today is cloudy in several ways: details of pain, causes of shivering: but this must be done: it's fairly warm, tho--speaking now entirely of the weather: may rain: could turn cold enough to snow again (none of my business) I saw the jay before breakfast: he looked a little grimy, gray, like old blue snow: has had rough times lately: rough times is ordinary, will not make the news: the sun, screened dim by clouds, enters the room, strikes my typewriter, throws shadow on the wall, just touches the flower-tip of a crown-of-thorns branch: ecology is my word: tag me with that: come in there: you will find yourself in a firmless country: centers & peripheries in motion, organic, interrelations! that's the door: here's the key: come in, celebrant, to one meaning that totals my meanings: the circular lichen spotting the tree trunk is like a moral order: there is a center where with threads the lichen knits in, the "holding-on" point that gathers stability from bark: and there is the outward multiplication of forms (cells & patterns) to an unprescribed periphery that marks the moment-to-moment edge of growth: the cougar, big in size & appetite, ranges widely: he won't turn a square mile into desert: travels out into the country of his sustenance, incorporating herds of deer within his trails and how thin the tissue of his going is! one month in the northwest of his range, a month in valleys, a month at higher altitudes: he's adapted to travel: it's not in his interest to exhaust the deer population, as it's not our interest to exhaust the host earth: the predator husbands his prey: at the center, the predatory gathering of energy done, the female drops her litter, new seeds of possibility: new animal-plants to take root, spread out the wide thin tissue of life: tapestries! figures overlapping: at the dwindling of green a percentage of aphids begins to be born with wings: time to fly away & make trials of new centers: ecology out of balance turns tilt into direction: when the milkweed seed rises into the wind on down, the soft beauty means conquest: let's establish ourselves, send out our tokens: as I am I I will change you, drop seeds of myself in your ground: watch out for me: I mean to prevail: you think of yourself: I may welcome some thought of yours: I may give it ground: or I may not yield to it: I may find it lacking, not able to survive my country, & cast it out as already withered in potentiality: the plains Indians centered their lives on the chase: rooted in a moving herd of buffalo! a center stabilized in instability: or the reverse: the barnacle on a rock, stationary, depends on the sea to bring it food: where is the center that holds? it was the Earth, became the sun, then the center of our galaxy (Sagittarius?) then farther & farther out: no imaginable center: except the one that lichen makes: my other word is provisional: we'll talk about that someday, tho you may guess the meanings from ecology: don't establish the boundaries first, the squares, triangles, boxes of preconceived possibility, and then pour life into them, trimming off left-over edges, ending potential: let centers proliferate from self-justifying motions! the box can't bend without breaking: but the center-arising form adapts, tests the peripheries, draws in, finds a new factor, utilizes a new method, gains a new foothold, responds to inner & outer change: A.R. Ammons
Reading this poem for pleasure: (12 minutes 38 seconds)
they changed the forecast today from partly sunny to mostly cloudy: not by prophecy: stuck their heads out the window & tho the instruments didn't agree reduced the gap between prophecy & existent fact: the direct yields abundance, while calculation drags upon the event: I beg that my eyes that are open be opened, that the drives, motions, intellections, symbologies myths--lift, expose me to direct sight: seeing, I color, alter, hide, accent: but what is there, naked & nonhuman? or here, deep & terrifyingly human? are we confined in an atom with fiery nucleus? is there too much room, the ego under threat of dispersion? you--who are you? how do I feel about you? do I hate it that I love to be tied to you by love? untied, wd I be free or lost? but for your own sake: who are you? can I help? is there any thing I can do: are things working out all right for you? what are those black areas? are they parts of you that can't fall into place, come into light? are they longings & fears only dreams whisper? I love you the best I know how: encounter me with belief: are you getting yours? getting & giving yours, mine, & ours, are we resolving most of the areas, are we touching on elation enough? do I love you mostly, or the thought of us together? are you hoping that giving will make up for not getting? that wd be the course of saints: get, too: get it from me: I have it and having it for you, I get mine: who are you, deeper? have I sounded you? was that bottom I struck? but oh up in the heart & around your breasts and to speak of the deep in your eyes, have I come into your measure? are you getting yours? have you been had? You've had me: I float: every cell comes to this: you are beautiful: you are just beautiful: beautiful: thank you: 11:16 a.m: a blur of light just came into the room, lived a few seconds, then died away: my crown-of-thorns, waiting, got the benefit, struck across the middle: the instruments were right in a way: emphasis distinguishes partly sunny from mostly cloudy: if it don't snow it's gonna miss a good chancet: I'll say that: lagging behind the event: running to catch up: to be at the crest's break, the running crest, event becoming word: anti-art & non-classical: in art, we do not run to keep up with random moments, we select & create the moment occurring forever: timelessness held at the peak of time: (just went to take a leak: jay on the back lawn, hopping, looking around, turning leaves) but this may turn back on itself, motion by motion, a continum, held in timelessness racing with time,,,,like a napkin burnt in the ashtray, red beads, flameless, racing around, splitting, dying, turning fiber into ash: held activity: let's have faith to go ahead & see if anything will happen: maybe the tape will run out: (looks a long way off: Muse! Muse! fiery woman, what you got to tell me? tell me: I feel weak so much tape remains: my back's getting sore: I don't sleep good with this going on--slept pretty