Friday, October 5, 2012

Kenneth Fearing

Twentieth-Century Blues

What do you call it, bobsled champion, and you, too,
           Olympic roller-coaster ace,
High-diving queen, what is the word,
Number one man on the Saturday poker squad, motion-
           picture star incognito as a home girl, life of the party or
           you, the serious type, what is it, what is it,

When it's just like a fever shooting up and up and up but
           there are no chills and there is no fever,
Just exactly like a song, like a knockout, like a dream, like a

What is the word, when you know that all the light of all the
           cities of all the world are burning bright as day, and you
           know that some time they all go out for you,
Or your taxi rolls and rolls through streets made of velvet,
           what is the feeling, what is the feeling when the radio
           never ends, but the hour, the swift, the electric, the
           invisible hour does not stop and does not turn,
What does it mean, when the get-away money burns in
           dollars as big as moons, but where is there to go that's just
           exactly right,
What have you won, plunger, when the 20-1 comes in;
           what have you won salesman, when the dotted line is
           signed; irresistible lover, when her eyelids flutter shut at
           last, what have you really, finally won;
And what is gone, soldier, soldier, step-and-a-half marine who
           saw the whole world; hot-tip addict, what is always just
           missed; picker of crumbs, how much has been lost,
           denied, what are all the things destroyed,
Question mark, question mark, question mark, question mark,

And you, fantasy Frank, and dreamworld Dora and
           hallucination Harold, and delusion Dick, and
           nightmare Ned,

What is it, how do you say it, what does it mean, what's the
That third-rail, million-volt exclamation mark, that ditto,
           ditto, ditto
That stop, stop, go.

--Kenneth Fearing

fr. Complete Poems 
[Orono, Maine: The National Poetry Foundation, 1994]


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