Dream Song 29

By John Berryman 1914–1972 John Berryman
There sat down, once, a thing on Henry’s heart   
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time   
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry’s ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind   
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,   
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;   
thinking.

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody’s missing.   
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

John Berryman, Dream Song 29 from The Dream Songs. Copyright © 1969 by John Berryman, renewed 1997 by Kate Donahur Berryman. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: The Dream Songs (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1991)

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Poet John Berryman 1914–1972

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Life Choices, The Body, The Mind

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Persona, Series/Sequence

 John  Berryman

Biography

A scholar and professor as well as a poet, John Berryman is best-known for The Dream Songs, an intensely personal sequence of 385 poems which brought him the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. In these he invented a style and form able to accommodate a vast range of material while expressing his turbulent emotions.

Born John Smith in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1914, Berryman suffered a great loss at 12 when his father shot . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Life Choices, The Body, The Mind

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Persona, Series/Sequence

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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