William Carlos Williams in 1928

I've always loved these lines from WCW's "Descent of Winter," which is a kind of daybook consisting of poems & sections of prose. Williams, a pediatrician, was also an acute observer of old age. Beyond that, I love the audacity of the shift between the two stanzas, leaving the reader to make the connections between the objectively rendered description of a burning rubbish pile & his description (less objective) of the old.
In the dead weeds a rubbish heap aflame: the orange flames stream horizontal, windblown they parallel the ground waving up and down the flamepoints alternating the body streaked with loops and purple stains while the pale smoke, above steadily continues eastward-- What chance have the old? There are no duties for them no places where they may sit their knowledge is laughed at they cannot see, they cannot hear. A small bundle on the shoulders weighs them down one hand is put back under it to hold it steady. Their feet hurt, they are weak they should not have to suffer as younger people must and do there should be a truce for them

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “William Carlos Williams in 1928”

  1. i have a piece of mine that touches on some of this. ed

    Adult lions, toy coaches, circus clowns wielding weed whackers
    –all that plus shapely men and women acrobats in brief costumes–
    brush me unconsciously the way I sense plants on a narrow path.

    I can tell when a storm is coming because something brushes me
    –this and a touch of difference in sound and fragrance in my nose–
    disrupting even the low roar of crickets in this greenhouse of earth.

    Such times I am a part of everything that lives even across species
    as once when I saw a big bonfire of brush, leaves, exhausted plants
    I heard the music of death that wind-whipped sang of my own life.

    My friend Brad talks of poker’s intricacies as if a violin concerto’s
    wild rides. Perhaps hears the nights of exhaustions a loving couple
    experiences in the little deaths that soar cuddled as seraphim awing?


Comments are closed.