What should the wars do with these jigging fools?
The man behind the book may not be man,
His own man or the book’s or yet the time’s,
But still be whole, deciding what he can
In praise of politics or German rimes;
But the intellectual lights a cigarette
And offers it lit to the lady, whose odd smile
Is the merest hyphen—lest he should forget
What he has been resuming all the while.
He talks to overhear, she to withdraw
To some interior feminine fireside
Where the back arches, beauty puts forth a paw
Like a black puma stretching in velvet pride,
Making him think of cats, a stray of which
Some days sets up a howling in his brain,
Pure interference such as this neat bitch
Seems to create from listening disdain.
But talk is all the value, the release,
Talk is the very fillip of an act,
The frame and subject of the masterpiece
Under whose film of age the face is cracked.
His own forehead glows like expensive wood,
But back of it the mind is disengaged,
Self-sealing clock recording bad and good
At constant temperature, intact, unaged.
But strange, his body is an open house
Inviting every passerby to stay;
The city to and fro beneath his brows
Wanders and drinks and chats from night to day.
Think of a private thought, indecent room
Where one might kiss his daughter before bed!
Life is embarrassed; shut the family tomb,
Console your neighbor for his recent dead;
Do something! die in Spain or paint a green
Gouache, go into business (Rimbaud did),
Or start another Little Magazine,
Or move in with a woman, have a kid.
Invulnerable, impossible, immune,
Do what you will, your will will not be done
But dissipate the light of afternoon
Till evening flickers like the midnight sun,
And midnight shouts and dies: I’d rather be
A milkman walking in his sleep at dawn
Bearing fat quarts of cream, and so be free,
Crossing alone and cold from lawn to lawn.
I’d rather be a barber and cut hair
Than walk with you in gilt museum halls,
You and the puma-lady, she so rare
Exhaling her silk soul upon the walls.
Go take yourselves apart, but let me be
The fault you find with everyman. I spit,
I laugh, I fight; and you, l’homme qui rît;
Swallow your stale saliva, and still sit.
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Comments about this poem (The Intellectual by Karl Shapiro )
Still I Rise
The Road Not Taken
If You Forget Me
Edgar Allan Poe
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
A Dream Within A Dream
Edgar Allan Poe
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)
(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821)
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost