William Carlos Williams



Shadows cast by the street-light
under the stars,
the head is tilted back,
the long shadows of the legs
presume a world
taken for granted
on which the cricket trills.
The hollows of the eyes
are unpeopled.
Right and left
climb the ladders of night
as dawn races
to put out the stars.
is the poetic figure
but we know
better: what is not now
will never
be. Sleep secure,
the little dog in the snap-shot
keeps his shrewd eyes
pared. Memory
is liver than sight.
A man
looking out,
seeing the shadows—
it is himself
that can be painlessly amputated
by a mere shifting
of the stars.
A comfort so easily not to be
and to be at once one
with every man.
The night blossoms
with a thousand shadows
so long
as there are stars,
or a moon and
who shall say
by their shadows
which is different
from the other
fat or lean.


Ripped from the context of our lives
and from all context
somehow, and plainly,
the sun will come up
each morning
and sink again.
So that we experience
every day
two worlds
one of which we share with
the rose in bloom
and one,
by far the greater,
with the past,
the world of memory,
the silly world of history,
the world
of the imagination.
Which leaves only the beasts and trees,
with their refractive
and rotting things
to stir our wonder.
Save for the little
central hole
of the eye itself
into which
we dare not stare too hard
or we are lost,
The instant
trivial as it is
is all we have
things the imagination feeds upon,
the scent of a rose,
startle us anew.


Copyright 1955 The Penn Review.
Copyright 1955 William Carlos Williams.