Theodore Roethke





Praise to the End
selections

I Need, I Need

1
A deep dish. Lumps in it.
I can't taste my mother.
Hoo. I know the spoon.
Sit in my mouth.

A sneeze can't sleep.
Diddle we care
Couldly.

   Went down cellar,
   Talked to a faucet;
   The drippy water
   Had nothing to say.

   Whisper me over,
   Why don't you, begonia,
   There's no alas
   Where I live.

Scratched the wind with a stick.
The leaves like it.
Do the dead bite?
Mamma, she's a sad fat.

   A dove said dove all day.
   A hat is a house.
   I hid in his.

2
Even steven all is less:
I haven't time for sugar,
Put your finger in your face,
And there will be a booger.

   A one is a two is
   I know what you is:
   You're not very nice, --
   So touch my toes twice.

I know you are my nemesis
So bibble where the pebble is.
The Trouble is with No and Yes
As you can see I guess I guess.

   I wish I was a pifflebob
   I wish I was a funny
   I wish I had ten tousand hats,
   And made a lot of money.

Open a hole and see the sky:
A duck knows something
You and I don't.
Tomorrow is Friday.

   Not you I need.  
   Go play with your nose.
   Stay in the sun,
   Snake-eyes.

3.
Stop the larks. Can I have my heart back?
Today I saw a beard in a cloud.
The ground cried my name:
Good-bye for being wrong.
Love helps the sun.
But not enough.

4
When you plant, spit in the pot.
A pick likes to hit ice.
Hooray for me and the mice! -
The oats are all right.

Hear me, soft ears and roundy stones!
It's a dear life I can touch.
Who's ready for pink and frisk?
My hoe eats like a goat.

   Her feet said yes.
   It was all hay.
   I said to the gate,
   Who else knows
   What water does?
   Dew ate the fire.

I know another fire.
Has roots.


Bring the Day!

   Bees and lilies there were,
   Bees and lilies there were,
   Either to other, --
   Which would you rather?
   Bees and lilies there were.

   The green grasses, -- would they?
   The green grasses? --
   She asked her skin
   To let me in:
   The far leaves were for it.


Forever is easy, she said.
How many angels do you know? --
And over by Algy's
Something came by me,
It wasn't a goose,
It wasn't a poodle.

   Everything's closer. Is this a cage?
   The chill's gone from the moon.
   Only the woods are alive.
   I can't marry the dirt.

   I'm a biscuit. I'm melted already.
   The white weather hates me.
   Why is how I like it.
   I can't catch a bush.

2
The herrings are awake.
What's all the singing between? --
Is it with whispers and kissing? --
I've listened into the least waves.
The grass says what the wind says:
Begin with the rock;
End with water.

   When I stand, I'm almost a tree.
   Leaves, do you like me any?
   A swan needs a pond.
   The worm and the rose
   Both love
   Rain.

3
O small bird wakening,
Light as a hand among blossoms,
Hardly any old angels are around any more.
The air's quiet under the small leaves.
The dust, the long dust, stays.
The spiders sail into summer.
It's time to begin!
To begin!

Give Way, Ye Gates

1
Believe me, knot of gristle, I bleed like a tree;
I dream of nothing but boards;
I could love a duck.

Such music in a skin!
A bird sings in the bush of your bones.
Tufty, the water's loose.
Bring me a finger. This dirt's lonesome for grass.
Are the rats dancing? The cats are.
And you, cat after great milk and vasty fishes,
A moon loosened from a stag's eye,
Twiced me nicely, --
In the green of my sleep,
In the green.

2.
Mother of blue and the many changes of hay,
This tail hates a flat path.
I've let my nose out;
I could melt down a stone, --
How is it with the long birds?
May I look too, loved eye?
It's a wink beyond the world.
In the slow rain, who's afraid?
We're king and queen of the right ground.
I'll risk the winter for you.

You tree beginning to know,
You whisper of kidneys,
We'll swinge the instant! --
With jots and jogs and cinders on the floor:
The sea will be there, the great squashy shadows,
Biting themselves perhaps;
The shrillest frogs;
And the ghost of some great howl
Dead in a wall.
In the high-noon of thighs,
In the springtime of stones,
We'll stretch with the great stems.
We'll be at the business of what might be
Looking toward what we are.

3
You child with a beast's heart,
Make me a bird or a bear!
I've played with the fishes
Among the unwrinkling ferns
In the wake of a ship of wind;
But now the instant ages,
And my thought hunts another body.
I'm sad with the little owls.

4
Touch and arouse. Suck and sob. Curse and mourn.
It's a cold scrape in a low place.
The dead crow dries on a pole.
Shapes in the shade
Watch.

The mouth asks. The hand takes.
These wings are from the wrong nest.
Who stands in a hole
Never spills.

I hear the clap of an old wind.
The cold knows when to come.
What beats in me
I still bear.

The deep stream remembers:
Once I was a pond.
What slides away
Provides.