#1 / Garbage / A.R. Ammons

Creepy little creepers are insinuatingly
curling up my spine (bringing the message)

saying, Boy! are you writing that great poem
the world’s waiting for: don’t you know you

have an unaccomplished mission unaccomplished;
someone somewhere may be at this very moment

dying for the lack of what W.C. Williams says
you could (or somebody could) be giving: yeah?

so, these little messengers say, what do you
mean teaching school (teaching poetry and

poetry writing and wasting your time painting
sober little organic, meaningful pictures)

when values thought lost (but only scrambled into
disengagement) lie around demolished

and centerless because you (that’s me, boy)
haven’t elaborated everything in everybody’s

face, yet: on the other hand (I say to myself,
receiving the messengers and cutting them down)

who has done anything or am I likely to do
anything the world won’t twirl without: and

since SS’s enough money (I hope) to live
from now on on in elegance and simplicity–

or, maybe, just simplicity–why shouldn’t I
at my age (63) concentrate on chucking the

advancements and rehearsing the sweetness of
leisure, nonchalance, and small-time byways: couple

months ago, for example, I went all the way
from soy flakes (already roasted and pressed

and in need of an hour’s simmering boil
to be cooked) all the way to soybeans, the

pure golden pearls themselves, 65¢ lb. dry: they
have to be soaked overnight in water and they

have to be boiled slowly for six hours–but
they’re welfare cheap, are a complete protein,

more protein by weight than meat, more
calcium than milk, more lecithin than eggs,

and somewhere in there the oil that smoothes
stools, a great virtue: I need time and verve

to find out, now, about medicare/medicaid,
national osteoporosis week, gadabout tours,

hearing loss, homesharing programs, and choosing
good nutrition! for starters! why should I

be trying to write my flattest poem, now, for
whom, not for myself, for others?, posh, as I

have never said: Social Security can provide
the beans, soys enough my house, paid for for

twenty years, is paid for: my young’un
is raised: nothing one can pay cash for seems

very valuable: that reaches a high enough
benchmark for me–high enough that I wouldn’t

know what to do with anything beyond that, no
place to house it, park it, dock it, let it drift

down to: elegance and simplicity: I wonder
if we need those celestial guidance systems

striking mountaintops or if we need fuzzy
philosophy’s abstruse failed reasonings: isn’t

it simple and elegant enough to believe in
qualities, simplicity and elegance, pitch in a

little courage and generosity, a touch of
commitment, enough asceticism to prevent

fattening: moderation: elegant and simple
moderation: trees defined themselves (into

various definitions) through a dynamics of
struggle (hey, is the palaver rapping, yet?)

and so it is as if there were a genetic
recognition that a young tree would get up and

through only through taken space (parental
space not yielding at all, either) and, further:

so, trunks, accommodated to rising, to reaching
the high light and deep water, were slender

and fast moving, and this was okay because
one good thing about dense competition is that

if one succeeds with it one is buttressed by
crowding competitors, that is, there was little

room for branches, and just a tuft of green
possibility at the forests roof: but, now,

I mean, take my yard maple–put out in the free
and open–has overgrown, its trunk

split down from a high fork: wind has
twisted off the biggest, bottom branch: there

was, in fact, hardly any crowding and competition,
and the fat tree, unable to stop pouring it on,

overfed and overgrew and, now, again, its skin’s
broken into and disease may find it and bores

of one kind of another, and fungus: it just
goes to show you: moderation imposed is better

than no moderation at all: we tie into the
lives of those we love and our lives, then, go

as theirs go; their pain we can’t shake off;
their choices, often harming to themselves,

pour through our agitated sleep, swirl up as
no-nos in our dreams, we rise several times

in a night to walk about; we rise in the morning
to the crusty world headed nowhere, doorless:

our chests burn with anxiety and a river of
anguish defines rapids and straits in the pit of

our stomachs: how can we intercede and not
interfere: how can our love move more surroundingly,

convincingly than our premonitory advice

Stone Keep

He sat down and
  because there is neither saying
nor unsaying,

wept the sunlight
free of leaves,
  stitched up dandelions,
unsprinkled bluets,

broke birds' 
songs down:
  everything going on
went on

over, though, on over
his cold keep:
  he hugged the heaving stone

            (A.R. Ammons)