good last night: woke up once into a country of dreams: wanted to remember them: but mostly cloudy was too bright, even, for them: it was a country, I think: great many people: & no news of my book at the pstffce again this morn: so I don't feel strong about things: I need plenty of help: the crusty world takes no notice: Muse, what must we do to hit the top: it'd better be good: give a little, will you, please?) (I'm bushed:) but you can do worse than be a singer of verses: (I'm the biggest fool that ever was-- assertion's not the way to the top, you're a little round fool-- to follow you off into these woods: who are you anyhow? some kind of a prickteaser?) & so & so & so & so & so & so & so & so & so so (some kinuva sans merci?) lunch: hot dogs and baked beans again: swell: 2/23: 11 cents a can: cheap: hotdogs run you around-- oh let's see: this morning's coffee & a chocolate fudge cookie: maybe 30 cents altogether: & all that energy turned into verse will bring you about four condemnations: transformations! metamorphoses! mitachondria! hell's bells! how my back hurts: even by concentrating, I can't feel any presence to my balls: missing: wd it be masturbatory if I if I touched the area briefly just to make sure? two cool tight weights! thank you: thank you very much: if I had a flute: wdn't if be fine to see this long thin poem rise out of the waste- basket: the charmed erection, stiffening, uncoiling? anyways, that wastebasket is coiled full: wonder if I should stomp in it? in & out: weaving in & out: a tapestry, looking for all the world as if it were alive: (break we that watch up) just took a ride out to the refuge: 100,000 birds: mallards, grebes, teals, herons, Canada geese & two excellent flyers from which there is no refuge: one, the short-necked, long-tailed red hawk: he browses the marshes & for the little bird, little bird he is carefully looking: & way overhead, turning, the quiet, black vulture: two avenues flesh can take: the tight red & the loose dark meat: red ambulance & black hearse, brazen reminders: and the birds fly among, regarding & regardless: the trash collectors came while I was gone & took the week's waste away: we are purged: even a house has the incoming & outgoing energies & losses by which it is maintained: the garbage truck says on the back "We aim to serve, not disturb": sophisticated assonance & & & & & & & intellections are scaffolds, trellises we wish some vine of feeling would take to & possess completely: spider build a circle hung in the squares of: bird light on & sing from the top of: we build them even for the windsong's tenuous life: chance a vine will ramble up it busting into leaves & roses, giving the robin a place & making all the air around fragrant: we build these structures because we have hope, at least: we're flat & lifeless, but these erections, they have hollow spaces, room: we mean to change--that is, a spouting is going to go on: good, bad, & indifferent are gonna clutter up all around, rise through the lattices of held space and sing all together, rose, thorn, smear of birdshit: gonna rise right up out of the ground where the dreams wait and be red & gold and laughing to beat the band: intellections are bowls we hope to fill: motions on the prowl: don't cut them down or bust them up so the water spills & the vine hunts aimlessly over the ground: do not be impatient with us: we're coming along & meantime entertain yourselves with the dry beauty of our joists & timbers, slats & designs: if nothing ever breaks into leaf still we meant to encourage the vine: we like the call of the robin & his early visit & the color of his hen's eggs & the way he stands on the lawn, erect-- dressed for a wedding: intellections have a use, don't think they don't: if the vine couldn't find a natural tree, what would become of it? if structure without life is meaningless, so is life without structure: we're going to make a dense, tangled trellis so lovely & complicated that every kind of variety will find a place in it or on it: you just be surprised: & forgive us: who mean song direct & fierce: (this day ended in spite of all mostly sunny) a dark night of stars ensuing: help me: I have this & no other comfort: the song, the slight, inner unmistakable song you give me and nothing else! what are you, some kind of strumpet? will you pull out on me? look: I have faith: I have faith: come or go: I'll always love you: I have nothing else: I have nothing else besides you: will you tear me to pieces? I'll go on without you, until you come again: then in the flare of song we'll make a common flame: if it ain't one fantasy it's anothern: where are you, reality? come out of there: you drift around in the background, drooping like a suckegg dog: probably I'd like you all right if I could get up close enough to know you: are you pieces of things not quite fastened? what's your face like? frowns & bitters? witchy? scrawny? warty? withery? maybe I've given you a horrible mask and behind that you're beautiful: or is this another dream, reality's dream? then, is reality to be free of fantasies, those I hang between us, those I cast on you? fact is, I'm having this conversation with a piece of paper! and "you" are a figment of imagination and "you" have no mask & if you did no face wd be behind it: all this is just coming out of my head: the factory of fantasies: some beautiful, some terrifying, some this, some that--but all, paper & thin air! a hundred dragons and furies, satyrs & centaurs--and one Muse! get food: get water: get sex: bank account, nice car, good address, retirement plan, investment portfolio, country-club membership, monogrammed shirts, summer home, cabin cruiser, big living room (furnished modern) Money Power Food Water Sex--and who needs paper conversations, words revved up in a fine motion and a headful of dragons? reality, I've got a feeling you can be awful nice! but if the only reality I can get is a spare, hard-bought one, why turn on the fantasies and let there be gorgeousness, color & motion, red & gold fabrics and fine illusioning silks! the man with bills to pay dreams with a Muse! reality is knowing what you want and how to get it: (A.R. Ammons)
This is an excerpt from the book Tape for the Turn of the Year
Context: He was typing on a roll of adding machine paper. It is a book length poem. He typed nearly daily until he ran out of tape. It was 1963.
