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William Carlos Williams

(17 September 1883 – 4 March 1963 / New Jersey)

March


I

Winter is long in this climate
and spring--a matter of a few days
only,--a flower or two picked
from mud or from among wet leaves
or at best against treacherous
bitterness of wind, and sky shining
teasingly, then closing in black
and sudden, with fierce jaws.

II

March,
you reminded me of
the pyramids, our pyramids--
stript of the polished stone
that used to guard them!
March,
you are like Fra Angelico
at Fiesole, painting on plaster!

March,
you are like a band of
young poets that have not learned
the blessedness of warmth
(or have forgotten it).
At any rate--
I am moved to write poetry
for the warmth there is in it
and for the loneliness--
a poem that shall have you
in it March.

III

See!
Ashur-ban-i-pal,
the archer king, on horse-back,
in blue and yellow enamel!
with drawn bow--facing lions
standing on their hind legs,
fangs bared! his shafts
bristling in their necks!

Sacred bulls--dragons
in embossed brickwork
marching--in four tiers--
along the sacred way to
Nebuchadnezzar's throne hall!
They shine in the sun,
they that have been marching--
marching under the dust of
ten thousand dirt years.

Now--
they are coming into bloom again!
See them!
marching still, bared by
the storms from my calender
--winds that blow back the sand!
winds that enfilade dirt!
winds that by strange craft
have whipt up a black army
that by pick and shovel
bare a procession to
the god, Marduk!

Natives cursing and digging
for pay unearth dragons with
upright tails and sacred bulls
alternately--
in four tiers--
lining the way to an old altar!
Natives digging at old walls--
digging me warmth--digging me sweet loneliness
high enamelled walls.

IV

My second spring--
passed in a monastery
with plaster walls--in Fiesole
on the hill above 'Florence.
My second spring--painted
a virgin--in a blue aureole
sitting on a three-legged stool,
arms crossed--
she is intently serious,
and still
watching an angel
with colored wings
half kneeling before her--
and smiling--the angel's eyes
holding the eyes of Mary
as a snake's hold a bird's.
On the ground there are flowers,
trees are in leaf.

V

But! now for the battle!
Now for murder--now for the real thing!
My third springtime is approaching!
Winds!
lean, serious as a virgin,
seeking, seeking the flowers of March.

Seeking
flowers nowhere to be found,
they twine among the bare branches
in insatiable eagerness--
they whirl up the snow
seeking under it--
they--the winds--snakelike
roar among yellow reeds
seeking flowers--flowers.

I spring among them
seeking one flower
in which to warm myself!

I deride with all the ridicule
of misery--
my own starved misery.

Counter-cutting winds
strike against me
refreshing their fury!

Come, good, cold fellows!
Have we no flowers?
Defy then with even more
desperation than ever--being
lean and frozen!

But though you are lean and frozen--
think of the blue bulls of Babylon.

Fling yourselves upon
their empty roses--
cut savagely!

But--
think of the painted monastery
at Fiesole.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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