Kora in Hell: Improvisations II
Why go further? One might conceivably rectify the rhythm, study all out and arrive at the perfection of a tiger lily or a china doorknob. One might lift all out of the ruck, be a worthy successor to—the man in the moon. Instead of breaking the back of a willing phrase why not try to follow the wheel through—approach death at a walk, take in all the scenery. There’s as much reason one way as the other and then—one never knows—perhaps we’ll bring back Eurydice—this time!
Between two contending forces there may at all times arrive that moment when the stress is equal on both sides so that with a great pushing a great stability results giving a picture of perfect rest. And so it may be that once upon the way the end drives back upon the beginning and a stoppage will occur. At such a time the poet shrinks from the doom that is calling him forgetting the delicate rhythms of perfect beauty, preferring in his mind the gross buffetings of good and evil fortune.
Ay dio! I would say so much were it not for the tunes changing, changing, darting so many ways. One step and the cart’s left you sprawling. Here’s the way! and—you’re hip bogged. And there’s blame of the light too: when eyes are humming birds who’ll tie them with a lead string? But it’s the tunes they want most,—send them skipping out at the tree tops. Whistle then! who’d stop the leaves swarming; curving down the east in their braided jackets? Well enough—but there’s small comfort in naked branches when the heart’s not set that way.
When you hang your clothes on the line you do not expect to see the line broken and them trailing in the mud. Nor would you expect to keep your hands clean by putting them in a dirty pocket. However and of course if you are a market man, fish, cheeses and the like going under your fingers every minute in the hour you would not leave off the business and expect to handle a basket of fine laces without at least mopping yourself on a towel, soiled as it may be. Then how will you expect a fine trickle of words to follow you through the intimacies of this dance without—oh, come let us walk together into the air awhile first. One must be watchman to much secret arrogance before his ways are tuned to these measures. You see there is a dip of the ground between us. You think you can leap up from your gross caresses of these creatures and at a gesture fling it all off and step out in silver to my finger tips. Ah, it is not that I do not wait for you, always! But my sweet fellow—you have broken yourself without purpose, you are—Hark! it is the music! Whence does it come? What! Out of the ground? Is it this that you have been preparing for me? Ha, goodbye, I have a rendezvous in the tips of three birch sisters. Encouragez vos musiciens! Ask them to play faster. I will return—later. Ah you are kind.—and I? must dance with the wind, make my own snow flakes, whistle a contrapuntal melody to my own fugue! Huzza then, this is the dance of the blue moss bank! Huzza then, this is the mazurka of the hollow log! Huzza then, this is the dance of rain in the cold trees.
Source: Imaginations (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1970)
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Poet William Carlos Williams 1883–1963
POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic
SCHOOL / PERIOD Imagist
Poetic Terms Prose Poem
Poems by William Carlos Williams
More poems by William Carlos Williams (24 poems)
- Flowers by the Sea
- It Is a Living Coral
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations XI
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations XIV
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations XXII
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations XXVII
- Love Song
- Queen-Anne’s Lace
- The crowd at the ball game
- The Great Figure
- The Red Wheelbarrow
- The Widow’s Lament in Springtime
- This Is Just To Say
- To a Poor Old Woman
- To Elsie
- Winter Trees