Time of the Missile

By George Oppen 1908–1984 George Oppen
I remember a square of New York’s Hudson River glinting between warehouses.
Difficult to approach the water below the pier
Swirling, covered with oil the ship at the pier
A steel wall: tons in the water,

The hand for holding,
Legs for walking,
The eye sees! It floods in on us from here to Jersey tangled in the grey bright air!

Become the realm of nations.

My love, my love,
We are endangered
Totally at last. Look
Anywhere to the sight’s limit: space   
Which is viviparous:

Place of the mind
And eye. Which can destroy us,   
Re-arrange itself, assert
Its own stone chain reaction.

George Oppen, “Time of the Missile” from New Collected Poems. Copyright © 1962 by George 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

 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

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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