Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams
- Go to sleep--though of course you will not--
- to tideless waves thundering slantwise against
- strong embankments, rattle and swish of spray
- dashed thirty feet high, caught by the lake wind,
- scattered and strewn broadcast in over the steady
- car rails! Sleep, sleep! Gulls' cries in a wind-gust
- broken by the wind; calculating wings set above
- the field of waves breaking.
- Go to sleep to the lunge between foam-crests,
- refuse churned in the recoil. Food! Food!
- Offal! Offal! that holds them in the air, wave-white
- for the one purpose, feather upon feather, the wild
- chill in their eyes, the hoarseness in their voices--
- sleep, sleep . . .
- Gentlefooted crowds are treading out your lullaby.
- Their arms nudge, they brush shoulders,
- hitch this way then that, mass and surge at the crossings--
- lullaby, lullaby! The wild-fowl police whistles,
- the enraged roar of the traffic, machine shrieks:
- it is all to put you to sleep,
- to soften your limbs in relaxed postures,
- and that your head slip sidewise, and your hair loosen
- and fall over your eyes and over your mouth,
- brushing your lips wistfully that you may dream,
- sleep and dream--
- A black fungus springs out about the lonely church doors--
- sleep, sleep. The Night, coming down upon
- the wet boulevard, would start you awake with his
- message, to have in at your window. Pay no
- heed to him. He storms at your sill with
- cooings, with gesticulations, curses!
- You will not let him in. He would keep you from sleeping.
- He would have you sit under your desk lamp
- brooding, pondering; he would have you
- slide out the drawer, take up the ornamented dagger
- and handle it. It is late, it is nineteen-nineteen--
- go to sleep, his cries are a lullaby;
- his jabbering is a sleep-well-my-baby; he is
- a crackbrained messenger.
- The maid waking you in the morning
- when you are up and dressing,
- the rustle of your clothes as you raise them--
- it is the same tune.
- At table the cold, greeninsh, split grapefruit, its juice
- on the tongue, the clink of the spoon in
- your coffee, the toast odors say it over and over.
- The open street-door lets in the breath of
- the morning wind from over the lake.
- The bus coming to a halt grinds from its sullen brakes--
- lullaby, lullaby. The crackle of a newspaper,
- the movement of the troubled coat beside you--
- sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep . . .
- It is the sting of snow, the burning liquor of
- the moonlight, the rush of rain in the gutters packed
- with dead leaves: go to sleep, go to sleep.
- And the night passes--and never passes--
Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner: