Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Our Juggernaut seems to roll

Our Juggernaut seems to roll
by itself over people
but there are really men
who tend the wheels and engine

only a few hours a day
and jump off and go and play
at home or on the links
and eat well and drink drinks.

Many of them are certainly
much happier than I
and today one came with a poem
that he had made in his free time

(though I am still willing
to correct the writing of the young)
but I would not talk to him about his poem,
I would not talk about a poem to him.

--Paul Goodman, from North Percy (1968).

This little pamphlet, most of which was written in the aftermath of the death of the poet's son in a mountain-climbing accident, may be the most sorrowful book I know. It is out of print (like every volume of Goodman's poetry, as far as I can tell), and it is a not an easy book to read, not because of its style (which could hardly be more direct), but because of the bareness with which the author delineates his grief. I have chosen one of the few overtly political poems it contains in honor of the day, but the sadness that pervades its pages is mostly beyond all that.

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