Poem of the Day: Voyager

We’ve packed our bags, we’re set to fly
no one knows where, the maps won’t do.
We’re crossing the ocean’s nihilistic blue
with an unborn infant’s opal eye.
It has the clarity of earth and sky
seen from a spacecraft, once removed,
as through an amniotic lens, that groove-
lessness of space, the last star by.
We have set out to live and die
into the interstices of a new
nowhere to be or be returning to
(a little like an infant’s airborne cry).
We’ve set our sights on nothing left to lose
and made of loss itself a lullaby.

Source: Poetry June 2008

Todd Hearon

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Poem of the Day: Persimmons

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose
persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.
Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked:   I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo:   you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.
Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.
Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.
My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.
Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.
Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.
This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.
Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.
He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?
This is persimmons, Father.
Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,

the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

Li-Young Lee, “Persimmons” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Rose(BOA Editions Ltd., 1986)

Li-Young Lee

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99% Darkness: See How Half the World’s Population Lives on 1% of its Land [ARTICLE]

Reading stories about overpopulation, it is easy to imagine we live on a planet that is packed with people from coast to coast on every continent. As these data visualizations illustrate, the reality is quite different. Most humans are concentrated in a relatively small set of densely-packed places. Below: half of the Earth’s population lives in the vast black areas while the other half occupies the yellow.

world population map main

Developed by Max Galka using data from NASA / SEDAC, this map breaks down populations using small square cells, forming a gridded geography independent of political boundaries.

Like tiny pixels on a huge black-and-yellow screen, the 28 million cells are binary: each yellow cell represents an 3-by-3 mile area of land with a population of 8,000 people or more (or: 900 per square mile). Any other 9-square-mile cell with lower density is shown as black.

The more sparsely-populated black zones span 99% of the Earth’s land, while only 1% are lit up in yellow. The organization of these denser areas, however, varies greatly by region, which becomes apparent when zooming into different continents and countries.

population india china closeup

For starters, huge swaths of Southeast Asia are tightly packed with yellow clusters and bands of high density. In total, nearly half (over 40%) of the world’s population lives in the relatively small area shown in the image above. Some of this urban concentration is coastal, but much of its is found in contiguous sprawling yellow sections cutting inland across parts of India, China and Bangladesh.

population japan java closeup

The island of Java (in Indonesia) and the islands of Japan stand out as well. The former is the most densely-populated island on the planet, while the latter is home to the world’s most populated city: Tokyo.

population europe closeup

In other areas of the world, the yellow zones are more distributed. Across Europe, for instance, bright patches are somewhat more focused in the center, but the overall impression is one of nodes in a network rather than endless stretches of mega-cities.

population north africa closeup

Africa and South America have a smattering of yellow blips, mostly around major international cities. Notably, and exceptionally for its continent: Cairo has the single highest-density yellow cell in the world, with over a million residents fitting into just nine square miles.

united states population density

In the United States, we find roughly the same effect that was seen at a global scale: about half of the population lives in the black area, and half lives in the yellow. The distributions fall mainly as one might expect: more density along the East Coast, some stretches along the West Coast, and a relatively black expanse across the mountain states.

worldpophistory

Of course, space alone does not speak to the resource needs of a growing human population, including water and agricultural requirements, or to the preservation of nature more broadly. Still, given currently projected future growth by continent and region, a lack of land for human occupants is clearly not the core population issue.

Some continents, like the Americas and Europe, are predicted to level out in terms of population, while others, like Asia, are slated to increase, peak and then begin to decline. Places with the highest long-term projected growth rates (like Africa) still have plenty of relatively open areas for people to fill in with the cities of tomorrow, so long as enough other resources remain to support them.

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Nick Neely: Some Phases of Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse”

