Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams
Light Hearted Author
- The birches are mad with green points
- the wood's edge is burning with their green,
- burning, seething--No, no, no.
- The birches are opening their leaves one
- by one. Their delicate leaves unfold cold
- and separate, one by one. Slender tassels
- hang swaying from the delicate branch tips--
- Oh, I cannot say it. There is no word.
- Black is split at once into flowers. In
- every bog and ditch, flares of
- small fire, white flowers!--Agh,
- the birches are mad, mad with their green.
- The world is gone, torn into shreds
- with this blessing. What have I left undone
- that I should have undertaken?
- O my brother, you redfaced, living man
- ignorant, stupid whose feet are upon
- this same dirt that I touch--and eat.
- We are alone in this terror, alone,
- face to face on this road, you and I,
- wrapped by this flame!
- Let the polished plows stay idle,
- their gloss already on the black soil.
- But that face of yours--!
- Answer me. I will clutch you. I
- will hug you, grip you. I will poke my face
- into your face and force you to see me.
- Take me in your arms, tell me the commonest
- thing that is in your mind to say,
- say anything. I will understand you--!
- It is the madness of the birch leaves opening
- cold, one by one.
- My rooms will receive me. But my rooms
- are no longer sweet spaces where comfort
- is ready to wait on me with its crumbs.
- A darkness has brushed them. The mass
- of yellow tulips in the bowl is shrunken.
- Every familiar object is changed and dwarfed.
- I am shaken, broken against a might
- that splits comfort, blows apart
- my careful partitions, crushes my house
- and leaves me--with shrinking heart
- and startled, empty eyes--peering out
- into a cold world.
- In the spring I would be drunk! In the spring
- I would be drunk and lie forgetting all things.
- Your face! Give me your face, Yang Kue Fei!
- your hands, your lips to drink!
- Give me your wrists to drink--
- I drag you, I am drowned in you, you
- overwhelm me! Drink!
- Save me! The shad bush is in the edge
- of the clearing. The yards in a fury
- of lilac blossoms are driving me mad with terror.
- Drink and lie forgetting the world.
- And coldly the birch leaves are opening one by one.
- Coldly I observe them and wait for the end.
- And it ends.
Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner: