31 December, 2006

"air of atrocity" re-visited

George Oppen


It is the air of atrocity,
An event as ordinary

As a President.
A plume of smoke, visible at a distance
In which people burn.


Now in the helicopters the casual will
Is atrocious

Insanity in high places,
If it is true we must do these things
We must cut our throats

The fly in the bottle

Insane, the insane fly

Which, over the city
Is the bright light of shipwreck


—They await

War, and the news
Is war

As always
That the juices may flow in them
Tho the juices lie.

Great things have happpened
On the earth and given it history, armies
And the ragged hordes moving and the passions
Of that death. But who escapes

Among these riders
Of the subway.

They know
By now as I know

Failure and the guilt
Of failure.
As in Hardy's poem of Christmas

We might half-hope to find the animals
In the sheds of a nation
Kneeling at midnight,

Farm animals,
Draft animals, beasts for slaughter
Because it would mean they have forgiven us,

Or which is the same thing,
That we do not altogether matter.


Whitman: 'April 19, 1864

The capitol grows upon one in time, especially as they have got the great figure on top of it now, and you can see it very well. It is a great bronze figure, the Genius of Liberty I suppose. It looks wonderful toward sundown. I love to go and look at it. The sun when it is nearly down shines on the headpiece and it dazzles and glistens like a big star: it looks quite

curious . . .'

—from "Of Being Numerous" by George Oppen

PennSound has 2 recordings of Oppen reading from "Of Being Numerous," one complete performance from 1967, and another of sections 1-22 from 1979

& here are a few more biographical notes, in addition to the 2 sites above


Anonymous Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez said...

ah, man. that was moving.

5:12 PM  

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