Verse > Anthologies > Alfred Kreymborg, ed. > Others for 1919
Alfred Kreymborg, ed.  Others for 1919.  1920.
Flowers of August
By William Carlos Williams

THE DAYSEYE hugging the earth
in August, ha! Spring is
gone down in purple,
weeds stand high in the corn,
the rainbeaten furrow        5
is clotted with sorrel
and crabgrass, the
branch is black under
the heavy mass of the leaves—
The sun is upon a        10
slender green stem
ribbed lengthwise.
He lies on his back—
it is a woman also—
he regards his former        15
majesty and
round the yellow center,
split and creviced and done into
minute flower heads, he sends out
his twenty rays—a little,        20
and the wind is among them
to grow cool there!
One turns the thing over
in his hand and looks
at it from the rear: brownedged,        25
green and pointed scales
armor his yellow.
But turn and turn
the crisp petals remain
brief, translucent, greenfastened,        30
barely touching at the edges:
blades of limpid seashell.
The sun has shortened his desire
to a petal’s span!

Her body is not so white as
anemone petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot—taking
the field by force, the grass
does not rise above it.        40
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever        45
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,        50
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone
over—or nothing.        55

It is a small plant
delicately branched and
tapering conically
to a point, each branch
and the peak a wire for        60
green pods, blind lanterns
starting upward from
the stalk each way to
a pair of prickly edged blue
flowerets: it is her regard,        65
a little plant without leaves,
a finished thing guarding
its secret. Blue eyes—
but there are twenty looks
in one, alike as forty flowers        70
on twenty stems—Blue eyes
a little closed upon a wish
achieved and half lost again,
stemming back, garlanded
with green sacks of        75
satisfaction gone to seed,
back to a straight stem—if
one looks into you, trumpets—!
No. It is the pale hollow of
desire itself counting        80
over and over the moneys of
a stale achievement. Three
small lavender imploring tips
below and above them two
slender colored arrows        85
of disdain with anthers
between them and
at the edge of the goblet
a white lip, to drink from—!
And summer lifts her look        90
forty times over, forty times

It is the daily love, grass high
they say that will cure her.
No good to reply: the sorrel never        95
has four leaves, if the clover
may—It is the hydraheaded pulpit,
but an impassioned one in this case,
purple, lined with white velvet
for a young priest—by what        100
lady’s hand? Agh it is no pulpit
but a baying dog, a kennel of
purple dogs on one leash,
fangs bared—to keep away harm
and never caring for the place:        105
down the torn lane
where the cows pass,
under the appletree, nodding
against high tide or in the lea of
a pasture thistle, almost blue,        110
never far to seek, they say
it will cure her.

One leaves his leaves at home
being a mullen and sends up a lighthouse
to peer from: I will have my way,        115
yellow—A mast with a lantern, ten
fifty, a hundred, smaller and smaller
as they grow more—Liar, liar, liar!
You come from her! I can smell djer-kiss
on your clothes. Ha, ha you come to me,        120
you—I am a point of dew on a grass-stem.
Why are you sending heat down on me
from your lantern?—You are cowdung, a
dead stick with the bark off. She is
squirting on us both. She has had her        125
hand on you!—Well.—She has defiled
ME.—Your leaves are dull, thick
and hairy.—Every hair on my body will
hold you off from me. You are a
dungcake, birdlime on a fencerail.—        130
I love you, straight, yellow,
finger of God pointing to—her!
Liar, broken weed, dungcake, you have—
I am a cricket waving his antennae
and you are high, grey and straight. Ha!        135

It is a posture for two multiplied
into a bouquet, a kneeling mother
washing the feet of her naked infant
before crossed mirrors, shoes of
different pairs, a chinaman laughing        140
at a nigger, a maple mingling leaves
with an elm, it is butter and eggs:
yellow slippers with orange bows to them,
chickens and pigs in a barnyard,
not too important—the little double        145
favors, you and I, a shirt
handed to a naked man by his
barelegged wife, scratch my back
for me, oh and empty the slopbucket
when you go down—and get me        150
that flower, I can’t reach it.
A low greyleaved thing
growing in clusters, how else?—
with a swollen head—slippers for sale,
they put mirrors in those stores        155
to make it seem—Closely packed
in a bouquet but never quite succeeding
to be more than—a passageway to
something else.

They should have called the thistle—
well, it is that we, we love each other.
Our heads side by side have a purple
flamebed over them. We are one, we love
ourself. The cows do not eat us nor tread
on us. It is a little like the lichen on        165
the blackened stones, a foaming winecup
with thorns on the handle. They say
jackasses eat them. Yes, and reindeer
eat lichen, lick them from the stones.
And we would be eaten—as England ate        170
Scotland? No.
It is the color they must eat if
they would have us. That offers itself
but that alone. The rest is for asses
or—forbidden. Purple! Striped bellied        175
flies and the black papillios are the
color-led evangels. Ah but they come
for the honey only. And so—a thistle.

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