I could say it’s the happiest period of my life.
We who survived the war and took to wife,
I like to think that ours will be more than another story.
I remember the neck curls, limp and damp as tendrils,
one died, and the soul was wrenched out.
Three limbs, three seasons smashed; well, one to go.
I too, sing America.
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman:
I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils.
Even this late, it happens,
a new volcano has erupted.
At Woodlawn I heard the dead cry.
By the roots of my hair some god got a hold of me,
he lifted up, among the actuaries,
he stared at ruin, ruin stared straight back.
What a grand time was the war.
We have done what we wanted.
the hands were yours, the arms were yours,
your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
Death gallops up the bridge of red railtie girders.
Strange to think of you now, without corsets and eyes.
Say: life is the one-way trip, the one-way flight.
Lay down these words:
They’re waiting to be murdered.
One sound, then the hiss and whir.
The dead are cadmium blue.
White-sided flowers are thrusting up on the hillside,
Necklace of flame, little dropped hearts.
That’s the only image.
I am not a painter, I am a poet,
I attended the burial of all my rosy feelings.
Now, can you see the monument? It is of wood.
It’s so dark now.
My great wars close.
The children go forward with their little satchels,
their faces, safe as an interior,
children picking up our bones.
I study the lives on a leaf: the little.
The world is full of mostly invisible things.
Everyday is a wilderness- no,
it occurs to me now,
life my friends, is boring. We must not say so.
Each line is directly from the Index of First Lines in The Harvard Book of Contemporary American Poetry. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985