Classics  
William Carlos Williams, also known as WCW, was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine. Williams "worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician," wrote biographer Linda Wagner-Martin; but during his long lifetime, ... Read more
William Carlos Williams, also known as WCW, was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine. Williams "worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician," wrote biographer Linda Wagner-Martin; but during his long lifetime, ... Read more

I feel the caress of my own fingers
on my own neck as I place my collar
and think pityingly
of the kind women I have known.

Pink confused with white
flowers and flowers reversed
take and spill the shaded flame
darting it back
into the lamp’s horn

petals aslant darkened with mauve

red where in whorls
petal lays its glow upon petal
round flamegreen throats

petals radiant with transpiercing light
contending
              above
the leaves
reaching up their modest green
from the pot’s rim

and there, wholly dark, the pot
gay with rough moss.

In passing with my mind
on nothing in the world

but the right of way
I enjoy on the road by

virtue of the law—
I saw

an elderly man who
smiled and looked away

to the north past a house—
a woman in blue

who was laughing and
leaning forward to look up

into the man’s half
averted face

and a boy of eight who was
looking at the middle of

the man’s belly
at a watchchain—

The supreme importance
of this nameless spectacle

sped me by them
without a word—

Why bother where I went?
for I went spinning on the

four wheels of my car
along the wet road until

I saw a girl with one leg
over the rail of a balcony

Yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow!
It is not a color.
It is summer!
It is the wind on a willow,
the lap of waves, the shadow
under a bush, a bird, a bluebird,
three herons, a dead hawk
rotting on a pole—
Clear yellow!
It is a piece of blue paper
in the grass or a threecluster of
green walnuts swaying, children
playing croquet or one boy
fishing, a man
swinging his pink fists
as he walks—
It is ladysthumb, forget-me-nots
in the ditch, moss under
the flange of the carrail, the
wavy lines in split rock, a
great oaktree—
It is a disinclination to be
five red petals or a rose, it is
a cluster of birdsbreast flowers
on a red stem six feet high,
four open yellow petals
above sepals curled
backward into reverse spikes—
Tufts of purple grass spot the
green meadow and clouds the sky.

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

Ecstatic bird songs pound
the hollow vastness of the sky
with metallic clinkings—
beating color up into it
at a far edge,—beating it, beating it
with rising, triumphant ardor,—
stirring it into warmth,
quickening in it a spreading change,—
bursting wildly against it as
dividing the horizon, a heavy sun
lifts himself—is lifted—
bit by bit above the edge
of things,—runs free at last
out into the open—!lumbering
glorified in full release upward—
                              songs cease.

An old willow with hollow branches
slowly swayed his few high gright tendrils
and sang:

Love is a young green willow
shimmering at the bare wood’s edge.

And yet one arrives somehow,
finds himself loosening the hooks of
her dress
in a strange bedroom—
feels the autumn
dropping its silk and linen leaves
about her ankles.
The tawdry veined body emerges
twisted upon itself
like a winter wind . . . !

You sullen pig of a man
you force me into the mud
with your stinking ash-cart!
Brother!
            —if we were rich
we’d stick our chests out
and hold our heads high!
It is dreams that have destroyed us.
There is no more pride
in horses or in rein holding.
We sit hunched together brooding
our fate.

                Well—
all things turn bitter in the end
whether you choose the right or
the left way
                            and—
dreams are not a bad thing.

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine—
like no leaf that ever was—
edge the bare garden.

The dayseye hugging the earth
in August, ha!  Spring is
gone down in purple,
weeds stand high in the corn,
the rainbeaten furrow
is clotted with sorrel
and crabgrass, the
branch is black under
the heavy mass of the leaves—
The sun is upon a
slender green stem
ribbed lengthwise.
He lies on his back—
it is a woman also—
he regards his former
majesty and
round the yellow center,
split and creviced and done into
minute flowerheads, he sends out
his twenty rays— a little
and the wind is among them
to grow cool there!

One turns the thing over
in his hand and looks
at it from the rear:  brownedged,
green and pointed scales
armor his yellow.

But turn and turn,
the crisp petals remain
brief, translucent, greenfastened,
barely touching at the edges:
blades of limpid seashell.

By constantly tormenting them
with reminders of the lice in
their children’s hair, the
School Physician first
brought their hatred down on him.
But by this familiarity
they grew used to him, and so,
at last,
took him for their friend and adviser.

Of death
the barber
the barber
talked to me

cutting my
life with
sleep to trim
my hair—

It’s just
a moment
he said, we die
every night—

And of
the newest
ways to grow
hair on

bald death—
I told him
of the quartz
lamp

and of old men
with third
sets of teeth
to the cue

of an old man
who said
at the door—
Sunshine today!

for which
death shaves
him twice
a week

School is over.  It is too hot
to walk at ease.  At ease
in light frocks they walk the streets
to while the time away.
They have grown tall.  They hold
pink flames in their right hands.
In white from head to foot,
with sidelong, idle look—
in yellow, floating stuff,
black sash and stockings—
touching their avid mouths
with pink sugar on a stick—
like a carnation each holds in her hand—
they mount the lonely street.

Snow:
years of anger following
hours that float idly down—
the blizzard
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh?  Then
the sun!  a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes—
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there—
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.

Sweep the house clean,
hang fresh curtains
in the windows
put on a new dress
and come with me!
The elm is scattering
its little loaves
of sweet smells
from a white sky!
Who shall hear of us
in the time to come?
Let him say there was
a burst of fragrance
from black branches.

It’s a strange courage
you give me ancient star:

Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part!

Yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow!
It is not a color.
It is summer!
It is the wind on a willow,
the lap of waves, the shadow
under a bush, a bird, a bluebird,
three herons, a dead hawk
rotting on a pole—
Clear yellow!
It is a piece of blue paper
in the grass or a threecluster of
green walnuts swaying, children
playing croquet or one boy
fishing, a man
swinging his pink fists
as he walks—
It is ladysthumb, forget-me-nots
in the ditch, moss under
the flange of the carrail, the
wavy lines in split rock, a
great oaktree—
It is a disinclination to be
five red petals or a rose, it is
a cluster of birdsbreast flowers
on a red stem six feet high,
four open yellow petals
above sepals curled
backward into reverse spikes—
Tufts of purple grass spot the
green meadow and clouds the sky.

All this —
               was for you, old woman.
I wanted to write a poem
that you would understand.
For what good is it to me
if you can’t understand it?
                   But you got to try hard —
But —
        Well, you know how
the young girls run giggling
on Park Avenue after dark
when they ought to be home in bed?
Well,
that’s the way it is with me somehow.

— and from basement entries
neatly coiffed, middle aged gentlemen
with orderly moustaches and
well-brushed coats

 
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