All I'm sure of is
that I kept going back and forth,
Sometimes I bumped into trees,
Bumped into beggars,
I forced my way through a thicket of chairs and tables,
With my soul on a thread I watched the great leaves fall.
But the whole thing was useless,
At every turn I sank deeper into a sort of jelly;
People laughed at my fits,
The characters stirred in their armchairs like seaweed moved by the waves
And women looked at me with disgust
Dragging me up, dragging me down,
Making me cry and laugh against my will.
All this evoked in
me a feeling of nausea
And a storm of incoherent sentences,
Threats, insults, pointless curses,
Also certain exhausting pelvic motions,
Macabre dances, that left me
Short of breath
Unable to raise my head for days
I kept going back
and forth, it's true,
My soul drifted through the streets
Calling for help, begging for a little tenderness,
With pencil and paper I went into cemeteries
Determined not to be fooled.
I went round and round the same fact,
I studied everything in minute detail
Or I tore out my hair in a tantrum.
And in this state
I began my classroom career.
I heaved myself around literary gatherings like a man with a bullet wound.
Crossing the thresholds of private houses,
With my sharp tongue I tried to get the spectators to understand me,
They went on reading the paper
Or disappeared behind a taxi.
Then where could I
At that hour the shops were shut;
I thought of a slice of onion I'd seen during dinner
And of the abyss that separates us from the other abysses.
by W.S. Merwin
Antipoems: New and Selected (edited by David Unger), New York,
New Directions, 1985.