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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

George Oppen - Of Being Numerous: Sections 1-22



There are things

We live among ‘and to see them

Is to know ourselves’.


Occurrence, a part

Of an infinite series,


The sad marvels;


Of this was told

A tale of our wickedness.

It is not our wickedness.


‘You remember that old town we went to, and we sat in the ruined window, and we tried to imagine that we belonged to those times—It is dead and it is not dead, and you cannot imagine either its life or its death; the earth speaks and the salamander speaks, the Spring comes and only obscures it—’





So spoke of the existence of things,

An unmanageable pantheon


Absolute, but they say



A city of the corporations



In dreams


And images—


And the pure joy

Of the mineral fact


Tho it is impenetrable


As the world, if it is matter,

Is impenetrable.





The emotions are engaged

Entering the city

As entering any city.


We are not coeval

With a locality

But we imagine others are,


We encounter them. Actually

A populace flows

Thru the city.


This is a language, therefore, of New York





For the people of that flow

Are new, the old


New to age as the young

To youth


And to their dwelling

For which the tarred roofs


And the stoops and doors—

A world of stoops—

Are petty alibi and satirical wit

Will not serve.





The great stone

Above the river

In the pylon of the bridge




Frozen in the moonlight

In the frozen air over the footpath, consciousness


Which has nothing to gain, which awaits nothing,

Which loves itself





We are pressed, pressed on each other,

We will be told at once

Of anything that happens


And the discovery of fact bursts

In a paroxysm of emotion

Now as always.   Crusoe


We say was


So we have chosen.





Obsessed, bewildered


By the shipwreck

Of the singular


We have chosen the meaning

Of being numerous.





Amor fati

The love of fate


For which the city alone

Is audience


Perhaps blasphemous.


Slowly over islands, destinies

Moving steadily pass

And change


In the thin sky

Over islands


Among days


Having only the force

Of days


Most simple

Most difficult





‘Whether, as the intensity of seeing increases, one’s distance from Them, the people, does not also increase’

I know, of course I know, I can enter no other place


Yet I am one of those who from nothing but man’s way of thought and one of his dialects and what has happened to me

Have made poetry


To dream of that beach

For the sake of an instant in the eyes,


The absolute singular


The unearthly bonds

Of the singular


Which is the bright light of shipwreck





Or, in that light, New arts! Dithyrambic, audience-as-artists! But I will listen to a man, I will listen to a man, and when I speak I will speak, tho he will fail and I will fail. But I will listen to him speak. The shuffling of a crowd is nothing—well, nothing but the many that we are, but nothing.


Urban art, art of the cities, art of the young in the cities—The isolated man is dead, his world around him exhausted


And he fails! He fails, that meditative man! And indeed they cannot ‘bear’ it.





            it is that light

Seeps anywhere, a light for the times


In which the buildings

Stand on low ground, their pediments

Just above the harbor


Absolutely immobile,


Hollow, available, you could enter any building,

You could look from any window

One might wave to himself

From the top of the Empire State Building—






If you can






Phyllis—not neo-classic,

The girl’s name is Phyllis—


Coming home from her first job

On the bus in the bare civic interior

Among those people, the small doors

Opening on the night at the curb

Her heart, she told me, suddenly tight with happiness—


So small a picture,

A spot of light on the curb, it cannot demean us


I too am in love down there with the streets

And the square slabs of pavement—


To talk of the house and the neighborhood and the docks


And it is not ‘art’





‘In these explanations it is presumed that an experiencing subject is one occasion of a sensitive reaction to an actual world.’


the rain falls

that had not been falling

and it is the same world


. . .


They made small objects

Of wood and the bones of fish

And of stone. They talked,

Families talked,

They gathered in council

And spoke, carrying objects.

They were credulous,

Their things shone in the forest.


They were patient

With the world.

This will never return, never,

Unless having reached their limits


They will begin over, that is,

Over and over





           unable to begin

At the beginning, the fortunate

Find everything already here. They are shoppers,

Choosers, judges; . . . And here the brutal

is without issue, a dead end.

                                            They develop

Argument in order to speak, they become

unreal, unreal, life loses

solidity, loses extent, baseball’s their game

because baseball is not a game

but an argument and difference of opinion

makes the horse races. They are ghosts that endanger


One’s soul. There is change

In an air

That smells stale, they will come to the end

Of an era

First of all peoples

And one may honorably keep


His distance

If he can.





I cannot even now

Altogether disengage myself

From those men


With whom I stood in emplacements, in mess tents,

In hospitals and sheds and hid in the gullies

Of blasted roads in a ruined country,


Among them many men

More capable than I—


Muykut and a sergeant

Named Healy,

That lieutenant also—


How forget that? How talk

Distantly of ‘The People’


Who are that force

Within the walls

Of cities


Wherein their cars


Echo like history

Down walled avenues

In which one cannot speak.





Chorus (androgynous): ‘Find me

So that I will exist, find my navel

So that it will exist, find my nipples

So that they will exist, find every hair

Of my belly, I am good (or I am bad),

Find me.’





‘. . . he who will not work shall not eat,

and only he who was troubled shall find rest,

and only he who descends into the nether world shall rescue his beloved,

and only he who unsheathes his knife shall be given Isaac again. He who will not work shall not eat. . .

but he who will work shall give birth to his own father.’