this ole world could be one if it wusn't for hate bustin it apart, keeps crackin it into little pieces: love, I mean, could rise up there love and make all the children dance shaking breasts & hips, pelvis shooting in & out and all kine of sanging going on: summer coming back just like it hadn't been nowhere: and the bees bumbling in the hollyhocks: calves kicking up their heels & the spring roosters crashing into crows: in Praxagora"s perfect world, tho, the maiden could be had only after the hag was served: and what would we do with our hate? turning hate outward, we keep dense & pure our inward love: can we incorporate our enemies? can we maintain a high degree of difference within unity's cluster? give room, latitude, widen the band of acceptance: we live in strictures of hate & suspicion, intolerance & doubt: absorb the margins: enlarge the range: give life room: (A.R. Ammons)
today broke as if under water: horizons & dome diffused with completely increased cloudiness: a set of four thumb-size birds flicker in the sumac grove: the sun's a sliver bead behind the clouds: flurries expected: Christmas trees come stout, stubby, tall, lean, bunchy, lopsided, scrawny-- besides the kinds--cedar, pine, fir: my wife & I diverge at scrawny-bunchy: she likes bunchy ones (even a little stubby): I like scrawny, open trees: like to get inside the tree and hang it full of ornaments: I don't like those bunchy ones that thurst you out, accept only peripheral trim: chacun a chacun, tho: that is, the devil with it: husband & wife hold each other off by digging chasms of difference: then they have a hell of a time bridging them: it's important that a male be different from a female-- the greater the difference the higher the charge-- but if the difference gets too wide, the two halves drift off into alienations: ever noticed how dark it is inside those bunchy trees? they hover-in the dark, withholding, secret, mysterious: what? have a system of darkness standing in the living room, recalcitrant, impenetrable? the devil take it! --or-- I cd think of it as protected darkness, boundaried by ornament & light: maybe that's a deeper response than my fully exhausted open tree: everybody to his own taste, said the old man as he kissed the cow: (and every little bit helps, said the old lady as she peed in the ocean) 10:29 a.m: the bead's done: 12:48 pm: everything white: 3:20 pm: still snowing: I went to the cleaner's, egg-lady's & mailbox & just got in: trucks are whirling red gravel over the roads: the snow is holding, packing down: tires aren't breaking through: the children, let out of school, run testing mounds that look all snow but are only surfaced, scraping up handfuls-- not yet enough snow for huge crunchy handfuls-- muffled, the highway's stopped burning: 9:41 pm: we've just come in from being out: it's a wicked white icy night: cars slipping, wheels spinning: bushes sparkle in the headlights: imagine being out for a night restless & wakeful with cold, some child coughing--or crying with fever: who are we on this globe? how & at what cost have we survived? deer & birds: are they cold? maybe one way of coming home is into silence, restfulness from words, freedom from the mill that grinds reality into sound: why do I need to throw this structure against the flow which I cannot stop? is there something unyielding in me that can't accept the passing away of days and birds flowers & leaves? it's always never return for them: that way, day by day, for me & you: acquiescence, acceptance: the silent passage into the stream, going along, not holding back: I try to transfigure these days so you'll want to keep them: come back to them: from where? from the running honey of reality & life? come back: I hold these days aloft, empty boxes you can exist in: but when you live in them you hurry out of your own life: if my meaning is to befriend you, must I turn you away? I stop to fasten, and currents swirl around, over me, wearing my structures away, teaching me not to grasp, not to try to keep: why does a man sit alone and question the answerless air where no blood stirs and no lips move? this love, fashioned into acts, might bring a lonely person purpose enough: what's the nature of this carrying-on? generations to come: are they more precious, estimable, than these that are? can a lip quiever with more need then than now? I have a notion to be wordless, but active with immediate deed, open with the glance of my need, direct, humble in my going, glad as the thoughtless are: are we creators in fact or collectors of relics: do we make grow or cast into stone? (A.R. Ammons) (1963)
some nights the stars
are raw & brand new?
make you feel
it’s the size
pulls you out
till you grasp
— A snippet from “Tape for the Turn of the Year” —