William Carlos Williams


A wind might blow a lotus petal 
over the pyramids but not this wind. 

Summer is a dried leaf. 

Leaves stir this way then that 
on the baked asphalt, the wheels 
of motor cars rush over them, ---
        gas smells mingle with leaf smells. 

Oh, Sunday, day of worship ! ! ! 

The steps to the museum are high. 
Worshippers pass in and out. 
Nobody comes here today. 
I come here to mingle faiance dug 
from the tomb, turquoise colored 
necklaces and belched wind from the 
stomach ; delicately veined basins 
of agate, cracked and discolored and 
the stink of stale urine ! 

Enter! Elbow in at the door. 
Men? Women? 
Simpering, clay fetish-faces counting 
through the turnstile. 

This sarcophagus contained the body 
of Uresh-Nai, priest to the goddess Mut, 
Mother of All --- 

Run your finger against this edge ! 
--- here went the chisel ! --- and think 
of an arrogance endured six thousand years 
without a flaw ! 

But love is an oil to embalm the body. 
Love is a packet of spices, a strong 
smelling liquid to be squirted into 
the thigh. No? 
Love rubbed on a bald head will make 
hair and after? Love is 
a lice comber!  
                        Gnats on dung! 

"The chisel is in your hand, the block 
is before you, cut as I shall dictate: 
this is the coffin of Uresh-Nai, 
priest to the sky goddess, built 
to endure forever! 
                        Carve the inside 
with the image of my death in 
little lines of figures three fingers high. 
Put a lid on it cut with Mut bending over 
the earth, for my headpiece, and in the year 
to be chosen I shall rouse, the lid 
shall be lifted and I will walk about 
the temple where they have rested me 
and eat the air of the place : 

Ah these walls are high ! This 
is in keeping." 

The priest has passed into her tomb. 
The stone has taken up his spirit! 
Granite over flesh : who will deny 
its advantages? 

Your death? --- water 
Spilled upon the ground ---
though water will mount again into rose-leaves ---
but you? would hold life still, 
even as a memory, when it is over. 
Benevolence is rare. 

Climb about this sarcophagus, read 
what is writ for you in these figures, 
hard as the granite that has held them 
with so soft a hand the while 
your own flesh has been fifty times 
through the guts of oxen, read! 
"I who am the one flesh say to you,
The rose-tree will have its donor 
even though he give stingily. 
The gift of some endures 
ten years, the gift of some twenty 
and the gift of some for the time a 
great house rots and is torn down. 
Some give for a thousand years to men of 
one face, some for a thousand 
to all men and some few to all men 
while granite holds an edge against 
the weather. 
                    Judge then of love !" 

"My flesh is turned to stone. I 
have endured my summer. The flurry 
of falling petals is ended. Lay 
the finger upon this granite. I was 
well desired and fully caressed 
by many lovers but my flesh 
withered swiftly and my heart was 
never satisfied. Lay your hands 
upon the granite as a lover lays his 
hand upon the thigh and upon the 
round breasts of her who is beside 
him, for now I will not wither, 
now I have thrown off secrecy, now 
I have walked naked into the street, 
now I have scattered my heavy beauty 
in the open market. 
Here I am with head high and a 
burning heart eagerly awaiting 
your caresses, whoever it may be, 
for granite is not harder than 
my love is open, runs loose among you! 
I arrogant against death ! I 
who have endured ! I worn against 
the years !" 

But it is five o clock. Come ! 
Life is good enjoy it! 
A walk in the park while the day lasts. 
I will go with you. Look! this 
northern scenery is not the Nile, but 
these benches the yellow and purple dusk 
the moon there these tired people 
the lights on the water! 

Are not these Jews and Ethiopians? 
The world is young, surely! Young 
and colored like a girl that has come upon 
a lover ! Will that do ? 

spoken = Leon Branton