The Shampoo Essay Research Paper Insomnia The

The Shampoo Essay, Research Paper


The moon in the bureau mirror

looks out a million miles

(and perhaps with pride, at herself,

but she never, never smiles)

far and away beyond sleep, or

perhaps she’s a daytime sleeper.

By the universe deserted,

she’d tell it to go to hell,

and she’d finda body of water,

or a mirror, on which to dwell.

So wrap up care in a cobweb

and drop it down the well

into that world inverted

where left is always right,

where the shadows are really the body,

where we stay awake all night,

where the heavens are shallow as the sea

is now deep, and you love me.


The End of March

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day

to take a walk on that long beach

Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,

indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,

seabirds in ones or twos.

The rackety, icy, offshore wind

numbed our faces on one side;

disrupted the formation

of a lone flight of Canada geese;

and blew back the low, inaudible rollers

in upright, steely mist.

The sky was darker than the water

–it was the color of mutton-fat jade.

Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed

a track of big dog-prints (so big

they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on

lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,

looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,

over and over. Finally, they did end:

a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,

rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,

falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost…

A kite string?–But no kite.

I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,

my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box

set up on pilings, shingled green,

a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener

(boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),

protected from spring tides by a palisade

of–are they railroad ties?

(Many things about this place are dubious.)

I’d like to retire there and do nothing,

or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:

look through binoculars, read boring books,

old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,

talk to myself, and, foggy days,

watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.

At night, a grog a l’americaine.

I’d blaze it with a kitchen match

and lovely diaphanous blue flame

would waver, doubled in the window.

There must be a stove; there is a chimney,

askew, but braced with wires,

and electricity, possibly

–at least, at the back another wire

limply leashes the whole affair

to something off behind the dunes.

A light to read by–perfect! But–impossible.

And that day the wind was much too cold

even to get that far,

and of course the house was boarded up.

On the way back our faces froze on the other side.

The sun came out for just a minute.

For just a minute, set in their bezels of sand,

the drab, damp, scattered stones

were multi-colored,

and all those high enough threw out long shadows,

individual shadows, then pulled them in again.

They could have been teasing the lion sun,

except that now he was behind them

–a sun who’d walked the beach the last low tide,

making those big, majestic paw-prints,

who perhaps had batted a kite out of the sky to play with.

–1976, Geography III


At the Fishhouses

Although it is a cold evening,

down by one of the fishhouses

an old man sits netting,

his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,

a dark purple-brown,

and his shuttle worn and polished.

The air smells so strong of codfish

it makes one’s nose run and one’s eyes water.

The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs

and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up

to storerooms in the gables

for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.

All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,

swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,

is opaque, but the silver of the benches,

the lobster pots, and masts, scattered

among the wild jagged rocks,

is of an apparent translucence

like the small old buildings with an emerald moss

growing on their shoreward walls.

The big fish tubs are completely lined

with layers of beautiful herring scales

and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered

with small iridescent flies crawling on them.

Up on the little slope behind the houses,

set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,

is an ancient wooden capstan,

cracked, with two long bleached handles

and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,

where the ironwork has rusted.

The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.

He was a friend of my grandfather.

We talk of the decline in the population

and of codfish and herring

while he waits for a herring boat to come in.

There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.

He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,

from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,

the blade of which is almost worn away.

Down at the water’s edge, at the place

where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp

descending into the water, thin silver

tree trunks are laid horizontally

across the gray stones, down and down

at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,

element bearable to no mortal,

to fish and to seals. . . One seal particularly

I have seen here evening after evening.

He was curious about me. He was interested in music;

like me a believer in total immersion,

so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.

I also sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

He stood up in the water and regarded me

steadily, moving his head a little.

Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge

almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug

as if it were against his better judgment.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,

the clear gray icy water. . . Back, behind us,

the dignified tall firs begin.

bluish, associating with their shadows,

a million Christmas trees stand

waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended

above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.

I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,

slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,

icily free above the stones,

above the stones and then the world.

If you should dip your hand in,

your wrist would ache immediately,

your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn

as if the water were a transmutation fo fire

that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.

If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,

then briny, then surely burn your tongue.

It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:

dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,

drawn from the cold hard mouth

of the world, derived from the rocky breasts

forever, flowing and drawn, and since

our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

–1955, A Cold Spring


From a Key West Notebook

Creeping under over hanging boughs

In the dew-drenched total dark

Meeting a hollow wind like a coffin in the air

Searching for that rumoured pool–

There are stars in the roof of your mouth

And a glowworm at the root of your tongue



The Shampoo

The still explosions on the rocks,

the lichens, grow

by spreading, gray, concentric shocks.

They have arranged

to meet the rings around the moon, although

within our memories they have not changed

And since the heavens will attend

as long on us,

you’ve been, dear friend,

precipitate and pragmatical;

and look what happens. For Time is

nothing if not amenable.

The shooting stars in your black hair

in bright formation

are flocking where,

so straight, so soon?

–Come, let me wash it in this big tin basin,

battered and shiny like the moon.

–1955, A Cold Spring


Letter To Miss Pierson

[a reader requesting advice on how to become a poet]

from One Art: Selected Letters

437 Lewis Wharf

Boston, MA

May 28, 1975

…I think you have set up difficulties for yourself that perhaps don’t really exist at all. I don’t know what “poetic tools & structures” are, unless you mean traditional forms. Which one can use or not, as one sees fit. If you feel you are “moralizing” too much–just cut the morals off–or out. (Quite often young poets tend to try to tie everything up neatly in 2 or 3 beautiful last lines and it is quite surprising how the poems are improved if the poet can bear to sacrifice those last, pat, beautiful lines.) Your third problem–why shouldn’t the poet appear in the poem? There are several tricks–”I” or “we” or “he” or “she” or even “one”–or somebody’s name. Someone is talking, after all–but of course the idea is to prevent that particular tone of voice from growing monotonous.

From what you say, I think perhaps you are actually trying too hard–or reading too much about poetry and not enough poetry. Prosody–metrics–etc. are fascinating–but they all come afterwards, obviously. And I always ask my writing classes NOT to read criticism.

Read a lot of poetry–all the time–and not 20th-century poetry. Read Campion, Herbert, Pope, Tennyson, Coleridge–anything at all almost that’s any good, from the past–until you find out what you really like, by yourself. Even if you try to initiate it exactly–it will come out quite different. Then the great poets of our own century–Marianne Moore, Auden, Wallace Stevens–and not just 2 or 3 poems each, in anthologies–read ALL of somebody. Then read his or her life, and letters, and so on. (And by all means read Keats’s Letters.) Then see what happens.

That’s really all I can say. It can’t be done, apparently, by willpower and study alone–or by being “with it”–but I really don’t know how poetry gets to be written. There is a mystery & a surprise, and after that a great deal of hard work…


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