must be bystander
its leaded eyes seek far not near
the day's bleak dirt it learns to shrug off

the history of the race confuses
heady spirit with bloody need
nothing can stop the sky from tingling
intrinsic hope rewords its screed
assumes it must outlive its bruises

stained glass deigns to face the mingling
of atavistic search for creed
with each desire gets what it chooses
it tries to suck out truth from greed
and calmly pacifies the wrangling

lasting spirit allows no ruses
what's bottled dreads to pay much heed
between the two meek life is dangling

(from le trianon - stained glass window by berge)

by Charles Bukowski |

We Aint Got No Money Honey But We Got Rain

 call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or a day, it would RAIN for 7 days and 7 nights and in Los Angeles the storm drains weren't built to carry off taht much water and the rain came down THICK and MEAN and STEADY and you HEARD it banging against the roofs and into the ground waterfalls of it came down from roofs and there was HAIL big ROCKS OF ICE bombing exploding smashing into things and the rain just wouldn't STOP and all the roofs leaked- dishpans, cooking pots were placed all about; they dripped loudly and had to be emptied again and again.
the rain came up over the street curbings, across the lawns, climbed up the steps and entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels, and the rain often came up through the toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling, and all the old cars stood in the streets, cars that had problems starting on a sunny day, and the jobless men stood looking out the windows at the old machines dying like living things out there.
the jobless men, failures in a failing time were imprisoned in their houses with their wives and children and their pets.
the pets refused to go out and left their waste in strange places.
the jobless men went mad confined with their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments as notices of foreclosure fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans, bread without butter;fried eggs, boiled eggs, poached eggs; peanut butter sandwiches, and an invisible chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man at best, beat my mother when it rained as I threw myself between them, the legs, the knees, the screams until they seperated.
"I'll kill you," I screamed at him.
"You hit her again and I'll kill you!" "Get that son-of-a-bitching kid out of here!" "no, Henry, you stay with your mother!" all the households were under seige but I believe that ours held more terror than the average.
and at night as we attempted to sleep the rains still came down and it was in bed in the dark watching the moon against the scarred window so bravely holding out most of the rain, I thought of Noah and the Ark and I thought, it has come again.
we all thought that.
and then, at once, it would stop.
and it always seemed to stop around 5 or 6 a.
, peaceful then, but not an exact silence because things continued to drip drip drip and there was no smog then and by 8 a.
there was a blazing yellow sunlight, Van Gogh yellow- crazy, blinding! and then the roof drains relieved of the rush of water began to expand in the warmth: PANG!PANG!PANG! and everybody got up and looked outside and there were all the lawns still soaked greener than green will ever be and there were birds on the lawn CHIRPING like mad, they hadn't eaten decently for 7 days and 7 nights and they were weary of berries and they waited as the worms rose to the top, half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them up and gobbled them down;there were blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to drive the sparrows off but the sparrows, maddened with hunger, smaller and quicker, got their due.
the men stood on their porches smoking cigarettes, now knowing they'd have to go out there to look for that job that probably wasn't there, to start that car that probably wouldn't start.
and the once beautiful wives stood in their bathrooms combing their hair, applying makeup, trying to put their world back together again, trying to forget that awful sadness that gripped them, wondering what they could fix for breakfast.
and on the radio we were told that school was now open.
and soon there I was on the way to school, massive puddles in the street, the sun like a new world, my parents back in that house, I arrived at my classroom on time.
Sorenson greeted us with, "we won't have our usual recess, the grounds are too wet.
" "AW!" most of the boys went.
"but we are going to do something special at recess," she went on, "and it will be fun!" well, we all wondered what that would be and the two hour wait seemed a long time as Mrs.
Sorenson went about teaching her lessons.
I looked at the little girls, they looked so pretty and clean and alert, they sat still and straight and their hair was beautiful in the California sunshine.
the the recess bells rang and we all waited for the fun.
then Mrs.
Sorenson told us: "now, what we are going to do is we are going to tell each other what we did during the rainstorm! we'll begin in the front row and go right around! now, Michael, you're first!.
" well, we all began to tell our stories, Michael began and it went on and on, and soon we realized that we were all lying, not exactly lying but mostly lying and some of the boys began to snicker and some of the girls began to give them dirty looks and Mrs.
Sorenson said, "all right! I demand a modicum of silence here! I am interested in what you did during the rainstorm even if you aren't!" so we had to tell our stories and they were stories.
one girl said that when the rainbow first came she saw God's face at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck his fishing pole out the window and caught a little fish and fed it to his cat.
almost everybody told a lie.
the truth was just too awful and embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang and recess was over.
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very nice.
and tomorrow the grounds will be dry and we will put them to use again.
" most of the boys cheered and the little girls sat very straight and still, looking so pretty and clean and alert, their hair beautiful in a sunshine that the world might never see again.

