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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.

Alfred Corn

Alfred Corn

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

by this poet

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
The first will no doubt begin with morning's
Stainless-steel manners and possibilities
Out of number. Sunlight scold too much?
So a tense gets thinned out with solvents,
Preternaturally bright with the will
To swap laziness or pleasure for paper money. 
The future may appear as a winter day, colors
Of the
Met Museum, 1965, the first
I'll see, his Young Woman Sleeping.
Stage right, bright-threaded carpet flung over the table
where a plate of apples, crumpled napkin
and drained wineglass abut the recapped pitcher.
Propped by one hand, her leaning drowse,
behind which, a door opens on the dream, dim, bare