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The Song of the Demented Priest

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I put those things there.—See them burn.
The emerald the azure and the gold
Hiss and crack, the blues & greens of the world
As if I were tired. Someone interferes
Everywhere with me. The clouds, the clouds are torn
In ways I do not understand or love.

Licking my long lips, I looked upon God
And he flamed and he was friendlier
Than you were, and he was small. Showing me
Serpents and thin flowers; these were cold.
Dominion waved & glittered like the flare
From ice under a small sun. I wonder.

Afterward the violent and formal dancers
Came out, shaking their pithless heads.
I would instruct them but I cannot now,—
Because of the elements. They rise and move,
I nod a dance and they dance in the rain
In my red coat. I am the king of the dead.

John Berryman, "The Song of the Demented Priest" from Collected Poems, 1937-1971. Copyright © 1989 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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The Song of the Demented Priest

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