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, a prominent American poet, was one of the chief exponents of Objectivism, a school of poetry that emphasized simplicity and clarity over formal structure and rhyme. Born in 1908 to a wealth family and expelled from a high school military academy, Oppen and his wife Mary travelled across the country, finding work wherever they could, until he received a small inheritance at 21. With these funds, the couple moved to . . .

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SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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