Wystan Hugh (W H) Auden |
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
And the international wrong.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
G K Chesterton |
For the Creche
Form 8277059, Sub-Section K
I remember my mother, the day that we met,
A thing I shall never entirely forget;
And I toy with the fancy that, young as I am,
I should know her again if we met in a tram.
But mother is happy in turning a crank
That increases the balance in somebody's bank;
And I feel satisfaction that mother is free
From the sinister task of attending to me.
They have brightened our room, that is spacious and cool,
With diagrams used in the Idiot School,
And Books for the Blind that will teach us to see;
But mother is happy, for mother is free.
For mother is dancing up forty-eight floors,
For love of the Leeds International Stores,
And the flame of that faith might perhaps have grown cold,
With the care of a baby of seven weeks old.
For mother is happy in greasing a wheel
For somebody else, who is cornering Steel;
And though our one meeting was not very long,
She took the occasion to sing me this song:
"O, hush thee, my baby, the time will soon come
When thy sleep will be broken with hooting and hum;
There are handles want turning and turning all day,
And knobs to be pressed in the usual way;
O, hush thee, my baby, take rest while I croon,
For Progress comes early, and Freedom too soon.
Philip Levine |
Rain filled the streets
once a year, rising almost
to door and window sills,
battering walls and roofs
until it cleaned away the mess
My father told
me this, he told me it ran
downtown and spilled into
the river, which in turn
emptied finally into the sea.
He said this only once
while I sat on the arm
of his chair and stared out
at the banks of gray snow
melting as the March rain
All the rest
of that day passed on
into childhood, into nothing,
or perhaps some portion hung
on in a tiny corner of thought.
Perhaps a clot of cinders
that peppered the front yard
clung to a spar of old weed
or the concrete lip of the curb
and worked its way back under
the new growth spring brought
and is a part of that yard
Perhaps light falling
on distant houses becomes
those houses, hunching them
down at dusk like sheep
browsing on a far hillside,
or at daybreak gilds
the roofs until they groan
under the new weight, or
after rain lifts haloes
of steam from the rinsed,
white aluminum siding,
and those houses and all
they contain live that day
in the sight of heaven.
In the blue, winking light
of the International Institute
of Social Revolution
I fell asleep one afternoon
over a book of memoirs
of a Spanish priest who'd
served his own private faith
in a long forgotten war.
An Anarchist and a Catholic,
his remembrances moved
inexplicably from Castilian
to Catalan, a language I
fine and gray, peculiar
to libraries, slipped
between the glossy pages
and my sight, a slow darkness
calmed me, and I forgot
the agony of those men
I'd come to love, forgot
the battles lost and won,
forgot the final trek
over hopeless mountain roads,
defeat, surrender, the vows
to live on.
I slept until
the lights came on and off.
A girl was prodding my arm,
for the place was closing.
A slender Indonesian girl
in sweater and American jeans,
her black hair falling
almost to my eyes, she told
me in perfect English
that I could come back,
and she swept up into a folder
the yellowing newspaper stories
and photos spilled out before
me on the desk, the little
chronicles of death themselves
curling and blurring
into death, and took away
the book still unfinished
of a man more confused
even than I, and switched off
the light, and left me alone.
In June of 1975 I wakened
one late afternoon in Amsterdam
in a dim corner of a library.
I had fallen asleep over a book
and was roused by a young girl
whose hand lay on my hand.
I turned my head up and stared
into her brown eyes, deep
She was crying.
For a second I was confused
and started to speak, to offer
some comfort or aid, but I
kept still, for she was crying
for me, for the knowledge
that I had wakened to a life
in which loss was final.
I closed my eyes a moment.
When I opened them she'd gone,
the place was dark.
out into the golden sunlight;
the cobbled streets gleamed
as after rain, the street cafes
crowded and alive.
far off the great bell
of the Westerkirk tolled
in the early evening.
of my oldest son, who years
before had sailed from here
into an unknown life in Sweden,
a life which failed, of how
he'd gone alone to Copenhagen,
Bremen, where he'd loaded trains,
Hamburg, Munich, and finally
-- sick and weary -- he'd returned
He slept in a corner
of the living room for days,
and woke gaunt and quiet,
still only seventeen, his face
in its own shadows.
of my father on the run
from an older war, and wondered
had he passed through Amsterdam,
had he stood, as I did now,
gazing up at the pale sky,
distant and opaque, for the sign
that never comes.
