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Best Famous odore Roethke Poems

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Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem


 This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones I feel it --
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out, Slippery as fish, I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.

Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

Elegy For Jane

 (My student, thrown by a horse)

I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,

A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her; The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing, And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.
Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth, Even a father could not find her: Scraping her cheek against straw, Stirring the clearest water.
My sparrow, you are not here, Waiting like a fern, making a spiney shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me, Nor the moss, wound with the last light.
If only I could nudge you from this sleep, My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love: I, with no rights in this matter, Neither father nor lover.
Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

The Geranium

 When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine--
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.
) The things she endured!-- The dumb dames shrieking half the night Or the two of us, alone, both seedy, Me breathing booze at her, She leaning out of her pot toward the window.
Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me-- And that was scary-- So when that snuffling cretin of a maid Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can, I said nothing.
But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week, I was that lonely.
Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

The Far Field


I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.
II At the field's end, in the corner missed by the mower, Where the turf drops off into a grass-hidden culvert, Haunt of the cat-bird, nesting-place of the field-mouse, Not too far away from the ever-changing flower-dump, Among the tin cans, tires, rusted pipes, broken machinery, -- One learned of the eternal; And in the shrunken face of a dead rat, eaten by rain and ground-beetles (I found in lying among the rubble of an old coal bin) And the tom-cat, caught near the pheasant-run, Its entrails strewn over the half-grown flowers, Blasted to death by the night watchman.
I suffered for young birds, for young rabbits caught in the mower, My grief was not excessive.
For to come upon warblers in early May Was to forget time and death: How they filled the oriole's elm, a twittering restless cloud, all one morning, And I watched and watched till my eyes blurred from the bird shapes, -- Cape May, Blackburnian, Cerulean, -- Moving, elusive as fish, fearless, Hanging, bunched like young fruit, bending the end branches, Still for a moment, Then pitching away in half-flight, Lighter than finches, While the wrens bickered and sang in the half-green hedgerows, And the flicker drummed from his dead tree in the chicken-yard.
-- Or to lie naked in sand, In the silted shallows of a slow river, Fingering a shell, Thinking: Once I was something like this, mindless, Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar; Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire; Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log, Believing: I'll return again, As a snake or a raucous bird, Or, with luck, as a lion.
I learned not to fear infinity, The far field, the windy cliffs of forever, The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow, The wheel turning away from itself, The sprawl of the wave, The on-coming water.
II The river turns on itself, The tree retreats into its own shadow.
I feel a weightless change, a moving forward As of water quickening before a narrowing channel When banks converge, and the wide river whitens; Or when two rivers combine, the blue glacial torrent And the yellowish-green from the mountainy upland, -- At first a swift rippling between rocks, Then a long running over flat stones Before descending to the alluvial plane, To the clay banks, and the wild grapes hanging from the elmtrees.
The slightly trembling water Dropping a fine yellow silt where the sun stays; And the crabs bask near the edge, The weedy edge, alive with small snakes and bloodsuckers, -- I have come to a still, but not a deep center, A point outside the glittering current; My eyes stare at the bottom of a river, At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains, My mind moves in more than one place, In a country half-land, half-water.
I am renewed by death, thought of my death, The dry scent of a dying garden in September, The wind fanning the ash of a low fire.
What I love is near at hand, Always, in earth and air.
IV The lost self changes, Turning toward the sea, A sea-shape turning around, -- An old man with his feet before the fire, In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.
All finite things reveal infinitude: The mountain with its singular bright shade Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow, The after-light upon ice-burdened pines; Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope, A scent beloved of bees; Silence of water above a sunken tree : The pure serene of memory in one man, -- A ripple widening from a single stone Winding around the waters of the world.
Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

Epidermal Macabre

 Indelicate is he who loathes
The aspect of his fleshy clothes, --
The flying fabric stitched on bone,
The vesture of the skeleton,
The garment neither fur nor hair,
The cloak of evil and despair,
The veil long violated by
Caresses of the hand and eye.
Yet such is my unseemliness: I hate my epidermal dress, The savage blood's obscenity, The rags of my anatomy, And willingly would I dispense With false accouterments of sense, To sleep immodestly, a most Incarnadine and carnal ghost.

Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

The Reckoning

 All profits disappear: the gain
Of ease, the hoarded, secret sum;
And now grim digits of old pain
Return to litter up our home.
We hunt the cause of ruin, add, Subtract, and put ourselves in pawn; For all our scratching on the pad, We cannot trace the error down.
What we are seeking is a fare One way, a chance to be secure: The lack that keeps us what we are, The penny that usurps the poor.
Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem


 I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions, Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica, Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium, Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows, Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.
Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

In A Dark Time

 In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What's madness but nobility of soul At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire! I know the purity of pure despair, My shadow pinned against a sweating wall, That place among the rocks--is it a cave, Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences! A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon, And in broad day the midnight come again! A man goes far to find out what he is-- Death of the self in a long, tearless night, All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly, Keeps buzzing at the sill.
Which I is I? A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind, And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

Night Journey

 Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace, A suddenness of trees, A lap of mountain mist All cross my line of sight, Then a bleak wasted place, And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel The straining at a curve; My muscles move with steel, I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing From dark to blazing bright; We thunder through ravines And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass Mist deepens on the pane; We rush into a rain That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone, The pistons jerk and shove, I stay up half the night To see the land I love.
Written by Theodore Roethke | Create an image from this poem

The Saginaw Song

 In Saginaw, in Saginaw,
 The wind blows up your feet,
When the ladies' guild puts on a feed,
 There's beans on every plate,
And if you eat more than you should,
 Destruction is complete.
Out Hemlock Way there is a stream That some have called Swan Creek; The turtles have bloodsucker sores, And mossy filthy feet; The bottoms of migrating ducks Come off it much less neat.
In Saginaw, in Saginaw, Bartenders think no ill; But they've ways of indicating when You are not acting well: They throw you through the front plate glass And then send you the bill.
The Morleys and the Burrows are The aristocracy; A likely thing for they're no worse Than the likes of you or me,— A picture window's one you can't Raise up when you would pee.
In Shaginaw, in Shaginaw I went to Shunday Shule; The only thing I ever learned Was called the Golden Rhule,— But that's enough for any man What's not a proper fool.
I took the pledge cards on my bike; I helped out with the books; The stingy members when they signed Made with their stingy looks,— The largest contributors came From the town's biggest crooks.
In Saginaw, in Saginaw, There's never a household fart, For if it did occur, It would blow the place apart,— I met a woman who could break wind And she is my sweet-heart.
O, I'm the genius of the world,— Of that you can be sure, But alas, alack, and me achin' back, I'm often a drunken boor; But when I die—and that won't be soon— I'll sing with dear Tom Moore, With that lovely man, Tom Moore.
Coda: My father never used a stick, He slapped me with his hand; He was a Prussian through and through And knew how to command; I ran behind him every day He walked our greenhouse land.
I saw a figure in a cloud, A child upon her breast, And it was O, my mother O, And she was half-undressed, All women, O, are beautiful When they are half-undressed.