1.      To preface: I am not a trained physicist or astronomer. I am an amateur who began this fleeting study with too limited a telescope and maybe the wrong lens. I think I may have burned my eyes by reading it several times, but I trust the damage isn’t forever. Wear your welding glasses—that’s my best advice—and log your own observations below.
2.      The essay begins with mournful descent and dislocation: “It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass. It had been like the death of someone, irrational, that sliding down the mountain pass and into the region of dread. It was like slipping into fever, or falling down that hole in sleep from which you wake yourself whimpering.” We’re immediately thrown into the valley of the shadow, a place that is, and is not, the Yakima Valley in Washington State. It sounds, justly, like a coming panic attack. At the hotel, Dillard begins to introduce all sorts of, to borrow her phrase, “complex interior junk,” most of which are head-scratchers at first. She mentions the drunk men in the lobby, a fish in its aquarium, a canary in its cage, a child’s bucket and shovel—none of it seems especially relevant, but it’s just the kind of random stuff that’s good for atmosphere when cast in a certain light. She remembers reading in the lobby about gold mines that “extend so deeply into the Earth’s crust that they are hot. The rock walls burn the miners’ hands. … When the miners return to the surface, their faces are deathly pale.” Why does she tell us this? Already she’s established a mood, a space, where she can introduce just about anything and it will seem right and ominous. But what’s most unforgettable is the vegetable clown. Dillard recalls lying in bed the night before the eclipse and seeing, on the hotel wall, a painting of “a smiling clown’s head, made out of vegetables”: “The clown was bald. Actually, he wore a clown’s tight rubber wig, painted white; this stretched over the top of his skull, which was a cabbage. His hair was bunches of baby carrots. Inset in his white clown makeup, and in his cabbage skull, were his small and laughing human eyes ….” Finishing her description of this likable “lunatic,” who is also composed of string beans, parsley, and chili peppers, she abruptly continues, “To put ourselves in the path of the total eclipse, that day we had driven five hours ….” The juxtaposition makes a clear suggestion: this clown is “ourselves,” the vegetable body with an expiration date, in which the eyes of what’s distinctly human—that is spiritual, not corporeal—shine out for a brief moment in time. And already, on page one, time begins to scramble: One has to recall the curious paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the sixteenth century Milanese painter behind the Four Seasons, each a smiling man-cornucopia of fruits and vegetables.
3.      When the eclipse hits, time and the senses are thrown into disarray. She sees the world as if it were simulacra. “The hues were metallic; their finish was matte. The hillside was a 19th-century tinted photograph from which the tints had faded. All the people you see in the photograph, distinct and detailed as their faces look, are now dead.  … I was watching a faded color print of a movie filmed in the Middle Ages … I missed my own century, the people I knew, and the real light of day.” One notes the halting repetition (throughout the essay) that produces a sense of immediacy—of thinking and its instantaneous revision—and of disbelief or trauma. This passage and much of the essay also moves by metaphor, which (as my brother smartly pointed out), is a kind of eclipse: the “real” is hidden behind the figure, and yet for a moment its size and shape are made clearer. In any case, Dillard, and all of us, are thrown both forward and back: Back to the nineteenth century, and further back to the Middle Ages. Yet forward to our own deaths. The essay takes on the feel of a choppy pool, waves rebounding off walls, past and future, to create a slack tide of time. When she reports, “My mind was going out,” she means not truly going “blank,” but to the ultimate reaches of imagination. We’re not sure where, exactly, we stand: “The grass at our feet was wild barley.” Does she mean literally at her feet, in Yakima? Seems not, for she continues: “It was the wild einkorn wheat which grew on the hilly flanks of the Zagros Mountains, about the Euphrates Valley, above the valley of the river we called River. We harvested the grass with stone sickles, I remember. We found the grasses on the hillsides; we built our shelter beside them and cut them down.” Here is an ur-vision of life long ago in a valley like the Yakima. Maybe this is the Elysian Fields or Asphodel Meadows. It is certainly “the region of dread” she anticipates as the essay begins.
4.      “We had all started down a chute of time,” as Dillard summarizes—one she carefully orchestrates. At the start of the third section, she actualizes the essay as a space of descent and time travel (if it wasn’t already clear): “It is now that temptation is strongest to leave these regions. We have seen enough; let’s go. Why burn our hands any more than we have to? But two years have passed; the price of gold has risen. I return to the same buried alluvial beds and pick through the strata again.” Here one begins to suspect that her eclipse experience also functions as a metaphor, an allegory, for the essayist’s process: We must face the region of dread, of drafting. We must search for a way to describe this impossible-to-describe experience. Simultaneously, some of the essay’s “interior junk,” its earlier images, begin to well up and reveal their complexity. Double-meanings accrue and eclipse one another, obscuring and highlighting. It’s a sloshing trough of metaphor. The gold mine article from the hotel returns and resonates. Now her gold might be the memory of the eclipse, that “old wedding band in the sky” (the strata might be the “cirrostratus” in which that day in 1979 began). In part, the subject of the essay becomes memory itself, the difficulty of mining it. If we’re to believe the narrator, two years have passed since the event. We might imagine Dillard took some (probably rather good) notes, or even wrote up until that point in the draft, before she fatigued and could on longer face the dread, and stuffed the essay in the proverbial drawer. But now she is ready to descend deeper into the mine/mind.
5.      She struggles to capture the eclipse: It doesn’t look like a dragon, but it does look like a “lens cover, or the lid of a pot.” “It obliterated meaning itself,” Dillard concedes. Like a mushroom cloud, “what you were seeing, remarkable as it was, was intrinsically not worth remarking.” “The lenses of telescopes and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array [of an eclipse] than language can cover the breath and simultaneity of internal experience.” She feels, in essence, defeated. “It [the eclipsed sun] was as useless a memory; it was as off-kilter and hollow and wretched as memory.” The essayist’s means and materials—language and memory—feel inadequate and isolating. What finally surfaces is a portrait, a paragraph, that describes something of an awful Resurrection—dead spectators standing on the hills not just misremembering their lives, but having “forgotten those they had loved.” What could be a worse fate? Maybe this is not Resurrection, but purgatory. Here is darkness visible, rock bottom—not the thrilling sublime one might anticipate from an eclipse event, but something tipped too far into terror. If the trajectory of the essay describes, or mimics, the phases of an eclipse (of course, it must), we are in totality.
6.      Then the bright bead of the sun at the edge. Dillard forces us to visit the worst, a nihilistic landscape where “we cared for nothing,” where memory falters, so that she can ask us to realize what we have. The fourth section begins: “We teach our children one thing only, as we are taught: to wake up.” This is forever Annie Dillard’s project, to jar us from complacency and engage with the world, the present, while we still can. It might seem a pedantic project in this essay if she didn’t paint her own melancholic descent into “the deeps” as, potentially, a symptom of that complacency. She finds herself jarred at breakfast at a diner after the eclipse: “A college student, a boy in a blue parka who carried a Hasselblad, said to us, ‘Did you see that little white ring? It looked like a Life Saver. It looked like a Life Saver up in the sky.’ … He was a walking alarm clock.” Her timing is impeccable: At this point in the essay, we all needed this reality check (of course, Dillard can’t then resist turning this Life Saver, a mint candy, breath-freshening O, into a life saver buoy, which brings her the surface). This kid’s thought is as valid or true as her own heavy sifting through the metaphysical strata of past and future. In part, this assertion feels a tad disingenuous: She’s aware of her powers. She obviously relishes her mode. For my part, she distinguishes too strongly between mind and body: While the mind reels in deep space, while the mind grieves or fears or exults, the workaday senses, in ignorance or idiocy, like so many computers terminals printing out market prices while the world blows up, still transcribe their little data and transmit them to the warehouse in the skull.” But these details, she admits, are important. All those things for which we have no words are lost,” she writes. I take this to mean: Describe your eclipse any old way that occurs to you. Remember that when you try to write your own essay about Monday’s two minutes of totality. Salvation is through a simple thought likeLife Saver.”  The main thing is to continue to dive, to mine …  “ The mind—the culture—has two little tools, grammar and lexicon: a decorated sand bucket and a matching shovel,” writes Dillard. “… With these we try to save our very lives.”

