Friday, March 9, 2012

To Build A Quiet City In His Mind (Weldon Kees)

To build a quiet city in his mind:
A single overwhelming wish; to build,
Not hastily, for there is so much wind,
So many eager smilers to be killed,
Obstructions one might overlook in haste:
The ruined structures cluttering the past.

A little at a time and slow is best.
Crawling as though through endless corridors,
Remembering always there are many doors
That open to admit the captured guest
Once only.
                    Yet in spite of loss and guilt
And hurricanes of time, it might be built:

A refuge, permanent, with trees that shade
When all the other cities die and fade.



  1. Since I've been having a generally tumultuous horrendous week, the notion of a quiet city in my mind is quite appealing, if not attainable, just yet. Jane's photo is excellent and apt.

  2. I'm glad this found you, then. My week's been difficult also, except for the Philadelphia Flower Show yesterday, preceded by lunch with an old friend and followed by dinner with a cousin we like very much. The poem is a late, uncollected (until eventually it was) piece by this really remarkable, somewhat mysterious poet, who was talented and accomplished in a number of areas, including journalism, photography and music. This is pretty edgy, I think, suggesting the kind of notion you mention, but also possibly the refined thoughts of an an axe murderer poised on the edge of swinging. Curtis

  3. Well, perhaps. This poem is certainly infused with a simmering diffuse rage, I think. Most people have so much difficulty recognizing the precipitating event(s) that lit the fire, or even knowing the fire is burning. It's amazing how seemingly small things affect us. A friend hurt me badly this week, and I haven't yet found the courage to confront her or engage her in a conversation about it. Or if I should. She's not the reflective type. I'll wait until next week. Barry brushes it aside and says she clearly isn't my friend and to forget about her. Not that simple.

  4. You're the best judge, obviously, but I would probably address the situation. Of course, my batting record of maintaining relationships following such conversations is extremely poor. Still, I wait to have them until I can no longer tolerate the situation. I can't say I've ever been particularly happy with how these things have (sort of) resolved themselves, but I don't think satisfaction was ever in the cards. There's a reason they speak of a "vale of tears." Curtis

  5. "A little at a time and slow is best.
    Crawling as though through endless corridors".

    Yes, that's right, that's how it is. One opens a door and says, oh, I've been here before, but I never came in this way, it looks completely different from this direction.

    Yesterday I walked down some endless corridors in Washington, DC. The past was there at the end of the hall, and was as affecting and unsettling as ever.

  6. I think you're both ready for the Collected Poems of Weldon Kees, who is described in Donald Justice's introduction (as I recall) as the "bitterest poet who ever lived." Also fascinating (it's all really interesting are: Kees To The Kingdom ( and the book Nonverbal Communication by Kees and Jurgen Ruesch. Curtis

  7. Chris, Just in the past few years, I've pried some doors open from a different direction and have discovered possibility and opportunity where before I had only found frustration, sometimes despair, and a troubling sense of deja vu, and not in a good way. Believe me, I'm not generally a Pollyanna. Quite the opposite, at the moment. But I think with both old and new doors, "a little at a time and slow is best".

    Curtis, I will pick up Kees' poems, but will probably read them "a little at a time", considering he might be the "bitterest poet who ever lived".


  8. By the way, Curtis, you might recognize the little girl in my profile picture.

  9. I believe I recognize the portrait photo. Kees is terrific and unique. Once you've read him, you never forget him. The "bitterest" description in Justice's introduction may be exaggerated (I'm not learned enough to know), but it's certainly a statement in the right direction. That being said, I don't find reading Kees to be anything other than enjoyable on many levels and Justice also advises to try to read the poems straight through. (It's a fairly slim volume, actually.) Kees' photos in Nonverbal Communication are pretty remarkable and an amazing visual adjunct to the things he accomplished with words. Curtis

  10. Nell, in spite of my mixed feelings about what I found in the Pentagon, I'm pulling on the door handles! Just hope I shouldn't be pushing instead. That generally seems to be my problem.

    Curtis, you recommend (and even send me!) so many wonderful books. With luck, you will eventually make me find the time to read them all.