Saturday, November 28, 2009

“As She Was Thus Alone in the Clear Moonlight”

Some months the Weekly Poem is programmatic; this month they’ve been a hodge-podge. In fact, this poem by one of my most favorite poets, Kenneth Patchen, was really a last moment whim. The poem this week was supposed to be “The Desolate Field” by William Carlos Williams—oddly, this would have been the good doctor’s first appearance in the Robert Frost’s Banjo Weekly Poem (not that his reputation is suffering from that). I’m sure Dr Williams will appear in this space somewhere down the line. In the meantime, please enjoy this lovely poem by Kenneth Patchen.

AS SHE WAS THUS ALONE IN THE CLEAR MOONLIGHT, standing between rock and sky, and scarcely seeming to touch the earth, her dark locks and loose garments scattered by the wind, she looked like some giant spirit of the older time, preparing to ascend into the mighty cloud which singly hung from this poor heaven

so when she lay beside me
sleep’s town went round her
and wondering children pressed against the high windows
of the room where we had been

so when she lay beside me
a voice, reminded of an old fashion:
“What are they saying?
of the planets and the turtles?
of the woodsman and the bee?”
but we were too proud to answer, too tired to care about designs
“of tents and books and swords and birds”

thus does the circle pull upon itself
and all the gadding angels draw us in

until I can join her in that soft town where the bells
split apples on their tongues
and bring sleep down like a fish’s shadow

Kenneth Patchen


  1. Another wonderful poem, John. I have never heard of this poet, but the lilt of this piece and the tranquil images will keep me coming back for more of his work.


  2. A good one I didn't know.

    It reminds me that every now and again one reads something that changes the light in which one sees the world and leaves one wanting to reread it again and again, and read everything the writer wrote. I wonder how many more such experiences are out there - patient, literary time-bombs?

  3. I have to admit, I don't always understand everything Patchen says, but I LOVE the way he says it. I'll have to take another read, but I really like the intro and the way this transitions into their personal world.

  4. Hi Kat & Dominic & Karen

    Kat: Glad you liked it!

    Dominic: I like the idea of literary time-bombs!

    Karen: He can be a bit enigmatic, but I think his language is so charged with emotion--the way he says it!


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