(from "The Wanderer: A Rococo Study")

by: William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

      T the first peep of dawn she roused me
      Trembling at those changes the night saw,
      For brooding wretchedly in a corner
      Of the room to which she had taken me--
      Her old eyes glittering fiercely--
      Go! she said and I hurried shivering
      Out into the deserted streets of Paterson.
      That night she came again, hovering
      In rags within the filmy ceiling--
      Great Queen, bless me with your tatters!
      You are blest! Go on!
      Hot for savagery,
      I went sucking the air! Into the city,
      Out again, baffled, on to the mountain!
      Back into the city!
      The subtle! Everywhere the electric!
      A short bread-line before a hitherto empty tea shop:
      No questions--all stood patiently,
      Dominated by one idea: something
      That carried them as they are always wanting to be carried,
      But what is it, I asked those nearest me,
      This thing heretofore unobtainable
      That they seem so clever to have put on now?
      Why since I have failed them can it be anything
      But their own brood? Can it be anything but brutality?
      On that at least they're united! That at least
      Is their bean soup, their calm bread and a few luxuries!
      But in me more sensitive, marvelous old queen,
      It sank deep into the blood, that I rose upon
      The tense air enjoying the dusty fight!
      Heavy wrought drink were the low foreheads,
      The flat heads with the unkempt black or blond hair!
      Below the skirt the ugly legs of the young girls
      Pistons too powerful for delicacy!
      The women's wrists, the men's arms, red,
      Used to heat and cold, to toss quartered beeves
      And barrels and milk cans and crates of fruit!
      Faces all knotted up like burls on oaks,
      Grasping, fox snouted, thick lipped,
      Sagging breasts and protruding stomachs,
      Rasping voices, filthy habits with the hands.
      Nowhere you! Everywhere the electric!
      Ugly, venomous, gigantic!
      Tossing me as a great father his helpless
      Infant till it shriek with ecstasy
      And its eyes roll and its tongue hangs out--!
      I am at peace again, old queen, I listen clearer now.




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