Archie Randolph Ammons

(18 February 1926 – 25 February 2001 / Whiteville, North Carolina)

Rogue Elephant


The reason to be autonomous is to stand there,
a cleared instrument, ready to act, to search

the moral realm and actual conditions for what
needs to be done and to do it: fine, the

best, if it works out, but if, like a gun, it
comes in handy to the wrong choice, why then

you see the danger in the effective: better
then an autonomy that stands and looks about,

negotiating nothing, the supreme indifferences:
is anything to be gained where as much is lost:

and if for every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction has the loss been researched

equally with the gain: you can see how the
milling actions of millions could come to a

buzzard-like glide as from a coincidental,
warm bottom of water stuck between chilled

peaks: it is not so easy to say, OK, go on
out and act: who, doing what, to what or

whom: just a minute: should the bunker be
bombed (if it stores gas): should all the

rattlers die just because they rattle: if I
hear the young gentleman vomiter roaring down

the hall in the men's room, should I go and
inquire of him, reducing him to my care: no

wonder the great sayers (who say nothing) sit
about in inaccessible states of mind: no

wonder still wisdom and catatonia appear to
exchange places occasionally: but if anything

were easy, our easy choices soon would carry
away our ignorance with the world-better

let the mixed-up mix and let the surface shine
with all the possibilities, each in itself.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Lamont Palmer (1/2/2009 10:53:00 AM)

    I've grown to enjoy the poems of Ammons and recognize the power in his style and vision. -LP (Report) Reply

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