The Ridge Farm by A.R. Ammons


The lean, far-reaching, hung-over sway
of the cedars this morning!
vexed by the wind and working tight

but the snow's packed in, wet-set
and puffed solid: the cedars nod to
an average under gusts and blusters:

yesterday afternoon cleared the
sunset side of trees, the hemlocks
especially, limbering loose, but
the morning side, the lee, sunless
again today, overbalances:

the grackles form long strings
of trying to sit still; they weight
down the wagging branchwork snow stuck
branch to branch, tree to shrub,
imposing weeds

 Continue reading 

#77 / Ammons / Glare / Scat Scan

truth persists, if at all, hardly distinguishable
from a pack of lies: the truth has about as

much chance as a slender of wheat in the weeds:
but, of course, weeds are the truth, too, just

not the truth we want to keep: not that what
we don’t want to keep isn’t also often true:

for example, some of us, those below the line,
want to think that all men are equal, since

that would raise us: while to others, if all
men are equal, equality would step them down:

well, the truth is that all men are equal, but
you know how it is, you hem and haw, give and

take squirm and squat, and it all comes out
how you’re as equal or unequal as you can

make it: allowances like wooly ramifications
surround these ideal axises (axes?): the

breaking down of things promotes possibility:
as with love, the lucky cannot, except by

scraps and fidgets, hold onto love, while those
who love to the sour bottom of desperation

can let nothing, not even themselves, alone to
live but must cleave to the passion till it

kills, either inwardly or outwardly: thank
goodness for the half asses and easygoing, for

the good stuff from time to time that takes
love on and lets it go: thank you lord for

those who get off in the morning to the office
and clear their minds for strategem and strife:

we should always believe the opposite of what
is believed because what is believed hides

by contradicting what we don’t want to believe:
the truth covers the merely true and the truly

believed. . . .


#76 Ammons / Glare / Scat Scan

your insidious eloquence makes me seek the
plain dealing of the woods, the dark, the clear

stars: and your refinement, a line so thinly
held I can’t tell which side will break from

snide tittering into howling mockery: (a little
extra humidity over, say, recent days has

turned the streets into rivers, embankments
into rubble, and this morning it all turned

into snow–the pink tulip trees luminous
under their clusters of white; the crabapple

blossoms, though, ready to radiate, frozen
out of their sockets, could be, and everywhere

gushy mush cushions the walkways: it is, of
course, Mother’s Day, May 11, a good day for

corsages’ metallic glaze and fern lace: my
mother is dead and gone, a death 46 years old,

but a death as close as the next cell of my
brain: when in distress with her young brood,

as many dying as living, she cried out “give
me the roses while I live” I had no roses

and the distress taken up into myself, I had
the impoverishment by hysteria, my mouth at

times as I bent over leaking like a fountain,
my dreams full of stiff figures that tried to

move: now that I have whatever I want, coin
or flower, I can give nothing back, the

lips cannot find a smile, the hands cannot
ease into the lap, the eyes cannot light with

calm): how does the magician, who makes reality
vanish, feel when his infected thumb throbs

and a pink streak or two times its way up his
arm: does the magic vanish like an imp

shrieking with mischievous delight: I say,
does the magic of reality take revenge:

well, so it is with the weavers of language
and their cunning cloths that string out of

vestments or take the material out of presences
some day these weavers will be the object of

their practices, and the present will present
them with no present of escape: tell true:

speak plain: deal openly: shed deceit:
these yield no room to the coming round of the


A.R. Ammons #43 from Glare

sometimes I get the feeling I’ve never
lived here at all, and 31 years seem

no more than nothing: I have to stop
and think, oh, yeah, there was the

kid, so much anguish over his allergy,
and there was the year we moved to

another house, and oh, yes, I remember
the lilies we planted near that

siberian elm, and there was the year
they made me a professor, and the

year, right in the middle of a long
poem, when I got blood poisoning from

an ingrown toenail not operated on
right: but a wave slices through,

canceling everything, and the space
with nothing to fill it shrinks and

time collapses, so that nothing happened,
and I didn’t exist, and existence

itself seems like a wayward temporizing,
an illusion nonexistence sometimes

stumbles into: keep your mind open,
something might crawl in: which

reminds me of my greatest saying:
old poets never die, they just scrawl

away: and then I think of my friends
who may have longed for me, and I say

oh, I’ll be here the next time
around: alas, the next time will

not come next: so what am I to say
to friends who know I’m not here and

won’t be back: I’m sorry I missed
you guys: but even with the little

I know I loved you a lot, a lot more
than I said: our mountains here are

so old they’re hills: they’ve been
around around 300 million years but

indifference in all that time broke
itself only to wear them out: my

indifference is just like theirs: it
wipes itself clear: surely, I will have

another chance: surely, nothing is
let go till trouble free: when

I come back I’m going to be there
every time: and then the wave that

comes to blank me out will be set
edgy and jiggling with my recalcitrance

and my consciousness will take on weight

Corsens Inlet by A.R. Ammons

I went for a walk over the dunes again this morning
to the sea,
then turned right along
   the surf
                         rounded a naked headland
                         and returned