by Richard Brautigan |

Part 7 of Trout Fishing in America



Tree, snow and rock beginnings, the mountain in back of the

lake promised us eternity, but the lake itself was filled with

thousands of silly minnows, swimming close to the shore

and busy putting in hours of Mack Sennett time.
The minnows were an Idaho tourist attraction.
They should have been made into a National Monument.
Swimming close to shore, like children they believed in their own im- mortality .
A third-year student in engineering at the University of Montana attempted to catch some of the minnows but he went about it all wrong.
So did the children who came on the Fourth of July weekend.
The children waded out into the lake and tried to catch the minnows with their hands.
They also used milk cartons and plastic bags.
They presented the lake with hours of human effort.
Their total catch was one minnow.
It jumped out of a can full of water on their table and died under the table, gasp- ing for watery breath while their mother fried eggs on the Coleman stove.
The mother apologized.
She was supposed to be watching the fish --THIS IS MY EARTHLY FAILURE-- holding the dead fish by the tail, the fish taking all the bows like a young Jewish comedian talking about Adlai Stevenson.
The third-year student in engineering at the University of Montana took a tin can and punched an elaborate design of holes in the can, the design running around and around in circles, like a dog with a fire hydrant in its mouth.
Then he attached some string to the can and put a huge salmon egg and a piece of Swiss cheese in the can.
After two hours of intimate and universal failure he went back to Missoula, Montana.
The woman who travels with me discovered the best way to catch the minnows.
She used a large pan that had in its bottom the dregs of a distant vanilla pudding.
She put the pan in the shallow water along the shore and instantly, hun- dreds of minnows gathered around.
Then, mesmerized by the vanilla pudding, they swam like a children's crusade into the pan.
She caught twenty fish with one dip.
She put the pan full of fish on the shore and the baby played with the fish for an hour.
We watched the baby to make sure she was just leaning on them a little.
We didn't want her to kill any of them be- cause she was too young.
Instead of making her furry sound, she adapted rapidly to the difference between animals and fish, and was soon making a silver sound.
She caught one of the fish with her hand and looked at it for a while.
We took the fish out of her hand and put it back into the pan.
After a while she was putting the fish back by herself.
Then she grew tired of this.
She tipped the pan over and a dozen fish flopped out onto the shore.
The children's game and the banker's game, she picked up those silver things, one at a time, and put them back in the pan.
There was still a little water in it.
The fish liked this.
You could tell.
When she got tired of the fish, we put them back in the lake, and they were all quite alive, but nervous.
I doubt if they will ever want vanilla pudding again.
ROOM 208, HOTEL TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA Half a block from Broadway and Columbus is Hotel Trout Fishing in America, a cheap hotel.
It is very old and run by some Chinese.
They are young and ambitious Chinese and the lobby is filled with the smell of Lysol.
The Lysol sits like another guest on the stuffed furniture reading a copy of the Chronicle, the Sports Section.
It is the only furniture I have ever seen in my life that looks like baby food.
And the Lysol sits asleep next to an old Italian pensioner who listens to the heavy ticking of the clock and dreams of eternity's golden pasta, sweet basil and Jesus Christ.
The Chinese are always doing something to the hotel.
One week they paint a lower banister and the next week they put some new wallpaper on part of the third floor.
No matter how many times you pass that part of the third floor, you cannot remember the color of the wallpaper or what the design is.
All you know is that part of the wallpaper is new.
It is different from the old wallpaper.
But you can- not remember what that looks like either.
One day the Chinese take a bed out of a room and lean it up against the wall.
It stays there for a month.
You get used to seeing it and then you go by one day and it is gone.
You wonder where it went.
I remember the first time I went inside Hotel Trout Fish- ing in America.
It was with a friend to meet some people.
"I'11 tell you what's happening, " he said.
"She's an ex- hustler who works for the telephone company.
He went to medical school for a while during the Great Depression and then he went into show business.
After that, he was an errand boy for an abortion mill in Los Angeles.
He took a fall and did some time in San Quentin.
"I think you'll like them.
They're good people.
"He met her a couple of years ago in North Beach.
She was hustling for a spade pimp.
It's kind of weird.
Most women have the temperament to be a whore, but she's one of these rare women who just don't have it--the whore tem- perament.
She's Negro, too.
"She was a teenage girl living on a farm in Oklahoma.
The pimp drove by one afternoon and saw her playing in the front yard.
He stopped his car and got out and talked to her father for a while.
"I guess he gave her father some money.
He came up with something good because her father told her to go and get her things.
So she went with the pimp.