The roots of words

Dim in the subways


There is madness in the number

Of the living

‘A state of matter’


There is nobody here but us chickens




He wants to say

His life is real,

No one can say why


It is not easy to speak


A ferocious mumbling, in public

Of rootless speech





It is the air of atrocity,

An event as ordinary

As a President.


A plume of smoke, visible at a distance

In which people burn.





Now in the helicopters the casual will

Is atrocious


Insanity in high places,

If it is true we must do these things

We must cut our throats


The fly in the bottle


Insane, the insane fly


Which, over the city

Is the bright light of shipwreck





—They await


War, and the news

Is war


As always


That the juices may flow in them

Tho the juices lie.


Great things have happened

On the earth and given it history, armies

And the ragged hordes moving and the passions

Of that death. But who escapes



Among these riders

Of the subway,


They know

But now as I know


Failure and the guilt

Of failure.

As in Hardy’s poem of Christmas


We might half-hope to find the animals

In the sheds of a nation

Kneeling at midnight,


Farm animals,

Draft animals, beasts for slaughter

Because it would mean they have forgiven us,

Or which is the same thing,

That we do not altogether matter.





There can be a brick

In a brick wall

The eye picks


So quiet of a Sunday

Here is the brick, it was waiting

Here when you were born









In the sense of transparence,

I don’t mean that much can be explained


Clarity in the sense of silence.

George Oppen - And Their Winter and Night in Disguise

The sea and a crescent strip of beach

Show between the service station and a deserted shack


A creek drains thru the beach

Forming a ditch

There is a discarded super-market cart in the ditch  

That beach is the edge of a nation


There is something like shouting along the highway  

A California shouting

On the long fast highway over the California mountains


Point Pedro  

Its distant life


It is impossible the world should be either good or bad  

If its colors are beautiful or if they are not beautiful  

If parts of it taste good or if no parts of it taste good  

It is as remarkable in one case as the other

                                                                   As against this


We have suffered fear, we know something of fear  

And of humiliation mounting to horror


The world above the edge of the foxhole belongs to the flying bullets, leaden superbeings

For the men grovelling in the foxhole danger, danger in being drawn to them


These little dumps

The poem is about them


Our hearts are twisted  

In dead men’s pride


Dead men crowd us  

Lean over us


In the emplacements


The skull spins  

Empty of subject


The hollow ego


Flinching from the war’s huge air


Tho we are delivery boys and bartenders  


We will choke on each other


Minds may crack


But not for what is discovered


Unless that everyone knew  

And kept silent


Our minds are split

To seek the danger out


From among the miserable soldiers

George Oppen - Ballad

Astrolabes and lexicons
Once in the great houses—

A poor lobsterman

Met by chance
On Swan’s Island

Where he was born
We saw the old farmhouse

Propped and leaning on its hilltop
On that island
Where the ferry runs

A poor lobsterman

His teeth were bad

He drove us over that island
In an old car

A well-spoken man

Hardly real
As he knew in those rough fields

Lobster pots and their gear
Smelling of salt

The rocks outlived the classicists,
The rocks and the lobstermen’s huts

And the sights of the island
The ledges in the rough sea seen from the road

And the harbor
And the post office

Difficult to know what one means
—to be serious and to know what one means—

An island
Has a public quality

His wife in the front seat

In a soft dress
Such as poor women wear

She took it that we came—
I don’t know how to say, she said—

Not for anything we did, she said,
Mildly, ‘from God’. She said

What I like more than anything
Is to visit other islands…

George Oppen - Town, a town...

Town, a town,

But location

Over which the sun as it comes to it;   

Which cools, houses and lamp-posts,

    during the night, with the roads—

Inhabited partly by those

Who have been born here,

Houses built—. From a train one sees

    him in the morning, his morning;   

Him in the afternoon, straightening—

People everywhere, time and the work


One moves between reading and re-reading,   

The shape is a moment.

From a crowd a white powdered face,   

Eyes and mouth making three—

Awaited—locally—a date.




Near your eyes—

Love at the pelvis

Reaches the generic, gratuitous

                   (Your eyes like snail-tracks)


Parallel emotions,

We slide in separate hard grooves   

Bowstrings to bent loins,

                     Self moving

Moon, mid-air.





Your spiral women   

By a fountain




Your picture lasts thru us


                  its air

Thick with succession of civilizations;   

And the women.




No interval of manner

Your body in the sun.

You? A solid, this that the dress


Your face unaccented, your mouth a mouth?   

                        Practical knees:

It is you who truly

Excel the vegetable,

The fitting of grasses—more bare than   


Pointedly bent, your elbow on a car-edge   

Incognito as summer

Among mechanics.




‘O city ladies’

Your coats wrapped,   

Your hips a possession


Your shoes arched   

Your walk is sharp


Your breasts

         Pertain to lingerie


The fields are road-sides,   

Rooms outlast you.




Bad times:

The cars pass

By the elevated posts   

And the movie sign.   

A man sells post-cards.




It brightens up into the branches   

And against the same buildings


A morning:

His job is as regular.