   along the inlet shore:

it was muggy sunny, the wind from the sea steady and high,   
crisp in the running sand,
       some breakthroughs of sun
   but after a bit

continuous overcast:

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,   
from the perpendiculars,
      straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends   
               of sight:

                         I allow myself eddies of meaning:   
yield to a direction of significance
like a stream through the geography of my work:   
   you can find
in my sayings
                         swerves of action
                         like the inlet’s cutting edge:
               there are dunes of motion,
organizations of grass, white sandy paths of remembrance   
in the overall wandering of mirroring mind:
but Overall is beyond me: is the sum of these events
I cannot draw, the ledger I cannot keep, the accounting
beyond the account:

in nature there are few sharp lines: there are areas of   
       more or less dispersed;
disorderly orders of bayberry; between the rows
of dunes,
irregular swamps of reeds,
though not reeds alone, but grass, bayberry, yarrow, all ...
predominantly reeds:

I have reached no conclusions, have erected no boundaries,   
shutting out and shutting in, separating inside
          from outside: I have
          drawn no lines:

manifold events of sand
change the dune’s shape that will not be the same shape   

so I am willing to go along, to accept   
the becoming
thought, to stake off no beginnings or ends, establish   
         no walls:

by transitions the land falls from grassy dunes to creek   
to undercreek: but there are no lines, though
       change in that transition is clear
       as any sharpness: but “sharpness” spread out,   
allowed to occur over a wider range
than mental lines can keep:

the moon was full last night: today, low tide was low:   
black shoals of mussels exposed to the risk
of air
and, earlier, of sun,
waved in and out with the waterline, waterline inexact,   
caught always in the event of change:   
       a young mottled gull stood free on the shoals
       and ate
to vomiting: another gull, squawking possession, cracked a crab,   
picked out the entrails, swallowed the soft-shelled legs, a ruddy
turnstone running in to snatch leftover bits:

risk is full: every living thing in
siege: the demand is life, to keep life: the small
white blacklegged egret, how beautiful, quietly stalks and spears
               the shallows, darts to shore
                            to stab—what? I couldn’t
       see against the black mudflats—a frightened
       fiddler crab?

               the news to my left over the dunes and
reeds and bayberry clumps was
               fall: thousands of tree swallows
               gathering for flight:
               an order held
               in constant change: a congregation
rich with entropy: nevertheless, separable, noticeable
          as one event,
                      not chaos: preparations for
flight from winter,
cheet, cheet, cheet, cheet, wings rifling the green clumps,
at the bayberries
    a perception full of wind, flight, curve,
    the possibility of rule as the sum of rulelessness:
the “field” of action
with moving, incalculable center:

in the smaller view, order tight with shape:
blue tiny flowers on a leafless weed: carapace of crab:
snail shell:
            pulsations of order
            in the bellies of minnows: orders swallowed,   
broken down, transferred through membranes
to strengthen larger orders: but in the large view, no
lines or changeless shapes: the working in and out, together   
            and against, of millions of events: this,
                         so that I make
                         no form of

orders as summaries, as outcomes of actions override   
or in some way result, not predictably (seeing me gain   
the top of a dune,
the swallows
could take flight—some other fields of bayberry   
            could enter fall
            berryless) and there is serenity:

            no arranged terror: no forcing of image, plan,
or thought:
no propaganda, no humbling of reality to precept:

terror pervades but is not arranged, all possibilities   
of escape open: no route shut, except in   
   the sudden loss of all routes:

            I see narrow orders, limited tightness, but will   
not run to that easy victory:
            still around the looser, wider forces work:
            I will try
       to fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder, widening   
scope, but enjoying the freedom that
Scope eludes my grasp, that there is no finality of vision,   
that I have perceived nothing completely,
that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk.