Smoke and Steel

SMOKE of the fields in spring is one,Smoke of the leaves in autumn another.Smoke of a steel-mill roof or a battleship funnel,They all go up in a line with a smokestack,Or they twist … in the slow twist … of the wind.  If the north wind comes they run to the south.If the west wind comes Read More

New Feet

EMPTY battlefields keep their phantoms.Grass crawls over old gun wheelsAnd a nodding Canada thistle flings a purpleInto the summer’s southwest wind,Wrapping a root in the rust of a bayonet,Reaching a blossom in rust of shrapnel.

Summer Stars

BEND low again, night of summer stars.So near you are, sky of summer stars,So near, a long arm man can pick off stars,Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,So near you are, summer stars,So near, strumming, strumming,  So lazy and hum-strumming.


Sling me under the sea.Pack me down in the salt and wet.No farmer’s plow shall touch my bones.No Hamlet hold my jaws and speakHow jokes are gone and empty is my mouth.Long, green-eyed scavengers shall pick my eyes,Purple fish play hide-and-seek,And I shall be song of thunder, crash of sea,Down on the floors of salt Read More

New Farm Tractor

The rear axles hold the kick of twenty Missouri jackasses.  It is in the records of the patent office and the ads there is twenty horse power pull here.  The farm boy says hello to you instead of twenty mules-he sings to you instead of ten span of mules.  A bucket of oil and a can of grease Read More

Harvest Sunset

RED gold of pools,Sunset furrows six o’clock,And the farmer done in the fieldsAnd the cows in the barns with bulging udders.;;Take the cows and the farmer,Take the barns and bulging udders.Leave the red gold of poolsAnd sunset furrows six o’clock.The farmer’s wife is singing.The farmer’s boy is whistling.I wash my hands in red gold of Read More


Guns,Long, steel guns,Pointed from the war shipsIn the name of the war god.Straight, shining, polished guns,Clambered over with jackies in white blouses,Glory of tan faces, tousled hair, white teeth,Laughing lithe jackies in white blouses,Sitting on the guns singing war songs, war chanties. Shovels,Broad, iron shovels,Scooping out oblong vaults,Loosening turf and leveling sod.      I ask Read More


BECAUSE I have called to youas the flame flamingo calls,or the want of a spotted hawkis called-  because in the duskthe warblers shoot the runningwaters of short songs to thehomecoming warblers-  becausethe cry here is wing to wingand song to song-    I am waiting,waiting with the flame flamingo,the spotted hawk, the running waterwarbler-  waiting for you.


“I KNEW a real man once,” says Agatha in the splendor of a shagbark hickory tree.  Did a man touch his lips to Agatha? Did a man hold her in his arms? Did a man only look at her and pass by?  Agatha, far past forty in a splendor of remembrance, says, “I knew a real man Read More


Once when I saw a crippleGasping slowly his last days with the white plague,Looking from hollow eyes, calling for air,Desperately gesturing with wasted handsIn the dark and dust of a house down in a slum,I said to myselfI would rather have been a tall sunflowerLiving in a country gardenLifting a golden-brown face to the summer,Rain-washed Read More

Autumn Movement

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts. The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper  sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds. The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes,  new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow Read More

Three Violins

THREE violins are trying their hearts.The piece is MacDowell’s Wild Rose.;;And the time of the wild rose;;And the leaves of the wild roseAnd the dew-shot eyes of the wild roseSing in the air over three violins.Somebody like you was in the heart of MacDowell.Somebody like you is in three violins.

Trinity Place

THE GRAVE of Alexander Hamilton is in Trinity yard at the end of Wall Street.  The grave of Robert Fulton likewise is in Trinity yard where Wall Street stops.  And in this yard stenogs, bundle boys, scrubwomen, sit on the tombstones, and walk on the grass of graves, speaking of war and weather, of babies, wages and Read More


PEA pods cling to stems.Neponset, the village,Clings to the Burlington railway main line.Terrible midnight limiteds roar throughHauling sleepers to the Rockies and Sierras.The earth is slightly shakenAnd Neponset trembles slightly in its sleep.


I SAW a mouth jeering. A smile of melted red iron ran over it. Its laugh was full of nails rattling. It was a child’s dream of a mouth.A fist hit the mouth: knuckles of gun-metal driven by an electric wrist and shoulder. It was a child’s dream of an arm.The fist hit the mouth Read More

Band Concert

BAND concert public square Nebraska city. Flowing and circling dresses, summer-white dresses. Faces, flesh tints flung like sprays of cherry blossoms. And gigglers, God knows, gigglers, rivaling the pony whinnies of the Livery Stable Blues. Cowboy rags and nigger rags. And boys driving sorrel horses hurl a cornfield laughter at the girls in dresses, summer-white Read More


I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains     of the nation.Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air     go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men     and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall     pass to ashes.)I Read More


The long beautiful night of the wind and rain in April,The long night hanging down from the drooping branches of the top of a birch tree,Swinging, swaying, to the wind for a partner, to the rain for a partner.What is the humming, swishing thing they sing in the morning now?The rain, the wind, the swishing Read More

The Liars

(March, 1919)A LIAR goes in fine clothes.A liar goes in rags.A liar is a liar, clothes or no clothes.A liar is a liar and lives on the lies he tells and dies in a life of lies.And the stonecutters earn a living-with lies-on the tombs of liars.  Aliar looks ’em in the eyeAnd lies to a Read More


I Asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell     me what is happiness.And I went to famous executives who boss the work of     thousands of men.They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though     I was trying to fool with themAnd then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along     Read More

Evening Waterfall

WHAT was the name you called me?-And why did you go so soon?  The crows lift their caw on the wind,And the wind changed and was lonely.  The warblers cry their sleepy-songsAcross the valley gloaming,Across the cattle-horns of early stars.  Feathers and people in the crotch of a treetopThrow an evening waterfall of sleepy-songs.  What was the name you Read More