Simple as that.
"He took her to San Francisco and turned her out and she hated it.
He kept her in line by terrorizing her all the time.
He was a real sweetheart.
"She had some brains, so he got her a job with the tele- phone company during the day, and he had her hustling at night.
"When Art took her away from him, he got pretty mad.
A good thing and all that.
He used to break into Art's hotel room in the middle of the night and put a switchblade to Art's throat and rant and rave.
Art kept putting bigger and bigger locks on the door, but the pimp just kept breaking in--a huge fellow.
"So Art went out and got a .
32 pistol, and the next time the pimp broke in, Art pulled the gun out from underneath the covers and jammed it into the pimp's mouth and said, 'You'll be out of luck the next time you come through that door, Jack.
' This broke the pimp up.
He never went back.
The pimp certainly lost a good thing.
"He ran up a couple thousand dollars worth of bills in her name, charge accounts and the like.
They're still paying them off.
"The pistol's right there beside the bed, just in case the pimp has an attack of amnesia and wants to have his shoes shined in a funeral parlor.
"When we go up there, he'll drink the wine.
She won't.
She'Il'have a little bottle of brandy.
She won't offer us any of it.
She drinks about four of them a day.
Never buys a fifth.
She always keeps going out and getting another half-pint.
"That's the way she handles it.
She doesn't talk very much, and she doesn't make any bad scenes.
A good-looking woman, r My friend knocked on the door and we could hear some- body get up off the bed and come to the door.
"Who's there?" said a man on the other side.
"Me," my friend said, in a voice deep and recognizable as any name.
"I'11 open the door.
" A simple declarative sentence.
He undid about a hundred locks, bolts and chains and anchors and steel spikes and canes filled with acid, and then the door opened like the classroom of a great university and everything was in its proper place: the gun beside the bed and a small bottle of brandy beside an attractive Negro woman, There were many flowers and plants growing in the room, some of them were on the dresser, surrounded by old photo- graphs.
All of the photographs were of white people, includ- ing Art when he was young and handsome and looked just like the 1930s.
There were pictures of animals cut out of magazines and tacked to the wall, with crayola frames drawn around them and crayola picture wires drawn holding them to the wall.
They were pictures of kittens and puppies.
They looked just fine .
There was a bowl of goldfish next to the bed, next to the gun.
How religious and intimate the goldfish and the gun looked together.
They had a cat named 208.
They covered the bathroom floor with newspaper and the cat crapped on the newspaper.
My friend said that 208 thought he was the only cat left in the world, not having seen another cat since he was a tiny kitten.
They never let him out of the room.
He was a red cat and very aggressive.
When you played with that cat, he really bit you.
Stroke 208's fur and he'd try to disembowel your hand as if it were a belly stuffed full of extra soft intestines.
We sat there and drank and talked about books.
Art had owned a lot of books in Los Angeles, but they were all gone now.
He told us that he used to spend his spare time in sec- ondhand bookstores buying old and unusual books when he was in show business, traveling from city to city across America.
Some of them were very rare autographed books, he told us, but he had bought them for very little and was forced to sell them for very little.
They'd be worth a lot of money now, " he said.
The Negro woman sat there very quietly studying her brandy.
A couple of times she said yes, in a sort of nice way.
She used the word yes to its best advantage, when sur- rounded by no meaning and left alone from other words.
They did their own cooking in the room and had a single hot plate sitting on the floor, next to half a dozen plants, in- cluding a peach tree growing in a coffee can.
Their closet was stuffed with food.
Along with shirts, suits and dresses, were canned goods, eggs and cooking oil.
My friend told me that she was a very fine cook.
That she could really cook up a good meal, fancy dishes, too, on that single hot plate, next to the peach tree.
They had a good world going for them.
He had such a soft voice and manner that he worked as a private nurse for rich mental patients.
He made good money when he worked, but sometimes he was sick himself.
He was kind of run down.
She was still working for the telephone company, but she wasn't doing that night work any more.
They were still paying off the bills that pimp had run up.
I mean, years had passed and they were still paying them off: a Cadillac and a hi-fi set and expensive clothes and all those things that Negro pimps do love to have.
Z went back there half a dozen times after that first meet- ing.
An interesting thing happened.
I pretended that the cat, 208, was named after their room number, though I knew that their number was in the three hundreds.
The room was on the third floor.
It was that simple.
I always went to their room following the geography of Hotel Trout Fishing in America, rather than its numerical layout.
I never knew what the exact number of their room was.
I knew secretly it was in the three hundreds and that was all.
