William Carlos Williams

Jean Sans Terre
Reviews the Fathers

Our fathers liked to carry persian beards
Between the beards old cigars and old words
They liked the chicken soup and marrow bone
And then to stay at God’s diamond throne

They sold green herring and they bought black suits
But God was ever present in disputes
The hurricane was hidden over the land
When any sin grew in their skin or gland

They were the fathers but they were the fool
To worship glassware or a rag of wool
They used the oaks to hang a man with thoughts
They used the river to look at the clouds

What worth is life but to account odd coins
To dig the earth to burn her oils
To fabricate thin web for tears of girls
To carve one’s nails to curb one’s curls

Their daughters wore silk over unknown sores
And healed behind the throat the song of whores
Their sons despised the herrings and the gods
Lost battles of the future in their cods

Meanwhile the fathers curled their flowering beards
Sold coal and slag bought orchards oaks and birds
Built palaces drank wine ate steak
And didn’t sin — but earth began to quake

One day the tyrant came — the hurricane
The fathers’ beards were strewn o’er street and lane
Their door stayed open like a mouth of drowned
Only the dogs remained and mourned around

Well thousand fathers
Their daughters and their sons are gone are gone
Their savior himself vanished at the wall
But swallows come back after all

spoken = Leon Branton