February 24, 2004

Three poems by George Oppen:

The Crowded Countries of the Bomb (1962)

What man could do,
And could not
And chance which has spared us
Choice, which has shielded us

As if a god. What is the name of that place
We have entered:
Despair? Ourselves?

That we can destroy ourselves

Walking in the shelter,
the young and the old,
Of each othes's backs and shoulders

Entering the country that is
Impenetrably ours.

Pedestrian (1962)

What generations could have dreamed
This grandchild of the shopping streets, her eyes

In the buyer's light, the store lights
Brighter than the lighthouses, brighter than moonrise

From the salt harbor so rich
So bright her city

In a soil of pavements, a mesh of wires where she walks
In the new winter among enormous buildings.

A Kind of Garden: A Poem for my Sister (1968)

One may say courage
And one may say fear

And nobility
There are women

Radically alone in courage
And fear

Clear minded and blind

In the machine
And the abstractions of the power

Of their times as can be blind

Untroubled by a leaf moving
In a garden

In mere breeze
Mere cause

But troubled as those who arrive

Where games have been played
When all games have been won, last difficult garden

Brilliant in courage
Hard clash with the homely

To embellish such victories

Which in that garden
She sought for a friend

Offering gently

A brilliant kindness
Of the brilliant garden


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