7.      One last observation: She writes of the moon’s shadow that races 1,800 miles an hour across the landscape, “This was the universe about which we have read so much and never before felt: the universe as clockwork of loose spheres flung at stupefying, unauthorized speeds. How could anything moving so fast not crash, not veer from its orbit amok like car out of control on a turn.” What sheer madness that these huge masses—one that we call home, one that we call the moon, one the we call the sun—are in something of a stable orbit. The whole arrangement is so unlikely, incredible, incomprehensible. This fragile clockwork of loose spheres, in Dillard’s arrangement, also refers to an individual life, to a relationship, to memory in general, but it ultimately refers to the art of the essay. Reading “Total Eclipse,” I feel this bodily: The unlikely images hurtling past each other, the abrupt and leaping pivots, the confusion of time and space—what are the chances that it could all adhere, all harmonize. And yet it does. The props from the hotel, including the child’s shovel and bucket, finally come whirling in to cast their full metaphoric shadow. Even the vegetable clown returns to illuminate: You might drown in your own spittle, God knows, at any time; you might wake up dead in a small hotel, a cabbage head watching TV while snows pile up in passes, watching TV while the chili peppers smile and the moon passes over the sun and nothing changes and nothing is learned because you have lost your bucket and shovel and no longer care.” It’s good to remember that an eclipse, and a metaphor, is just an artful coincidence. But it still might mean everything. Go chase the eclipse, whatever that means to you, and then try with all your might to do it justice—dig yourself out of that grave.

*

Nick Neely‘s first book of essays, Coast Range: A Collection from the Pacific Edge, was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing and CLMP’s Firecracker Award for creative nonfiction. He is also the author of the essay chapbook Chiton, and Other Creatures, from New Michigan Press. His nonfiction has appeared in journals such as Orion, Kenyon Review, and The Georgia Review. He lives in Hailey, Idaho with his wife, the painter Sarah Bird. Source: http://ift.tt/1cnPjkL

Poem of the Day: Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain   
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.
I cannot remember things I once read   
A few friends, but they are in cities.   
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup   
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
Gary Snyder, “Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout” from Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Gary Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press.

Source: No Nature: New and Selected Poems(1992)

Gary Snyder

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Revising the History of the Art Show Urinal

The mind is a terrible thing, easily manipulated, blinkered, and pulled in a particular direction. History is no help; recounting the events of brave or stupid people doing brave or stupid things makes us mad and self-righteous, but we are resistant to deviations from our preferred way of reading the past. Even after we’ve figured out history—or think we’ve figured it out—it seems impossible for everyone else to get the narrative right.

coverSo maybe we should be getting all geared up for this “future” about which everyone’s talking. Thanks to tech geniuses and the intellectuals they love to promote, we can expect great things for our flawed minds: expanded memory, a more rigorous use of the synapses, and ideas uploaded directly to the brain with no worry about the consequences. Consider Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, wherein a torrent of anecdotes serves to refashion humanity into data processing machines, with god-status just around the corner. The downsides involve the coming inequality in pure physical and cognitive ability between the rich and poor, which will only exacerbate their material divide. This isn’t evidently much of a downside for Harari fans like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, both richer than God Himself.

coverHarari’s future, bright for those at the top, is countered in a recent book of creative revisionism: John Higgs’s Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century. The book uses the concept of the omphalos, a religious and symbolic navel, or center, of the universe (think Delphi to the ancient Greeks or Graceland to Elvis fans), to discuss how the 20th century radically changed the way we think and act. The West’s omphaloi, once Church, Empire, and Victorian Tradition, are now things like the Universe, Democracy, and the Self.

These books differ in their respective outlooks—Higgs tells us about a past that’s set us up for failure, whereas Harari relays an exciting, godlike future—but they both have one thing in common: they refer to the story of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain,” the symbolic, radical departure for the art world.

How does Harari recount it?

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp took an ordinary mass-produced urinal, named it Fountain, signed his name at the bottom, declared it a work of art and placed it in a Paris museum.

It’s a short statement rife with inaccuracies. It’s probably how Harari remembered the story before dashing it off; it’s probably how his editors remembered it, never considering to quickly glance at a reliable source for basic validation; and it’s probably how many of his eager readers remember it, too, among them ambitious billionaires quickly gaining the abilities to literally shape our minds. But that’s not how the story goes. Duchamp, a Frenchman who decamped to America during World War I, submitted “Fountain” to an art show in New York (not Paris); he signed a name (R. Mutt), not his name on the piece; and he didn’t place it anywhere—this wasn’t some proto-Banksy stunt. It was rejected from an art show, despite the show’s rule that any submissions would be accepted and the fact that Duchamp himself was on the board of the society throwing the show. The original piece was then lost, tossed out with the garbage.

Duchamp also didn’t create a new American movement overnight. A magazine snapshot, some ardent Dadaist clamoring, and a new generation of artists in the ’50s and ’60s turned it into a groundbreaking work of art. The story surrounding Duchamp’s piece is what gave it its radical heft, but this story still makes it Duchamp’s piece.

