poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this Poem 

"This is one of those poems whose source and meaning remain uncertain even to the author. I hadn't planned to write it, wrote it quickly, and don't know how to paraphrase it. Most poems like that go into the circular file, but friends have said they liked it, so I've decided to trust their judgment and let it stand."
—Alfred Corn

Having Words

Alfred Corn, 1943

They’d started meeting by night at the only local,
A seething crowd drawn from among the loudest
Words, swearing, conspiring, over tankards of ale.
In sour chiaroscuro their clenched faces by moments
Looked too grievance or was it expressive for comfort.

Rage drowns out background sounds such as summer
Crickets, the result, that one of them, in humid
Darkness, stops rasping his metal comb. It’s clear
That the rally of Words will turn demonic,
That before night ends they’ll be up in arms.

Even the rawest learner can in a clock tick
Become aware of the name it’s called by. Which
He tries on  Cricket  Cricket  till he thinks: Your name
Amounts to a sound, nothing more.
Trundling on
Towards the defiant Words, he says, No. No, I Am Deuce.

Copyright © 2013 by Alfred Corn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 3, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Alfred Corn. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 3, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Alfred Corn

Alfred Corn

Alfred Corn was born in Bainbridge, Georgia, in 1943. He grew up

by this poet

poem
Pilot at the helm of a hidden
headland it steers free
from convergence with the freighter
when fog and storm clouds gather


Sparking communiqué no full stop ends
its broadcast performed in a three-sixty sweep
the cycle burning up five solar seconds


Midnight eye that blinks away
invisibility a high beam
poem
It avails not. time nor place—distance avails not. . . 
                                   —Whitman. "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
 
The bridge was a huge sentence diagram, 
You and I the compound subject, moving 
Toward the verb. We stopped, breathing 
Balloonfuls of air; and noonday sun sent down 
A hard
poem
Once a day the rocks, with little warning—
not much looked for even by the spruce 
and fir ever at attention above—
fetch up on these tidal flats and bars.
Large. crate-like rocks, wrapped in kelp; 
layer on imprinted layer,
umber to claret to olivegreen
of scalloped marbling. . . . 
Not far along the path of