The Acts of Youth

By John Wieners 1934–2002 John Wieners
And with great fear I inhabit the middle of the night
What wrecks of the mind await me, what drugs
to dull the senses, what little I have left,
what more can be taken away?

The fear of travelling, of the future without hope
or buoy. I must get away from this place and see
that there is no fear without me: that it is within
unless it be some sudden act or calamity

to land me in the hospital, a total wreck, without
memory again; or worse still, behind bars. If
I could just get out of the country. Some place
where one can eat the lotus in peace.

For in this country it is terror, poverty awaits; or
am I a marked man, my life to be a lesson
or experience to those young who would trod
the same path, without God

unless he be one of justice, to wreak vengeance
on the acts committed while young under un-
due influence or circumstance. Oh I have
always seen my life as drama, patterned

after those who met with disaster or doom.
Is my mind being taken away me.
I have been over the abyss before. What
is that ringing in my ears that tells me

all is nigh, is naught but the roaring of the winter wind.
Woe to those homeless who are out on this night.
Woe to those crimes committed from which we
can walk away unharmed.

So I turn on the light
And smoke rings rise in the air.
Do not think of the future; there is none.
But the formula all great art is made of.

Pain and suffering. Give me the strength
to bear it, to enter those places where the
great animals are caged. And we can live
at peace by their side. A bride to the burden

that no god imposes but knows we have the means
to sustain its force unto the end of our days.
For that is what we are made for; for that
we are created. Until the dark hours are done.

And we rise again in the dawn.
Infinite particles of the divine sun, now
worshipped in the pitches of the night.

John Wieners, "Acts of Youth" from Selected Poems, 1958-1984, published by Black Sparrow Books. Copyright © 1986 by John Wieners.  Reprinted by permission of the John Wieners Literary Trust.

Source: Selected Poems, 1958-1984 (1986)

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Poet John Wieners 1934–2002

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Growing Old, Health & Illness, Life Choices, Midlife, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Nature, Winter, Religion, Faith & Doubt, Social Commentaries, Class

Poetic Terms Free Verse