Dream Song 76 (Henry's Confession)

By John Berryman 1914–1972 John Berryman
Nothin very bad happen to me lately.
How you explain that? —I explain that, Mr Bones,
terms o' your bafflin odd sobriety.
Sober as man can get, no girls, no telephones,
what could happen bad to Mr Bones?
—If life is a handkerchief sandwich,

in a modesty of death I join my father
who dared so long agone leave me.
A bullet on a concrete stoop
close by a smothering southern sea
spreadeagled on an island, by my knee.
—You is from hunger, Mr Bones,

I offers you this handkerchief, now set
your left foot by my right foot,
shoulder to shoulder, all that jazz,
arm in arm, by the beautiful sea,
hum a little, Mr Bones.
—I saw nobody coming, so I went instead.

John Berryman, "Dream Song 76 (Henry's Confession)" from The Dream Songs. Copyright © 1969 by John Berryman. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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Source: Collected Poems, 1937-1971 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989)

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Poet John Berryman 1914–1972

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Sorrow & Grieving

 John  Berryman

Biography

A scholar and professor as well as a poet, John Berryman is best-known for The Dream Songs, an intensely personal sequence of 385 poems which brought him the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. In these he invented a style and form able to accommodate a vast range of material while expressing his turbulent emotions.

Born John Smith in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1914, Berryman suffered a great loss at 12 when his father shot . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Sorrow & Grieving

SCHOOL / PERIOD Confessional

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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