October 21, 2016

William Carlos Williams, "The pure products of America / go crazy" from Spring and all (1923)

The pure products of America
go crazy--

mountain folk from Kentucky
or the ribbed north end of
with its isolate lakes and

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
old names
and promiscuity between

devil-may-care men who have taken
to railroading
out of sheer lust of adventure--

and young slatterns, bathed
in filth
from Monday to Saturday

to be tricked out that night
with gauds
from imaginations which have no

peasant traditions to give them
but flutter and flaunt

sheer rags succumbing without
save numbed terror

under some hedge of choke-cherry
or viburnum--
which they cannot express--

Unless it be that marriage
with a dash of Indian blood

will throw up a girl so desolate
so hemmed round
with disease or murder

that she'll be rescued by an
reared by the state and

sent out at fifteen to work in
some hard-pressed
house in the suburbs--

some doctor's family, some Elsie
voluptuous water
expressing with broken

brain the truth about us--
her great
ungainly hips and flopping breasts

addressed to cheap
and rich young men with fine eyes

as if the earth under our feet
an excrement of some sky

and we degraded prisoners
to hunger until we eat filth

while the imagination strains
after deer
going by fields of goldenrod in

the stifling heat of September
it seems to destroy us

It is only in isolate flecks that
is given off

No one
to witness
and adjust, no one to drive the car

Posted by gerardvanderleun at October 21, 2016 9:51 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Yowzers. Now he could write.

Posted by: pbird at October 21, 2016 10:16 AM

Wow coincidences abound. I learned that poem at a college in New York in the 1970's and bought a volume of poetry last week because it was in it. The class was called "America Observed". It was a survey of life in post Viet Nam, Watergate obsessed America. I was feeling it, just out of drug rehab, listening to Steely Dan summing up my days with the line "just when I spent the last piastre I could borrow". Thanks Gerard, you got your finger on the pulse of these strange days.

Posted by: bill at October 21, 2016 2:08 PM


Posted by: My Shari'a Moor at October 21, 2016 5:31 PM