Around the Fire

By Ted Berrigan 1934–1983 Ted Berrigan
What I’m trying to say is that if an experience is
proposed to me—I don’t have any particular interest
in it—Any more than anything else. I’m interested in
anything. Like I could walk out the door right now and go some
where else. I don’t have any center in that sense. If you’ll look
in my palm you’ll see that my heart and my head line are
the same and if you’ll look in your palm you’ll see that it’s
different. My heart and my head feel exactly the same. Me,
I like to lay around of a Sunday and drink beer. I don’t feel
a necessity for being a mature person in this world. I mean
all the grown-ups in the world, they’re just playing house, all
poets know that. How does your head feel? How I feel is
what I think. I look at you today, & I expect you to look
the same tomorrow. If you’re having a nervous breakdown, I’m
not going to be looking at you like you’re going to die, because
I don’t think you are. If you’re a woman you put yourself
somewhere near the beginning and then there’s this other place
you put yourself in terms of everybody. “The great cosmetic strange-
ness of the normal deep person.” Okay. Those were those people—and
I kept telling myself, I have to be here, because I don’t have
a country. How tight is the string? And what is on this particular
segment of it? And the photographer, being black, and the writer,
me, being white, fell out at this point. And he didn’t want to
look at it—I mean it’s nothing, just some drunk Indians riding
Jersey milk cows—but I wanted to see it, I mean it was right
in front of my eyes and I wanted therefore to look at it.
And death is not any great thing, it’s there or it’s not. I mean
God is the progenitor of religious impetuousity in the human beast.
And Davy Crockett is right on that—I mean he’s gonna shoot a bear,
but he’s not gonna shoot a train, because the train is gonna run
right over him. You can’t shoot the train. And I always thought
there was another way to do that. And it is necessary to do that
and we bear witness that it is necessary to do it. The only distinction
between men and women is five million shits.

Ted Berrigan, "Around the Fire" from The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan. Copyright © 2007 by Ted Berrigan.  Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: Selected Poems (Penguin Books, 1994)

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

Poet Ted Berrigan 1934–1983

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School (2nd Generation)

Subjects Living, Life Choices, Midlife, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Ted Berrigan—Edmund Joseph Michael Berrigan Jr.—was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the oldest of three children of Margaret Dugan and Edmund Berrigan, the chief engineer at Ward’s Baking Company. On both sides the family was Irish Catholic. Berrigan attended local schools and entered Providence College, a local Catholic school, but left after a year and enlisted in the army.

Berrigan was sent to Korea in 1954 but never saw . . .

Continue reading this biography

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.