Ten Poems


  The mills of the gods grind slowly;
  But this mill
  Chatters in mechanical staccato.
  Ugly short infantry of the mind,
  Advancing over difficult terrain,
  Make this Corona
  Their mitrailleuse.


  All of the Indians are dead
  (a good Indian is a dead Indian)
  Or riding in motor cars—
  (the oil lands, you know, they’re all rich)
  Smoke smarts my eyes,
  Cottonwood twigs and buffalo dung
  Smoke grey in the teepee—
  (or is it myopic trachoma)

  The prairies are long,
  The moon rises,
  Drag at their pickets.
  The grass has gone brown in the summer—
  (or is it the hay crop failing)

  Pull an arrow out:
  If you break it
  The wound closes.
  Salt is good too
  And wood ashes.
  Pounding it throbs in the night—
  (or is it the gonorrhea)


  The sea desires deep hulls—
  It swells and rolls.
  The screw churns a throb—
  Driving, throbbing, progressing.
  The sea rolls with love
  Surging, caressing,
  Undulating its great loving belly.
  The sea is big and old—
  Throbbing ships scorn it.


  Workingmen believed
  He busted trusts,
  And put his picture in their windows.
  “What he’d have done in France!”
  They said.
  Perhaps he would—
  He could have died
  Though generals rarely die except in bed,
  As he did finally.
  And all the legends that he started in his life
  Live on and prosper,
  Unhampered now by his existence.


  Some came in chains
  Unrepentent but tired.
  Too tired but to stumble.
  Thinking and hating were finished
  Thinking and fighting were finished
  Retreating and hoping were finished.
  Cures thus a long campaign,
  Making death easy.


  Soldiers never do die well;
         Crosses mark the places—
  Wooden crosses where they fell,
         Stuck above their faces.
  Soldiers pitch and cough and twitch—
         All the world roars red and black;
  Soldiers smother in a ditch,
         Choking through the whole attack.


  Drummed their boots on the camion floor,
  Hob-nailed boots on the camion floor.
  Sergeants stiff,
  Corporals sore.
  Lieutenant thought of a Mestre whore—
  Warm and soft and sleepy whore,
  Cozy, warm and lovely whore;
  Damned cold, bitter, rotten ride,
  Winding road up the Grappa side.
  Arditi on benches stiff and cold,
  Pride of their country stiff and cold,
  Bristly faces, dirty hides—
  Infantry marches, Arditi rides.
  Grey, cold, bitter, sullen ride—
  To splintered pines on the Grappa side
  At Asalone, where the truck-load died.


  There are never any suicides in the quarter among people one knows
  No successful suicides.
  A Chinese boy kills himself and is dead.
  (they continue to place his mail in the letter rack at the Dome)
  A Norwegian boy kills himself and is dead.
  (no one knows where the other Norwegian boy has gone)
  They find a model dead
  alone in bed and very dead.
  (it made almost unbearable trouble for the concierge)
  Sweet oil, the white of eggs, mustard and water, soap suds
  and stomach pumps rescue the people one knows.
  Every afternoon the people one knows can be found at the café.


  A porcupine skin,
  Stiff with bad tanning,
  It must have ended somewhere.
  Stuffed horned owl
  Yellow eyed;
  Chuck-wills-widow on a biassed twig
  Sooted with dust.
  Piles of old magazines,
  Drawers of boy’s letters
  And the line of love
  They must have ended somewhere.
  Yesterday’s Tribune is gone
  Along with youth
  And the canoe that went to pieces on the beach
  The year of the big storm
  When the hotel burned down
  At Seney, Michigan.


  For we have thought the longer thoughts
          And gone the shorter way.
  And we have danced to devils’ tunes,
          Shivering home to pray;
  To serve one master in the night,
          Another in the day.