Welcome to The Rumpus’s National Poetry Month project. We’ll be running a new poem from a different poet each day for the month of April.
While John Berryman Drives In His Orange Chevrolet Through A Minnesota Rainstorm
To Lecture On Don Quixote, Sylvia Plath Paints The Beehives of Court Green
While John Berryman drives in his orange Chevrolet through a Minnesota rainstorm
to lecture on Don Quixote, Sylvia Plath paints the beehives of Court Green,
stroking one stern white coat after another on the hive,
the blank box, the cave house of sweet, angry, unimpressed bees.
She loves the moony girls who spring out and fly back, fluttering,
exhausted, coated in powder like prom queens, frantic with labor.
You tolerate drones only so far, a stingless, stumbling breed,
flying their flag in a risk for glory two hundred feet in the air.
Who hasn’t faked interest to see how far a man would go,
how charged it is under the skirt, asking nothing, articulate with hum?
The queen is somewhere like that just once, doomed by a slippery
resilient lust, her red-gold chase, her compound eye.
Why would you need to see everything, the landscape
retreating beneath you, all because of desire?
In Minnesota, Berryman sees clouds close enough to curse.
He’s tired as he powers forward, thinking how,
when a woman walks, her rump’s a honey ham, a crescent
beneath that scratchy fabric of her hose and how you watch it work,
and when you do, pal, the whole background fades to sedation.
He’s tilting again, every grass blade of his uneven heart idling
beneath the rain’s watery, convex drop, inside the storm’s
concussive, brilliant, bending shot glass of air.
Berryman knew convexity: the way a heaven can appear
on the inside of your eyelid; how reflection in a mirror
is half self-portrait, half world.
Whatever you look at looks right back at you, pal,
sees something a million times lovelier, maybe.
Onward, dilating heart of well-meaning!
Bestir, resolute soldier, my stiffening, soaked champion!
At home he’s got two linear feet of a manuscript, sifting,
breaking like dirt under the plow into freshness.
He’s been writing for years like a monk in a cell,
except for the whiskey: prayerful, electric, storing it up.
If you like what the Rumpus is doing for National Poetry Month, you’ll probably like this multimedia anthology of original poems we’ve run at The Rumpus over the last three years. Available only for iPad. Check it out!