Ritual X.  :  The Evening Pair of Ales

By Paul Blackburn 1926–1971 Paul Blackburn
is mountains & desert
until you cross the passes into India  .
It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon or
twenty of 8 at night, depending
                   which clock you believe  .
It’s where the cups and saucers are,
the plates, the knives and forks  .
                   The turkey sandwich comes alone
                   or with onions if you like
The old newspaperman always takes his hat off
& lays it atop the cigarette machine;
the younger, so-hip journalist, leaves his on
old-style .

The old man sits down in the corner, puts
                  his hat back on. No challenge, but
                        it’s visible, the beau geste  .
                                       The cigarette
hangs from the side of the younger man’s mouth, he’s
putting himself on  .
                   East of Eden is mountains & desert & every
                   thing creeps up on you & comes in the night,
                                      unexpectedly  .
when one would least put out his hand
to offer, or to defend  .

Paul Blackburn, “Ritual X : The Evening Pair of Ales” from The Selected Poems of Paul Blackburn. Copyright © 1989 by Paul Blackburn. Reprinted by permission of Joan Blackburn.

Source: The Selected Poems of Paul Blackburn (Persea Books, 1989)

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Poet Paul Blackburn 1926–1971

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Activities, Eating & Drinking, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Paul Blackburn is best known as a Black Mountain Poet because of his role as contributing editor and distributor of the Black Mountain Review: and his subsequent inclusion with the group in Donald Allen’s influential New American Poetry anthology (1960). Although many of Blackburn’s concerns with formal innovation were shared by such faculty members of the experimental Black Mountain College as Robert Creeley and Charles Olson, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Eating & Drinking, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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