from Discrete Series: "Town, a town ..."

By George Oppen 1908–1984 George Oppen
Town, a town,
But location
Over which the sun as it comes to it;   
Which cools, houses and lamp-posts,
    during the night, with the roads—
Inhabited partly by those
Who have been born here,
Houses built—. From a train one sees
    him in the morning, his morning;   
Him in the afternoon, straightening—
People everywhere, time and the work
One moves between reading and re-reading,   
The shape is a moment.
From a crowd a white powdered face,   
Eyes and mouth making three—
Awaited—locally—a date.


Near your eyes—
Love at the pelvis
Reaches the generic, gratuitous
                   (Your eyes like snail-tracks)

Parallel emotions,
We slide in separate hard grooves   
Bowstrings to bent loins,
                     Self moving
Moon, mid-air.


Your spiral women   
By a fountain


Your picture lasts thru us

                  its air
Thick with succession of civilizations;   
And the women.


No interval of manner
Your body in the sun.
You? A solid, this that the dress
Your face unaccented, your mouth a mouth?   
                        Practical knees:
It is you who truly
Excel the vegetable,
The fitting of grasses—more bare than   
Pointedly bent, your elbow on a car-edge   
Incognito as summer
Among mechanics.


‘O city ladies’
Your coats wrapped,   
Your hips a possession

Your shoes arched   
Your walk is sharp

Your breasts
         Pertain to lingerie

The fields are road-sides,   
Rooms outlast you.


Bad times:
The cars pass
By the elevated posts   
And the movie sign.   
A man sells post-cards.


It brightens up into the branches   
And against the same buildings

A morning:
His job is as regular.

George Oppen, “Town, a town ... (from ‘Discrete Series’)” from New Collected Poems. Copyright © 1985, 2002 by Linda Oppen. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: New Collected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2002)

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Poet George Oppen 1908–1984

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

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 George  Oppen


"George Oppen," wrote Michael Adams in The Dictionary of Literary Biography, "had one of the most unusual careers of any American poet." Oppen was one of the chief exponents of Objectivism, a school of poetry that emphasized simplicity and clarity over formal structure and rhyme. He established the movement with William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukosfky, and other poets in the early 1930s. In 1932 Oppen helped found the . . .

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SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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