by william carlos williams
1 How deftly we keep love from each other. It is no trick at all: the movement of a cat that leaps a low barrier. You have if the truth be known loved only one man and that was before my time. Past him you have never thought nor desired to think. In his perfections you are perfect. You are likewise perfect in other things. You present to me the surface of a marble. And I, we will say, loved also before your time. Put it quite obscenely. And I have my perfections. So here we present ourselves to each other naked. What have we effected ? Say we have aged a little together and you have borne children. We have in short thriven as the world goes. We have proved fertile. The children are apparently healthy. One of them is even whimsical and one has an unusual memory and a keen eye. But It is not that we have not felt a certain rumbling, a certain stirring of the earth but what has it amounted to? Your first love and mine were of different species. There is only one way out. It is for me to take up my basket of words and for you to sit at your piano, each his own way, until I have, if it so be that good fortune smile my way, made a shrewd bargain at some fair and so by dint of heavy straining supplanted in your memory the brilliance of the old armhold. Which is impossible. Ergo: I am a blackguard. The act is disclosed by the imagination of it. But of first importance is to realize that the imagination leads and the deed comes behind. First Don Quixote then Sancho Panza. So that the act, to win its praise, will win it in diverse fashions according to the way the imagination has taken. Thus a harsh deed will sometimes win its praise through laughter and sometimes through savage mockery, and a deed of simple kindness will come to its reward through sarcastic comment. Each thing is secure in its own perfections. 2 After thirty years staring at one true phrase he discovered that its opposite was true also. For weeks he laughed in the grip of a fierce self derision. Having lost the falsehood to which he d fixed his hawser he rolled drunkenly about the field of his environment before the new direction began to dawn upon his cracked mind. What a fool ever to be tricked into seriousness. Soft hearted, hard hearted. Thick crystals began to shoot through the liquid of his spirit. Black, they were: branches that have lain in a fog which now a wind is blowing away. Things move. Fatigued as you are watch how the mirror sieves out the extraneous : in sleep as in waking. Summoned to his door by a tinkling bell he looked into a white face, the face of a man convulsed with dread, saw the laughter back of its drawn alert ness. Out in the air: the sidesplitting burlesque of a sparkling midnight stooping over a little house on a sandbank. The city at the horizon blowing a lurid red against the flat cloud. The moon masquerading for a tower clock over the factory, its hands in a gesture that, were time real, would have settled all. But the delusion convulses the leafless trees with the deepest appreciation of the mummery : insolent poking of a face upon the half-lit win dow from which the screams burst. So the man alighted in the great silence, with a myopic star blinking to clear its eye over his hat top. He comes to do good. Fatigue tickles his calves and the lower part of his back with solicitous fingers, strokes his feet and his knees with appreciative charity. He plunges up the dark steps on his grotesque deed of mercy. In his warped brain an owl of irony fixes on the immediate object of his care as if it were the thing to be destroyed, guffaws at the impossibility of putting any kind of value on the object inside or of even reversing or making less by any other means than induced sleep which is no solution the methodical gripe of the sufferer. Stupidity couched in a dingy room beside the kitchen. One room stove- hot, the next the dead cold of a butcher s ice box. The man leaned and cut the baby from its stem. Slop in disinfectant, roar with derision at the insipid blood stench: hallucination comes to the rescue on the brink of seriousness: the gas-stove flame is starblue, violets back of L Orloge at Lancy. The smile of a spring morning trickles into the back of his head and blinds the eyes to the irritation of the poppy red flux. A cracked window blind lets in Venus. Stars. The hand-lamp is too feeble to have its own way. The vanity of their neck stretching, trying to be large as a street-lamp sets him roaring to himself anew. And rubber gloves, the color of moist dates, the identical glisten and texture : means a ballon trip to Fez. So one is a ridiculous savior of the poor, with fatigue always at his elbow with a new jest, the newest smutty story, the prettiest defiance of insipid pretences that cannot again assert divine right nonsensical gods that are fit to lick shoes clean : and the great round face of Sister Palagia straining to keep composure against the jaws of a body louse. In at the back door. We have been a benefactor. The cross laughter has been denied us but one cannot have more than the appetite sanctions. 3 Awake early to the white blare of a sun flooding in sidewise. Strip and bathe in it. Ha, but an ache tearing at your throat and a vague cinema lifting its black moon blot all out. There s no walking barefoot in the crisp leaves nowadays. There s no dancing save in the head s dark. Go draped in soot; call on modern medicine to help you: the coal man s blowing his thin dust up through the house ! Why then, a new step lady ! I ll meet you you know where o the dark side! Let the wheel click. In the mind there is a continual play of obscure images which coming between the eyes and their prey seem pictures on the screen at the movies. Somewhere there appears to be a mal adjustment. The wish would be to see not floating visions of unknown purport but the imaginative qualities of the actual things being perceived accompany their gross vision in a slow dance, interpreting as they go. But inasmuch as this will not always be the case one must dance nevertheless as he can.