George Oppen

(1908-1984 / United States)

And Their Winter And Night In Disguise


The sea and a crescent strip of beach
Show between the service station and a deserted shack


A creek drains thru the beach
Forming a ditch
There is a discarded super-market cart in the ditch
That beach is the edge of a nation


There is something like shouting along the highway
A California shouting
On the long fast highway over the California mountains


Point Pedro
Its distant life


It is impossible the world should be either good or bad
If its colors are beautiful or if they are not beautiful
If parts of it taste good or if no parts of it taste good
It is as remarkable in one case as the other
As against this


We have suffered fear, we know something of fear
And of humiliation mounting to horror


The world above the edge of the foxhole belongs to the flying bullets, leaden superbeings
For the men grovelling in the foxhole danger, danger in being drawn to them


These little dumps
The poem is about them


Our hearts are twisted
In dead men’s pride


Dead men crowd us
Lean over us


In the emplacements


The skull spins
Empty of subject


The hollow ego


Flinching from the war’s huge air


Tho we are delivery boys and bartenders


We will choke on each other


Minds may crack


But not for what is discovered


Unless that everyone knew
And kept silent


Our minds are split
To seek the danger out


From among the miserable soldiers

Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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