Had he drifted
in the same winds of doubt
and change to another continent,
another life, a family, some
years of peace, an early death.
I walked on by myself for miles
and still the light hung on
as though the day would
The gray canals
darkened slowly, the sky
above the high, narrow houses
deepened into blue, and one
by one the stars began
their singular voyages.
Allen Ginsberg |
Oil brown smog over Denver
Oil red dung colored smoke
level to level across the horizon
blue tainted sky above
Oil car smog gasoline
hazing red Denver's day
December bare trees
sticking up from housetop streets
Plane lands rumbling, planes rise over
radar wheels, black smoke
drifts from tailfins
Oil millions of cars speeding the cracked plains
Oil from Texas, Bahrein, Venezuela Mexico
Oil that turns General Motors
revs up Ford
lights up General Electric, oil that crackles
thru International Business Machine computers,
charges dynamos for ITT
runs thru Amer Telephone & Telegraph wires
Oil that flows thru Exxon New Jersey hoses,
rings in Mobil gas tank cranks, rumbles
shoots thru Texaco pipelines
blackens ocean from broken Gulf tankers
spills onto Santa Barbara beaches from
Standard of California derricks offshore.
Allen Ginsberg |
To Struga Festival Golden Wreath Laureates
& International Bards 1986
Stand up against governments, against God.
Say only what we know & imagine.
Absolutes are coercion.
Change is absolute.
Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions.
Observe what's vivid.
Notice what you notice.
Catch yourself thinking.
Vividness is self-selecting.
If we don't show anyone, we're free to write anything.
Remember the future.
Advise only yourself.
Don't drink yourself to death.
Two molecules clanking against each other requires an observer to become
The measuring instrument determines the appearance of the phenomenal
world after Einstein.
The universe is subjective.
Walt Whitman celebrated Person.
We Are an observer, measuring instrument, eye, subject, Person.
Universe is person.
Inside skull vast as outside skull.
Mind is outer space.
"Each on his bed spoke to himself alone, making no sound.
First thought, best thought.
Mind is shapely, Art is shapely.
Maximum information, minimum number of syllables.
Syntax condensed, sound is solid.
Intense fragments of spoken idiom, best.
Consonants around vowels make sense.
Savor vowels, appreciate consonants.
Subject is known by what she sees.
Others can measure their vision by what we see.
Candor ends paranoia.
June 25, 1986
Alice Walker |
When Golda Meir
Was in Africa
She shook out her hair
And combed it
Everywhere she went.
According to her autobiography
Africans loved this.
In Russia, Minneapolis, London, Washington, D.
Germany, Palestine, Tel Aviv and
She never combed at all.
There was no point.
Places people said, "She looks like
Any other aging grandmother.
Like a troll.
Let's sell her cookery
"Kreplach your cookery," said Golda.
Only in Africa could she finally
Settle down and comb her hair.
The children crept up and stroked it,
And she felt beautiful.
Such wonderful people, Africans
Childish, arrogant, self-indulgent, pompous,
Cowardly and treacherous-a great disappointment
To Israel, of course, and really rather
Ridiculous in international affairs
But, withal, opined Golda, a people of charm
And good taste.
Allen Ginsberg |
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand
and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is
holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is
holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is
holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy
Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cas-
sady holy the unknown buggered and suffering
beggars holy the hideous human angels!
Holy my mother in the insane asylum! Holy the cocks
of the grandfathers of Kansas!
Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop
apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana
hipsters peace & junk & drums!
Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements! Holy
the cafeterias filled with the millions! Holy the
mysterious rivers of tears under the streets!
Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the
middle class! Holy the crazy shepherds of rebell-
ion! Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles!
Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria &
Seattle Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow
Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time holy the
clocks in space holy the fourth dimension holy
the fifth International holy the Angel in Moloch!