Anyway, it was easier for me to establish order in my mind by pretending that the cat was named after their room number.
It seemed like a good idea and the logical reason for a cat to have the name 208.
It, of course, was not true.
It was a fib.
The cat's name was 208 and the room number was in the three hundreds.
Where did the name 208 come from? What did it mean? I thought about it for a while, hiding it from the rest of my mind.
But I didn't ruin my birthday by secretly thinking about it too hard.
A year later I found out the true significance of 208's name, purely by accident.
My telephone rang one Saturday morning when the sun was shining on the hills.
It was a close friend of mine and he said, "I'm in the slammer.
Come and get me out.
They're burning black candles around the drunk tank.
" I went down to the Hall of Justice to bail my friend out, and discovered that 208 is the room number of the bail office, It was very simple.
I paid ten dollars for my friend's life and found the original meaning of 208, how it runs like melt- ing snow all the way down the mountainside to a small cat living and playing in Hotel Trout Fishing in America, believ- ing itself to be the last cat in the world, not having seen another cat in such a long time, totally unafraid, newspaper spread out all over the bathroom floor, and something good cooking on the hot plate.
THE SURGEON I watched my day begin on Little Redfish Lake as clearly as the first light of dawn or the first ray of the sunrise, though the dawn and the sunrise had long since passed and it was now late in the morning.
The surgeon took a knife from the sheath at his belt and cut the throat of the chub with a very gentle motion, showing poetically how sharp the knife was, and then he heaved the fish back out into the lake.
The chub made an awkward dead splash and obeyed allthe traffic laws of this world SCHOOL ZONE SPEED 25 MILES and sank to the cold bottom of the lake.
It lay there white belly up like a school bus covered with snow.
A trout swam over and took a look, just putting in time, and swam away.
The surgeon and I were talking about the AMA.
I don't know how in the hell we got on the thing, but we were on it.
Then he wiped the knife off and put it back in the sheath.
I actually don't know how we got on the AMA.
The surgeon said that he had spent twenty-five years be- coming a doctor.
His studies had been interrupted by the Depression and two wars.
He told me that he would give up the practice of medicine if it became socialized in America.
"I've never turned away a patient in my life, and I've never known another doctor who has.
Last year I wrote off six thousand dollars worth of bad debts, " he said.
I was going to say that a sick person should never under any conditions be abad debt, but I decided to forget it.
Noth- ing was going to be proved or changed on the shores of Little Redfish Lake, and as that chub had discovered, it was not a good place to have cosmetic surgery done.
"I worked three years ago for a union in Southern Utah that had a health plan, " the surgeon said.
"I would not care to practice medicine under such conditions.
The patients think they own you and your time.
They think you're their own personal garbage can.
"I'd be home eating dinner and the telephone would ring, 'Help ! Doctor ! I'm dying! It's my stomach ! I've got horrible pains !' I would get up from my dinner and rush over there.
"The guy would meet me at the door with a can of beer in his hand.
'Hi, dec, come on in.
I'11 get you a beer.
I'm watching TV.
The pain is all gone.
Great, huh? I feel like a million.
Sit down.
I'11 get you a beer, dec.
The Ed Sullivan Show's on.
' "No thank you, " the surgeon said.
"I wouldn't care to practice medicine under such conditions.
No thank you.
No thanks .
"I like to hunt and I like to fish, " he said.
"That's why I moved to Twin Falls.
I'd heard so much about Idaho hunting and fishing.
I've been very disappointed.
I've given up my practice, sold my home in Twin, and now I'm looking for a new place to settle down.
"I've written to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexi- co, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington for their hunting and fishing regulations, and I'm studying them all, " he said.
"I've got enough money to travel around for six months, looking for a place to settle down where the hunting and fish- ing is good.
I'11 get twelve hundred dollars back in income tax returns by not working any more this year.
That's two hundred a month for not working.
I don't understand this country, " he said.
The surgeon's wife and children were in a trailer nearby.
The trailer had come in the night before, pulled by a brand- new Rambler station wagon.
He had two children, a boy two- and-a-half years old and the other, an infant born premature- ly, but now almost up to normal weight.
The surgeon told me that they'd come over from camping on Big Lost River where he had caught a fourteen-inch brook trout.
He was young looking, though he did not have much hair on his head.
I talked to the surgeon for a little while longer and said good-bye.
We were leaving in the afternoon for Lake Josephus located at the edge of the Idaho Wilderness, and he was leav- ing for America, often only a place in the mind.
A NOTE ON THE CAMPING CRAZE THAT IS CURRENTLY SWEEPING AMERICA As much as anything else, the Coleman lantern is the sym- bol of the camping craze that is currently sweeping America, with its unholy white light burning in the forests of America.
Last summer, a Mr.
Norris was drinking at a bar in San Francisco.
It was Sunday night and he'd had six or seven.
Turning to the guy on the next stool, he said, "What are you up to?" "Just having a few, " the guy said.
"That's what I'm doing, " Mr.
Norris said.
"I like it.
" "I know what you mean, " the guy said.
"I had to lay off for a couple years.
I'm just starting up again.
" "What was wrong?" Mr.
Norris said.
"I had a hole in my liver, " the guy said.
"In your liver?" "Yeah, the doctor said it was big enough to wave a flag in.
It's better now.
I can have a couple once in a while.
I'm not supposed to, but it won't kill me.
" "Well, I'm thirty-two years old, " Mr.
Norris said.
"I've had three wives and I can't remember the names of my child- ren.
" The guy on the next stool, like a bird on the next island, took a sip from his Scotch and soda.
The guy liked the sound of the alcohol in his drink.
He put the glass back on the bar.
"That's no problem, " he said to Mr.
"The best thing I know for remembering the names of children from previous marriages, is to go out camping, try a little trout fishing.
Trout fishing is one of the best things in the world for remembering children's names.
" "Is that right?" Mr.
Norris said.
"Yeah, " the guy said.
"That sounds like an idea, " Mr.
Norris said.
"I've got to do something.
Sometimes I think one of them is named Carl, but that's impossible.
My third-ex hated the name Carl.
" "You try some camping and that trout fishing, " the guy on the next stool said.
"And you'll remember the names of Your unborn children.
" "Carl! Carl! Your mother wants you!" Mr.
Norris yelled as a kind of joke, then he realized that it wasn't very funny.
He was getting there.
He'd have a couple more and then his head would always fall forward and hit the bar like a gunshot.
He'd always miss his glass, so he wouldn't cut his face.
His head would always jump up and look startled around the bar, people staring at it.
He'd get up then, and take it home.
The next morning Mr.
Norris went down to a sporting goods store and charged his equipment.
He charged a 9 x 9 foot dry finish tent with an aluminum center pole.
Then he charged an Arctic sleeping bag filled with eiderdown and an air mattress and an air pillow to go with the sleeping bag.
He also charged an air alarm clock to go along with the idea of night and waking in the morning.
He charged a two-burner Coleman stove and a Coleman lantern and a folding aluminum table and a big set of inter- locking aluminum cookware and a portable ice box.
The last things he charged were his fishing tackle and a bottle of insect repellent.
He left the next day for the mountains.
Hours later, when he arrived in the mountains, the first sixteen campgrounds he stopped at were filled with people.
He was a little surprised.
He had no idea the mountains would be so crowded.
At the seventeenth campground, a man had just died of a heart attack and the ambulance attendants were taking down his tent.
They lowered the center pole and then pulled up the corner stakes.
They folded the tent neatly and put it in the back of the ambulance, right beside the man's body.
They drove off down the road, leaving behind them in the air, a cloud of brilliant white dust.
The dust looked like the light from a Coleman lantern.
Norris pitched his tent right there and set up all his equipment and soon had it all going at once.
After he finished eating a dehydrated beef Stroganoff dinner, he turned off all his equipment with the master air switch and went to sleep, for it was now dark.
It was about midnight when they brought the body and placed it beside the tent, less than a foot away from where Mr.
Norris was sleeping in his Arctic sleeping bag.
He was awakened when they brought the body.
They weren't exactly the quietest body bringers in the world.
Norris could see the bulge of the body against the side of the tent.
The only thing that separated him from the dead body was a thin layer of 6 oz.
water resistant and mildew resistant DRY FINISH green AMERIFLEX poplin.
Norris un-zipped his sleeping bag and went outside with a gigantic hound-like flashlight.
He saw the body bring- ers walking down the path toward the creek.
"Hey, you guys !" Mr.
Norris shouted.
"Come back here.
You forgot something.
" "What do you mean?" one of them said.
They both looked very sheepish, caught in the teeth of the flashlight.
"You know what I mean," Mr.
Norris said.
"Right now!" The body bringers shrugged their shoulders, looked at each other and then reluctantly went back, dragging their feet like children all the way.
They picked up the body.
It was heavy and one of them had trouble getting hold of the feet.
That one said, kind of hopelessly to Mr.
Norris, "You won't change your mind?" "Goodnight and good-bye, " Mr.
Norris said.
They went off down the path toward the creek, carrying the body between them.
Norris turned his flashlight off and he could hear them, stumbling over the rocks along the bank of the creek.
He could hear them swearing at each other.
He heard one of them say, "Hold your end up.
'' Then he couldn't hear anything.
About ten minutes later he saw all sorts of lights go on at another campsite down along the creek.
He heard a distant voice shouting, "The answer is no ! You already woke up the kids.
They have to have their rest.
We're going on a four- mile hike tomorrow up to Fish Konk Lake.
Try someplace else.

