William Carlos Williams

Two Pendants: For the Ears

The particulars of morning are more to be desired
                   than night’s vague images

I dreamed of a tiger, wounded,
lying broken
upon a low parapet

                          at least they said
it was a tiger though I never
saw it—more than a shadow—
for the night:

                      an open plaza
before the post office
—but very obscure

                      When I arrived
the people were underground 
huddled into a group and terrified
from the recent happenings:

a terrific fight, apparently—
between the beast and
a man, its trainer, lying
he also, out there now
horribly wounded—perhaps dead
or exhausted
—during a lull of the encounter,
having defended himself well
                         —and bleeding.

No one knew or exactly knew
how the immediate 
situation lay.

                      Thoughtlessly or at least
without thought, my instinct
took me toward the man. I walked
into the darkness
toward the scene of the fight.

Somewhat to the right
apparently unable to lift itself
and hanging upon
the stone wall, I seemed
to make out the beast and could
hear it panting, heavily

            At the same moment,
to the left, on the ground under
the wall, I saw, or
rather heard, the man—or
what I took to be the man. He was
mewing softly, a spasmodic
high pitched sighing—probably

                            As I got half way out
from the people huddled back of me
to the scene of the conflict
the breathing of the beast stopped
as though the better
for him to listen and I could feel
him watching me.

                             I paused

                                       I could
make out nothing clearly and then
did the logical ting: unarmed
I saw that I was helpless and so
turned and walked back to the others

Has no one notified the police?
I said.
That was the end of the dream.

                The yard
                from the bathroom window
                is another matter:

                Here everything 
                is clear. The wind
                sounds, I can make out

                the yellow of the flowers—
                For half an hour

                I do not move
                It is Easter Sunday

The short and brilliantly stabbing grass
(my son went out during the night
                    and has not returned—later
I found that he had returned and had
fallen asleep on the couch downstairs—
his bed was empty)
—marked (plotted) by the squares
and oblongs of the flower beds
                     (beds! beds for the flowers)
the sticks of roses that will later show
brilliant blooms stand out
                                 in rows, irregularly

A cloud
unclassic, a white unnamed cloud of
small tufts of white flowers
               light as wishes
(later to give place to red berries
               called service berries)
—a cloud through which the east sun
shines, anonymous
                              (a tree marked
by the practical sense of my countrymen
the shad bush          .           to say
fish are in the river.)

There are no girls here
                             not above
                                  virtual infancy

—small white flowers
                          profusely together

Thousands of glittering small leaves
that no church bell calls to Mass
—but there will be a mass soon
on the weighted branches

          —their smiles vanish
at the age of four. Later they
sob and throw their arms about my
waist, babies, I have myself delivered
from their agonized mothers. They
sob and cling to me, their breasts heavy
with milk, pressing my coat and refuse
to let go until their sobs
quiet. Then they smile (at me) through
their tears. But it is only
for a moment—they soon become
women again        .

               The wind howled still at my
bedroom window but here, overlooking the
garden, I no longer hear its howls
nor see it moving          .

                                     My thoughts
are like the distant smile of a child
who will (never) be a beautiful woman

the distant smile of a woman who
will say:
             —only to keep you a moment
longer. Oh I know I am a stinker—


only to keep you, it’s only
to keep you          .          a few moments

                            Let me have a cigarette.

The little flowers
got the names we might bestow now
upon drugs for headaches and obesity.
It is periwinkle time now.

How can you, my countrymen
                               (what bathos
hangs about that title, unwarranted
in good measure but there: a fault
of art)
         how can you permit yourselves
to be so cheated—your incomes
taken away and you, chromium
in your guts (rat poison)
                     until you are swollen
beyond all recognition        . 

It is not in return to the ideals
preserved for us
by primitive peoples that our society
will heal itself of its maladies

We read, after breakfast, Flossie,
our son and I—or rather I read to
them from a friendly poet’s translations,
Plato’s Inscription for a Statue
of Pan (I know no Greek)            He said:

Be still O green cliffs of the Dryads
Still O springs bubbling from the rocks
                                   and be still
Many voiced crying of the ewes:
                                              It is Pan
Pan with his sweet pipe:
                                 the clever lips run
Over the withed reeds
                                   while all about him
Rise from the ground to dance
                                   with joyous tread
The nymphs of the water
                          nymph of the oaken forest
—forgot      .     (baby)
but it seems less
out of place than the present, all the
present for all that is present

The two or three young fruit trees,
even the old and battered watering can
of characteristic shape
                           (made to pour from the bottom)
are looking up at us           .         I
say “us” but I mean, alas, only me.



              You lean the head forward
               and wave the hand,
               with a smile,
               twinkling the fingers
                        I say to myself
                        Now it is spring
                        Elena is dying
               What snows, what snow
                enchained her—
                she of the tropics
                is melted
                         now she is dying

                The mango, the guava
                 long forgot for
                 apple and cherry
                 wave good-bye
                 now it is spring
                 Elena is dying

You think she’s going to die?
said the old boy.
She’s not going to die—not now.
In two days she’ll be
all right again. When she dies
she’ll          .

            If only she wouldn’t
exhaust herself, broke in
the sturdy woman, his wife. She
fights so. You can’t quieten her.