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the
locomotive holy the visions holy the hallucina-
tions holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours!
bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent
kindness of the soul!
David Herbert Lawrence |
If you make a revolution, make it for fun,
don't make it in ghastly seriousness,
don't do it in deadly earnest,
do it for fun.
Don't do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.
Don't do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.
Don't do it for equality,
do it because we've got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.
Don't do it for the working classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.
Don't do it, anyhow, for international Labour.
Labour is the one thing a man has had too much of.
Let's abolish labour, let's have done with labouring!
Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it's not labour.
Let's have it so! Let's make a revolution for fun!
John Betjeman |
Kind o’er the kinderbank leans my Myfanwy,
White o’er the playpen the sheen of her dress,
Fresh from the bathroom and soft in the nursery
Soap scented fingers I long to caress.
Were you a prefect and head of your dormit'ry?
Were you a hockey girl, tennis or gym?
Who was your favourite? Who had a crush on you?
Which were the baths where they taught you to swim?
Smooth down the Avenue glitters the bicycle,
Black-stockinged legs under navy blue serge,
Home and Colonial, Star, International,
Balancing bicycle leant on the verge.
Trace me your wheel-tracks, you fortunate bicycle,
Out of the shopping and into the dark,
Back down the avenue, back to the pottingshed,
Back to the house on the fringe of the park.
Golden the light on the locks of Myfanwy,
Golden the light on the book on her knee,
Finger marked pages of Rackham's Hans Anderson,
Time for the children to come down to tea.
Oh! Fullers angel-cake, Robertson’s marmalade,
Liberty lampshade, come shine on us all,
My! what a spread for the friends of Myfanwy,
Some in the alcove and some in the hall.
Then what sardines in half-lighted passages!
Locking of fingers in long hide-and-seek.
You will protect me, my silken Myfanwy,
Ring leader, tom-boy, and chum to the weak.
Les Murray |
In the World language, sometimes called
Airport Road, a thinks balloon with a gondola
under it is a symbol for speculation.
Thumbs down to ear and tongue:
World can be written and read, even painted
but not spoken.
People use their own words.
Latin letters are in it for names, for e.
OK and H2S O4, for musical notes,
but mostly it's diagrams: skirt-figure, trousered figure
have escaped their toilet doors.
I (that is, saya,
Ego, watashji wa) am two eyes without pupils;
those aren't seen when you look out through them.
You has both pupils, we has one, and one blank.
Good is thumbs up, thumb and finger zipping lips
Evil is three-cornered snake eyes.
The effort is always to make the symbols obvious:
the bolt of electricity, winged stethoscope of course
for flying doctor.
Prams under fire? Soviet film industry.
Pictographs also shouldn't be too culture-bound:
A heart circled and crossed out surely isn't.
For red, betel spit lost out to ace of diamonds.
Black is the ace of spades.
The kind of spades
reads Union boss, the two is feeble effort.
If is the shorthand Libra sing , the scales.
Spare literal pictures render most nouns and verbs
and computers can draw them faster than Pharaoh's scribes.
A bordello prospectus is as explicit as the action,
but everywhere there's sunflower talk, i.
metaphor, as we've seen.
A figure riding a skyhook
bearing food in one hand is the pictograph for grace,
two animals in a book read Nature, two books
Inside an animal, instinct.
Rice in bowl with chopsticks
Figure 1 lying prone equals other.
Most emotions are mini-faces, and the speech
balloon is ubiquitous.
A bull inside one is dialect
for placards inside one.
Sun and moon together
inside one is poetry.
Sun and moon over palette,
over shoes etc are all art forms — but above
a cracked heart and champagne glass? Riddle that
and you're starting to think in World, whose grammar
is Chinese-terse and fluid.
Who needs the square-
equals-diamond book, the dictionary,to know figures
led by strings to their genitals mean fashion?
just as a skirt beneath a circle meanas demure
or ao similar circle shouldering two arrows is macho.
All peoples are at times cat in water with this language
but it does promote international bird on shoulder.
This foretaste now lays its knife and fork parallel.