by Edgar Bowers |


 The angel of self-discipline, her guardian
Since she first knew and had to go away
From home that spring to have her child with strangers,
Sustained her, till the vanished boy next door
And her ordeal seemed fiction, and the true
Her mother’s firm insistence she was the mother
And the neighbors’ acquiescence.
So she taught school, Walking a mile each way to ride the street car— First books of the Aeneid known by heart, French, and the French Club Wednesday afternoon; Then summer replacement typist in an office, Her sister’s family moving in with them, Depression years and she the only earner.
Saturday, football game and opera broadcasts, Sunday, staying at home to wash her hair, The Business Women’s Circle Monday night, And, for a treat, birthdays and holidays, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald.
The young blond sister long since gone to college, Nephew and nieces gone, her mother dead, Instead of Caesar, having to teach First Aid, The students rowdy, she retired.
The rent For the empty rooms she gave to Thornwell Orphanage, Unwed Mothers, Temperance, and Foster Parents And never bought the car she meant to buy; Too blind at last to do much more than sit All day in the antique glider on the porch Listening to cars pass up and down the street.
Each summer, on the grass behind the house— Cape jasmine, with its scent of August nights Humid and warm, the soft magnolia bloom Marked lightly by a slow brown stain—she spread, For airing, the same small intense collection, Concert programs, worn trophies, years of yearbooks, Letters from schoolgirl chums, bracelets of hair And the same picture: black hair in a bun, Puzzled eyes in an oval face as young Or old as innocence, skirt to the ground, And, seated on the high school steps, the class, The ones to whom she would have said, “Seigneur, Donnez-nous la force de supporter La peine,” as an example easy to remember, Formal imperative, object first person plural.