Kora in Hell: Improvisations XIV
The brutal Lord of All will rip us from each other—leave the one to suffer here alone. No need belief in god or hell to postulate that much. The dance: hands touching, leaves touching—eyes looking, clouds rising—lips touching, cheeks touching, arm about . . . Sleep. Heavy head, heavy arm, heavy dream—: Of Ymir’s flesh the earth was made and of his thoughts were all the gloomy clouds created. Oya!
Out of bitterness itself the clear wine of the imagination will be pressed and the dance prosper thereby.
To you! whoever you are, wherever you are! (But I know where you are!) There’s Dürer’s “Nemesis” naked on her sphere over the little town by the river—except she’s too old. There’s a dancing burgess by Tenier and Villon’s maitresse—after he’d gone bald and was skin pocked and toothless: she that had him ducked in the sewage drain. Then there’s that miller’s daughter of “buttocks broad and breastes high.” Something of Nietzsche, something of the good Samaritan, something of the devil himself,—can cut a caper of a fashion, my fashion! Hey you, the dance! Squat. leap. Hips to the left. Chin—ha!—sideways! Stand up, stand up ma bonne! you’ll break my backbone. So again!—and so forth till we’re sweat soaked.
Some fools once were listening to a poet reading his poem. It so happened that the words of the thing spoke of gross matters of the everyday world such as are never much hidden from a quick eye. Out of these semblances, and borrowing certain members from fitting masterpieces of antiquity, the poet began piping up his music, simple fellow, thinking to please his listeners. But they getting the whole matter sadly muddled in their minds made such a confused business of listening that not only were they not pleased at the poet’s exertions but no sooner had he done than they burst out against him with violent imprecations.
It’s all one. Richard worked years to conquer the descending cadence, idiotic sentimentalist. Ha, for happiness! This tore the dress in ribbons from her maid’s back and not spared the nails either; wild anger spit from her pinched eyes! This is the better part. Or a child under a table to be dragged out coughing and biting, eyes glittering evilly. I’ll have it my way! Nothing is any pleasure but misery and brokenness. THIS is the only up-cadence. This is where the secret rolls over and opens its eyes. Bitter words spoken to a child ripple in morning light! Boredom from a bedroom doorway thrills with anticipation! The complaints of an old man dying piecemeal are starling chirrups. Coughs go singing on springtime paths across a field; corruption picks strawberries and slow warping of the mind, blacking the deadly walls—counted and recounted—rolls in the grass and shouts ecstatically. All is solved! The moaning and dull sobbing of infants sets blood tingling and eyes ablaze to listen. Speed sings in the heels at long nights tossing on coarse sheets with bruning sockets staring into the black. Dance! Sing! Coil and uncoil! Whip yourselves about! Shout the deliverance! An old woman has infected her blossomy grand-daughter with a blood illness that every two weeks drives the mother into hidden songs of agony, the pad-footed mirage of creeping death for music. The face muscles keep pace. Then a darting about the compass in a tarantelle that wears flesh from bones. Here is dancing! The mind in tatters. And so the music wistfully takes the lead. Ay de mí, Juana la Loca, reina de España, esa está tu canta, reina mía!
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 (25 poems)
- Flowers by the Sea
- It Is a Living Coral
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations II
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations XI
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations XXII
- Kora in Hell: Improvisations XXVII
- Love Song
- Queen-Anne’s Lace
- Sonnet in Search of an Author
- 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