If It Were Not for You

By Hayden Carruth 1921–2008 Hayden Carruth
Liebe, meine liebe, I had not hoped   
to be so poor

                   The night winds reach   
like the blind breath of the world
in a rhythm without mind, gusting and beating   
as if to destroy us, battering our poverty   
and all the land’s flat and cold and dark
under iron snow

                        the dog leaps in the wind   
barking, maddened with winter, and his voice   
claps again and again down the valley   
like tatters of revolutionary pennants
cry and hemlocks by the brook
stand hunched and downcast with their hands   
in their pockets

Liebe, the world is wild   
and without intention

                               how far
this might be from the night of Christmas   
if it were not for you.

Down the reaching wind
shrieks of starlight bear broken messages
among mountains where shadows plunge
                                                      yet our brightness   
is unwavering
                   Kennst du das land   
wo die zitronen blühn, im dunkeln laub
die goldorangen ... liebe
art thou singing

It is a question partly
of the tree with our stars and partly
of your radiance brought from the land   
where legends flower to this land   
but more than these our bright poverty   
is a house in the wind and a light   
on the mountain

Liebe, our light rekindled
in this remoteness from the other land,
in this dark of the blue mountain where only   
the winds gather
      is what we are for the time that we are   
      what we know for the time that we know

How gravely and sweetly the poor touch in the dark.

Hayden Carruth, “If It Were Not for You” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

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Poet Hayden Carruth 1921–2008

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Love, Relationships, Romantic Love, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Hayden  Carruth


"Now and then a poet comes along whose work ranges across wide and diverse territories of form, attitude, and emotion—yet with the necessary intelligence that belies a deep, lifelong engagement with tradition—so that variance never seems mere experimentation or digression, but improvisation," wrote Midwest Quarterly contributor Matthew Miller. "Hayden Carruth is such an artist."

The National Book Award won by Carruth in 1996 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Relationships, Romantic Love, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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