Thoughts on One’s Head

By William Meredith 1919–2007 William Meredith

(In Plaster, with a Bronze Wash)

A person is very self-conscious about his head.
It makes one nervous just to know it is cast
In enduring materials, and that when the real one is dead   
The cast one, if nobody drops it or melts it down, will last.

We pay more attention to the front end, where the face is,   
Than to the interesting and involute interior:
The Fissure of Rolando and such queer places
Are parks for the passions and fears and mild hysteria.

The things that go on there! Erotic movies are shown   
To anyone not accompanied by an adult.
The marquee out front maintains a superior tone:   
Documentaries on Sharks and The Japanese Tea Cult.

The fronts of some heads are extravagantly pretty.   
These are the females. Men sometimes blow their tops   
About them, launch triremes, sack a whole city.   
The female head is mounted on rococo props.

Judgment is in the head somewhere; it keeps sums   
Of pleasure and pain and gives belated warning;   
This is the first place everybody comes
With bills, complaints, writs, summons, in the morning.

This particular head, to my certain knowledge
Has been taught to read and write, make love and money,   
Operate cars and airplanes, teach in a college,   
And tell involved jokes, some few extremely funny.

It was further taught to know and to eschew   
Error and sin, which it does erratically.
This is the place the soul calls home just now.   
One dislikes it of course: it is the seat of Me.

William Meredith, “Thoughts on One’s Head” from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by William Meredith. Reprinted with the permission of the author and TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press,

Source: Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems (1997)

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Poet William Meredith 1919–2007

Subjects Painting & Sculpture, The Body, Nature, Arts & Sciences, The Mind

 William  Meredith


Acclaimed poet William Meredith wrote formal, disciplined poetry of cool observation, intelligence, and wit. A Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and later the Poet Laureate Consulate in Poetry to the Library of Congress, Meredith was also a Director and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. His many honors also included the Pulitzer Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the National Book Award and the . . .

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SUBJECT Painting & Sculpture, The Body, Nature, Arts & Sciences, The Mind

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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