Kenneth Rexroth

(December 22, 1905 – June 6, 1982 / South Bend, Indiana)

Gic to Har


It is late at night, cold and damp
The air is filled with tobacco smoke.
My brain is worried and tired.
I pick up the encyclopedia,
The volume GIC to HAR,
It seems I have read everything in it,
So many other nights like this.
I sit staring empty-headed at the article Grosbeak,
Listening to the long rattle and pound
Of freight cars and switch engines in the distance.
Suddenly I remember
Coming home from swimming
In Ten Mile Creek,
Over the long moraine in the early summer evening,
My hair wet, smelling of waterweeds and mud.
I remember a sycamore in front of a ruined farmhouse,
And instantly and clearly the revelation
Of a song of incredible purity and joy,
My first rose-breasted grosbeak,
Facing the low sun, his body
Suffused with light.
I was motionless and cold in the hot evening
Until he flew away, and I went on knowing
In my twelfth year one of the great things
Of my life had happened.
Thirty factories empty their refuse in the creek.
On the parched lawns are starlings, alien and aggressive.
And I am on the other side of the continent
Ten years in an unfriendly city.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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  • Rochelle Cashdan (5/18/2008 8:45:00 PM)

    I think the middle of this poem about the grosbeak wonderful, the beginning and end less so. I too would like to see more poems by Rexroth on Poemhunter, especially but not only his translations of Chinese poets from a millenium ago.. (Report) Reply

  • John Raubenheimer (4/15/2008 5:17:00 PM)

    It is late at night, cold and damp. I am in England. It is a year later...and I would still like to find more poems by Kenneth Rexroth in Poemhunter. He is a wonderful poet. I wish more people could be introduced to him. (Report) Reply

  • John Raubenheimer (3/13/2007 12:28:00 PM)

    Limpid, reflective, this is Kenneth Rexroth at his best. I would be thrilled to find more by this poet. He wrote a lot and his collected works were published in a thick book by, I think, Penguin. I used to have it but I lost my copy. (Report) Reply

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