Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]

By Charles Olson 1910–1970 Charles Olson
I come back to the geography of it,
the land falling off to the left
where my father shot his scabby golf
and the rest of us played baseball
into the summer darkness until no flies
could be seen and we came home
to our various piazzas where the women

To the left the land fell to the city,
to the right, it fell to the sea

I was so young my first memory
is of a tent spread to feed lobsters
to Rexall conventioneers, and my father,
a man for kicks, came out of the tent roaring
with a bread-knife in his teeth to take care of
the druggist they’d told him had made a pass at
my mother, she laughing, so sure, as round
as her face, Hines pink and apple,
under one of those frame hats women then

This, is no bare incoming
of novel abstract form, this

is no welter or the forms
of those events, this,

Greeks, is the stopping
of the battle

               It is the imposing
of all those antecedent predecessions, the precessions

of me, the generation of those facts
which are my words, it is coming

from all that I no longer am, yet am,
the slow westward motion of

more than I am

There is no strict personal order

for my inheritance.

                     No Greek will be able

to discriminate my body.

                        An American

is a complex of occasions,

themselves a geometry

of spatial nature.

           I have this sense,

that I am one

with my skin

             Plus this—plus this:

that forever the geography

which leans in

on me I compell

backwards I compell Gloucester

to yield, to



is this

Charles Olson, “Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]” from The Maximus Poems. Copyright © 1968 by Charles Olson. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Charles Olson.

Source: The Maximus Poems (University of California Press, 1985)


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Poet Charles Olson 1910–1970

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Living, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries