In Order To

By Kenneth Patchen 1911–1972 Kenneth Patchen
Apply for the position (I've forgotten now for what) I had   
to marry the Second Mayor's daughter by twelve noon. The   
order arrived three minutes of.

I already had a wife; the Second Mayor was childless: but I   
did it.

Next they told me to shave off my father's beard. All right.   
No matter that he'd been a eunuch, and had succumbed in   
early childhood: I did it, I shaved him.

Then they told me to burn a village; next, a fair-sized town;   
then, a city; a bigger city; a small, down-at-heels country;   
then one of "the great powers"; then another (another, an-
other)—In fact, they went right on until they'd told me to   
burn up every man-made thing on the face of the earth! And   
I did it, I burned away every last trace, I left nothing, nothing   
of any kind whatever.

Then they told me to blow it all to hell and gone! And I blew   
it all to hell and gone (oh, didn't I). . .

Now, they said, put it back together again; put it all back the   
way it was when you started.

Well. . . it was my turn then to tell them something! Shucks,   
I didn't want any job that bad.

Kenneth Patchen, “In Order To” from Collected Poems. Copyright 1954 by Kenneth Patchen. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1957)

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Poet Kenneth Patchen 1911–1972


Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries

 Kenneth  Patchen


Largely a self-taught writer, Kenneth Patchen never appeared to win widespread recognition from the professors at universities or many literary critics. As the New York Times Book Review noted, "While some critics tended to dismiss his work as naive, romantic, capricious and concerned often with the social problems of the 1930's, others found him a major voice in American poetry.... Even the most generous praise was usually . . .

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SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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