William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)


Now that I have cooled to you
Let there be gold of tarnished masonry,
Temples soothed by the sun to ruin  
That sleep utterly.
Give me hand for the dances,           
Ripples at Philae, in and out,        
And lips, my Lesbian,        
Wall flowers that once were flame.        

Your hair is my Carthage        
And my arms the bow,        
And our words arrows        
To shoot the stars        
Who from that misty sea        
Swarm to destroy us.        

But you there beside me—        
Oh how shall I defy you,        
Who wound me in the night        
With breasts shining        
Like Venus and like Mars?        
The night that is shouting Jason        
When the loud eaves rattle        
As with waves above me        
Blue at the prow of my desire.

Portrait of a Lady

Your thighs are appletrees
whose blossoms touch the sky.
Which sky? The sky
where Watteau hung a lady’s
slipper. Your knees
are a southern breeze–or
a gust of snow. Agh! what
sort of man was Fragonard?
–as if that answered
anything. Ah, yes–below
the knees, since the tune
drops that way, it is
one of those white summer days,
the tall grass of your ankles
flickers upon the shore–
Which shore?–
the sand clings to my lips–
Which shore?
Agh, petals maybe. How
should I know?
Which shore? Which shore?
I said petals from an appletree.

Queen-Anne’s Lace

Her body is not so white as
anemony petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over—
or nothing.