More transgressive to the modernist narrative, but probably more correct, is Higgs’s version of the story:

Duchamp’s most famous readymade [an everyday object presented as a piece of art] was called ‘Fountain.’ It was a urinal, which was turned on its side and submitted to a 1917 exhibition at the Society of Independent Artists, New York, under the name of a fictitious artist called Richard Mutt. The exhibition was aimed to display every work of art that was submitted, so by sending them a urinal Duchamp was challenging them to agree that it was a work of art. This they declined to do. What happened to it is unclear, but it was not included in the show and it seems likely that it was thrown away in the trash. Duchamp resigned from the board in protest, and ‘Fountain”s rejection overshadowed the rest of the exhibition.

This seems to line up with what actually happened. But Higgs continues to expound upon the background to ‘Fountain:’ he concludes that it probably wasn’t even Duchamp’s work. A Bohemian by the name of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven probably sent it to her friend Duchamp, who then took credit for the work. A letter Duchamp sent to his sister, Suzanne, seems to back this version of events: “One of my female friends, who had adopted the male pseudonym, Richard Mutt, sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture.”

Let it also be said that Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was amazing, and it’s almost criminal how she’s been left out of the Dadaist story. Even if she wasn’t, indeed, the real Fountainhead, she seemed to live the movement to a far greater degree than Duchamp ever did. An actual baroness by marriage, she was a performance artist, poet, friend, and subject of artists like Duchamp and Man Ray, with a penchant for scatological humor and creating art out of rubbish (which may mean the person responsible for tossing ‘Fountain’ wasn’t far off the mark).

Duchamp was a forward-thinker, sure. He recognized ‘Fountain’ as part of what Higgs’s refers to as modernity’s “persistent attempts to destroy frames of reference,” in line with the omphalos-shifting revolutions of World War I, popular democracy, and Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. But he also, maybe, knew he could get away with taking credit for history; he knew how people like Harari would casually refer to his version of events as a service of some higher human goal. It wasn’t even the piece, in and of itself, that was groundbreaking—it was the narrative pushed to popularize it. Freytag-Loringhoven was the truer Dadaist, but Duchamp the better marketer.

The way Harari tells of ‘Fountain’ fits exactly into the narrative Homo Deus parlays: modernist liberalism—along with the smashing of the omphalos and the new focus on subjective experiences and definitions—invaded our conscious as quickly as one nation invades another. A cursory look at Google can prove Harari’s account isn’t accurate, but what’s worse is the tone. It’s glib. It’s right in line with how things should be in Harari’s human histories. We just did dumb things, like organize as a society, until a wise person broke our routine. Eventually, a smart person will break our brains, and all for the better.

Higgs isn’t so sure. Yes, the omphalos was shattered by modernism, not unlike Harari’s version of events, but what makes the narrative messier is the power structure. It’s this structure that elevates Duchamp, all the while forgetting the woman who most likely made the piece. Forgetting that he admitted that a woman made it in the first place.

coverHarari is kind of like Duchamp, in that he’s an educated charlatan selling a particular fantasy. It’s no wonder that wealthy icons like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg signaled his first book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, as a favorite: it ends with man becoming God through the power of technology, a theme continued in his sequel. Our minds will be enhanced with their technology, and we will accept it as simply as the war-battered Parisian public accepted Duchamp’s ‘Fountain.’

But how will we get our stories straight when the powers that be won’t do it for us? If Harari were left in charge of uploading the bit about Duchamp into my new, improved God-Man brain (should I be able to afford such a luxury), there wouldn’t be any mention of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Even if popular history is correct and Duchamp did make the piece, there still wouldn’t be any nuance to ‘Fountain”s history, no what-could-have-beens, no debate about its real creators, thinkers, and influencers. A radical piece of art would be turned into an explanation for why we love social media, and why our brains are nothing more than computers that need to be upgraded, enhanced and molded.

It almost feels like we’re in a race between technology and the fair narrative. As the focus changes, and marginalized people take control their own stories, it’s possible we’ll see a change in the tenor of popular history. The stories of marginalized won’t be seen as “revisionist” history, but simply as history. That is, if they can beat Silicon Valley to our brains.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The post Revising the History of the Art Show Urinal appeared first on The Millions.

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Being Yourself

I’ve begun house-sitting for my parents again while they’re away which comes with the additional benefit of cats. Clip below extremely related. Also, I put together another clip compilation (this time from Wolfenstein)!


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Poem of the Day: Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

Source: Poems(Viking Press, 1921)

Wilfred Owen

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