The Chamber

By Michael McClure b. 1932 Michael McClure

for Jack Kerouac 

IN LIGHT ROOM IN DARK HELL IN UMBER IN CHROME,
     I sit feeling the swell of the cloud made about by movement
 
                 of arm leg and tongue. In reflections of gold
           light. Tints and flashes of gold and amber spearing
                     and glinting. Blur glass…blue Glass,
 
             black telephone. Matchflame of violet and flesh
                 seen in the clear bright light. It is not night
 
                and night too. In Hell, there are stars outside.
            And long sounds of cars. Brown shadows on walls
                                       in the light
                           of the room. I sit or stand
 
                 wanting the huge reality of touch and love.
            In the turned room. Remember the long-ago dream
 
          of stuffed animals (owl, fox) in a dark shop. Wanting
             only the purity of clean colors and new shapes
                                     and feelings.
                 I WOULD CRY FOR THEM USELESSLY
 
                   I have ten years left to worship my youth
                      Billy the Kid, Rimbaud, Jean Harlow
  IN DARK HELL IN LIGHT ROOM IN UMBER AND CHROME I
                                                                                            feel the swell of
smoke the drain and flow of motion of exhaustion, the long sounds of cars
                                                                                                     the brown shadows
on the wall. I sit or stand. Caught in the net of glints from corner table to
                                                                                                                       dull plane
from knob to floor, angles of flat light, daggers of beams. Staring at love’s face.
      The telephone in cataleptic light. Marchflames of blue and red seen in the
                                                                                                                            clear grain.
I see myself—ourselves—in Hell without radiance. Reflections that we are.
 
              The long cars make sounds and brown shadows over the wall.
 
                               I am real as you are real whom I speak to.
                   I raise my head, see over the edge of my nose. Look up
 
                    and see that nothing is changed. There is no flash
                            to my eyes. No change to the room.
 
                       Vita Nuova—No! The dead, dead world.
                     The strain of desire is only a heroic gesture.
                       An agony to be so in pain without release
 
                             when love is a word or kiss.

Michael McClure, "The Chamber" from Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2011 by Michael McClure.  Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems (University of California Press, 2011)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Michael McClure b. 1932

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Sorrow & Grieving, Youth, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Elegy, Free Verse

 Michael  McClure

Biography

Beat poet, playwright, novelist, and documentary filmmaker Michael McClure was born in Marysville, Kansas, and raised there and in Seattle. Educated at the University of Wichita, the University of Arizona, and San Francisco State College—where he studied with poet Robert Duncan—he gave his first poetry reading in 1955 alongside Allen Ginsberg.

McClure’s poetry combines spontaneity, typographical experimentation, Buddhist . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Sorrow & Grieving, Youth, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Elegy, Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.