When she dies she’ll go out
like a light. She’s done it now
two or three times when
the wife’s had her up, absolutely
out. But so she she’s always
come out of it.
            Why just an hour ago
she sat up straight on that bed, as
straight as ever I saw her
in the last ten years, straight
as a ram-rod. You wouldn’t believe
that would you? She’s not
going to die      .        she’ll be
raising Cain, looking for her grub
as per usual in the next two
or three days, you wait and see

Listen, I said, I met a man
last night told me what he’d brought
home from the market:

                 2 partridges
                 2 Mallard ducks
                 a Dungeness crab
                 24 hours out
                 of the Pacific
                 and 2 live-frozen
                from Denmark

What about that?

Elena is dying (I wonder)
willows and pear trees
whose encrusted branches
blossom all a mass
attend her on her way—

a guerdon
                (a garden)
                 and cries of children
Holy, holy, holy

                    (no ritual
but fact   .    in fact)

the end of time (which is now)

How can you weep for her? I
cannot, I her son—though
I could weep for her without
compromising the covenant

            She will go alone.

—or pat to the times: go wept
by a clay statuette
             (if there be miracles)
a broken head of a small
St. Anne who wept at a kiss
from a child:
              She was so lonely            .

And Magazine #1 sues Magazine
#2, no less guilty—for libel
or infringement or dereliction
or confinement           .

Elena is dying (but perhaps
not yet)

Pis-en-lit attend her (I see      
the children have been here)

Said Jowles, from under the
Ionian Sea: What do you think
about that miracle, Doc?—that
little girl kissing
the head of that statue and making
it cry?

              I hadn’t
seen it.
          It’s in the papers,
tears came out of the eyes.
I hope it doesn’t turn
out to be something funny.

Let’s see now: St. Anne
is the grandmother of Jesus. So
that makes St. Anne the mother
of the Virgin Mary               .

            M’s a great letter, I confided.

What’s that? So now it gets
to be Easter—you never know.

         Never. No, never.

The river, throwing off sparks
in a cold world

         Is this a private foight
                    or kin I get into it?

This is a private fight.

              Elena is dying.
In her delirium she said
a terrible thing:

Who are you? NOW!
I, I, I, I stammered. I
am your son.

Don’t go. I am unhappy.

About what? I said

About what is what.

The woman (who was watching)
She thinks I’m her father.

Swallow it now: she wants
to do it herself.

      Let her spit.

At last! she said two days later
coming to herself and seeing me:

            —but I’ve been here
every day, Mother.

                                    Well why don’t
they put you where I can see you

         She was crying this morning,
said the woman, I’m glad you came.

                  Let me clean your 

            They put them on my nose!
They’re trying to make a monkey
out of me.

             Were you thinking
of La Fontaine?

                        Can’t you give me
something to make me disappear
completely, said she sobbing—but

                   No I can’t do that
Sweetheart (You God damned belittling
fool, said I to myself)

There’s a little Spanish wine,
But pure Spanish! I don’t suppose
they have it anymore.

(The woman started to move her)

But I have to see my child           .

Let me straighten you

I don’t want the hand (my hand)
there (on her forehead)
—digging the nail of
her left thumb hard into my flesh,
the back of my own thumb
holding her hand      .    .    .

“If I had a dog ate meat
on Good Friday I’d kill him,”
said someone off left

Then after three days:
I’m glad to see you up and doing,
said she to me brightly.

I told you she wasn’t going to
die, that was just a remission,
I think you call it, said
the 3 day beard in a soiled

I’m afraid I’m not much use 
to you, Mother, said I feebly.
I brought you a bottle of wine
—a little late for Easter

Did you? What kind of wine?
A light wine?



Jeres. You know, jerez. Here
                  (giving it to her)

So big! That will be my baby
        (cuddling it in her arms)
Ave Maria Purissime! It is heavy!
I wonder if I could take
a little glass of it now?

she eaten anything yet?

she eaten anything yet!

Six oysters—she said
she wanted some fish and that’s
all we had. A round
of bread and butter and a
banana                .

                                    My God!

—two cups of tea and some

           Now she wants the wine.

Will it hurt her?

                          No, I think
nothing will hurt her.

one of the wonders of the world
I think, said his wife.

                            (To make the language
record it, facet to facet
not bored out—
                          with an auger.

—to give also the unshaven,
                       the rumblings of a
catastrophic past, a delicate
defeat—vivid simulations of
the mystery        .        )

We had leeks for supper, I said

          Leeks! Hulda
gave them to me, they were going
to seed, the rabbits had
eaten everything else. I never  
tasted better—from Pop’s old
garden     .

             Pop’s old what?

I’ll have to clean out her ears.
So my year is ended. Tomorrow
it will be April, the glory gone
the hard-edged light elapsed. Were
it not for the March within me,
the intensity of the cold sun, I
could not endure the drag
of the hours opposed to that weight,
the profusion to come later, that
comes too late. I have already
swum among the bars, the angular
contours, I have already lived
the year through                  .
                           Elena is dying

The canary, I said, comes and sits
on our table in the morning
at breakfast, I mean walks about
on the table with us there
and pecks at the table-cloth

                                He must
be a smart little bird