Dirge

By Kenneth Fearing 1902–1961 Kenneth Fearing
1-2-3 was the number he played but today the number came 3-2-1;
   bought his Carbide at 30 and it went to 29; had the favorite at Bowie but the track was slow—

O, executive type, would you like to drive a floating power, knee-action, silk-upholstered six? Wed a Hollywood star? Shoot the course in 58? Draw to the ace, king, jack?
   O, fellow with a will who won't take no, watch out for three cigarettes on the same, single match; O democratic voter born in August under Mars, beware of liquidated rails—

Denouement to denouement, he took a personal pride in the certain, certain way he lived his own, private life,
   but nevertheless, they shut off his gas; nevertheless, the bank foreclosed; nevertheless, the landlord called; nevertheless, the radio broke,

And twelve o'clock arrived just once too often,
   just the same he wore one gray tweed suit, bought one straw hat, drank one straight Scotch, walked one short step, took one long look, drew one deep breath,
   just one too many,

And wow he died as wow he lived,
   going whop to the office and blooie home to sleep and biff got married and bam had children and oof got fired,
   zowie did he live and zowie did he die,

With who the hell are you at the corner of his casket, and where the hell we going on the right-hand silver knob, and who
the hell cares walking second from the end with an American Beauty wreath from why the hell not,

Very much missed by the circulation staff of the New York Evening Post; deeply, deeply mourned by the B.M.T.,

Wham, Mr. Roosevelt; pow, Sears Roebuck; awk, big dipper; bop, summer rain;
   Bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong.

Kenneth Fearing, "Dirge" from Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems. Published by The Library of America, 2004. Reprinted by the permission of Russell & Volkening, Inc., as agents for the author. Copyright © 1994 by Jubal Fearing and Phoebe Fearing.

Source: Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems (The Library of America, 2004)

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Poet Kenneth Fearing 1902–1961

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Living, Humor & Satire, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Life Choices

Biography

Kenneth Fearing, a well-known proletarian poet of the 1930s, a pulp-magazine writer with several pseudonyms, and a Chicago and New York publicity and editorial writer, turned to writing “psycho-thrillers” in the 1940s and 1950s. His fourth novel The Big Clock (1946) achieved much popularity and was released as a film by Paramount in 1947. Although some scholars now consider Fearing’s main contribution to be in the genre of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Humor & Satire, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Life Choices

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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