Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Poetry: Kenneth Patchen

Kenneth Patchen
The Little Green Blackbird

BECAUSE the ground-creature looked so sad
The little green blackbird watched a sunflower
And a child's swing and an old woman crying.
So the tiger asked him if he'd seen
The little green blackbird around anywhere.
The tiger was there too, and also
A tiger just in from the forest.
Well, the little green blackbird also watched
A willow tree's birth and a winged crocodile too.
So then the lion asked him if he'd seen
The little green blackbird around anywhere.
You see, the lion was there too, and also
A huge bearded mouse that looked like a lion,
But was really a fat brown fish too lazy to shave;
In those days, only the most timid barbers took along
Their razors when they went in swimming.
But the little green blackbird felt pretty good
And he got himself a cuckoo named Willie Watt,
A baby whale named Willie Watt, and a big yeller hound dog
Which everyone called Willie Watt, but whose name
Was really Willie Watt; in those days, nobody minded.
So the flea's sister asked him if he'd seen
The little green blackbird around anywhere.
The flea's wife was there too, and also
An uncle of the flea's cousin's sister,
Who was also Willie Watt's father. You see, in those days,
Nobody minded and it was pretty nice.

BECAUSE the boy-headed lark played one
The little green blackbird became quite anxious
To try the little-known guitar-trombone-ophone
For himself; however, before he was having a go at it,
He went up into the Great Smoky Mountains
And there meditated eleven years with nothing
To eat or drink except a variety of foods
And beverages. Then, one evening toward night,
It suddenly came to him to wonder
Why the sky was up above there; and also,
Whether, if he could stand on top of it,
The sky might not wonder the same thing about him.
So he ran lickity-split down the mountain
And told an old fellow on a bike about
His idea: (Of course at the time he didn't know
That the bulgy-legged old fellow was a train robber,
But when he got home his was gone . . . and only a few
Wisps of stale steam still clung round the cabin door.)
"Alas," said the little green blackbird sadly;
"I always thought it just another futility of speech,
That 'train of thought' thing. Oh well, I'll drop by
The Nightingale Café; perhaps Dolly and Kate and the Captain
Will be back from their wedding. Now, let me see . . .
'Accumulation' is a long word; and 'candles'
Is another, though its length is more variable."

BECAUSE his sister saw Shakespeare in the moon
The little green blackbird decided to study
Some history and geography; now, this meant going
To places like Portugal and Ayr Moor Gullibaad;
So he had some cards printed and
Handed them out. This of course started
A war, because the cards were printed
With ink. And the little green blackbird
Arrived in Portugal not only without cards,
But without a head, or arms, or legs,
Or even a little toe. This might not have been
So bad had he been feeling all right.
And it was no better in Ayr Moor Gullireet either;
In fact, it was just as sad really. "So much
For history and geography," he reflected
Ruefully; "but at least I'm a lot luckier
Than those poor unfortunates who still have heads
Left to think about what's going to happen to them."

BECAUSE he kept imagining a pensive rabbit
The little green blackbird went off outdoors
And sat on a tree under a spreading chair.
When the sun came out it got dark
But the little green blackbird hadn't ever
Felt that lonely before and he laughed.
So some dinnerplates broke, the sun awoke,
The waitress in her flowered apron spoke;
And the little green blackbird sadly answered:
"If a friend of mine comes inquiring for me,
Tell him I've gone to join my grief
To the wintry crying of the northern sea."
And he leaned back with a puzzled smile,
Like the tiger amused by a sundial.
So the door closed, and the rain closed,
The sun closed; also, the moon, a jar
Of raisin pudding, the tenth of January
And half a raccoon. Now, alas, there was
Nothing left except the world; and nobody
In his right mind expects the world
To do anything now except close.

BECAUSE his friend claimed there weren't any
The little green blackbird ran on and on
Until he chanced to meet a little green blackbird.
But the little green blackbird couldn't get
His car to work and so he said,
"Will you come to my house at seven?
Mike and Ellie are there right now;
However, if they don't show up, Joe Bill
Has promised to rub fresh mud into
Our shirts over behind the new schoolhouse."
"And what will that cost us?" asked
The little green blackbird, adjusting his thumbs.
"Only fifty apiece," answered the little green blackbird.
"Besides, I'm not so sure I like your attitude!
Obviously you're drunk. Here, help me up."
So the little green blackbird drove off
Down the road until he reached a bridge;
Then, adjusting his cap, and his thumbs,
He said, "What are you doing int hat river?"
And the little green blackbird replied sharply,
"Waiting for Joe Bill's sister, that's what!
She comes here every Tuesday to watch his shirt."
"But this is Tuesday," the little green blackbird
Snorted, pausing to adjust his parade hat,
His honey-bee-striped hip-length socks,
His bright red paper wading boots, and
His well-worn thumbs: "You must be drunker
Than I thought!" And he drove into the lake.

BECAUSE it's good to keep things straight
Now the little green blackbird liked a mouse
And a Malayan sunbear and a horse
And a beetle and a mouse and a horse
And a moues and a leopard and a beaver
And a black fox and a fox squirrel and a lion
And a buffalo and a beaver and a donkey
And a tiger and a gorilla and a panther
And a salamander and a periwinkle and an ox
And an elephant and an alligator and an armadillo
And a mouse and a mule and a beetle
And a moonfish and a buffalo and a snail
And a horse and a lion and a butterfly
And a horse and a tiger and a mouse;
And the leopard and the donkey and the horse
And the buffalo and the ox and the elephant
And the mouse and the beetle and the gorilla
And the horse and the periwinkle and the mouse
And the panther and the lion and the tiger
And the butterfly and the beaver and the snail
Also liked the little green blackbird;
But the horse and the armadillo and the lion
And the buffalo were quite indifferent to him;
While the beetle and the mouse and the moonfish
And the salamander and the mule and the beaver
Didn't care one way or the other about him;
Whereas the mouse and the horse and the mouse
And the tiger didn't even know he existed.

BECAUSE growing a mustache was pretty tiring
The little green blackbird's father always said:
"A bear and a bean and a bee in bed,
Only on Bogoslof Island can one still get
That good old-fashioned white brown bread!" This made a
Very deep impression on the little green blackbird,
So he decided to forget the whole thing.
But first he pained a stolen motorcycle on the sidewalk
And sold it to a nearsighted policeman.
By then of course the little green blackbird
Remembered that his father also did impressions
Of J. Greenstripe Whittier on freshly-painted parkbenches.
So he invited nineteen hundred rabbits over for dinner;
And they each brought him a tin-plated goldfish,
A handful of gloves, the drawing of a frosty breath,
And one of those decks of newfangled playing cards,
The kind that bite people. Well, when it came time
To go home, all nineteen thousand rabbits filed out
In a pregnant silence, that was broken only
By the sound of their low-pitched voices
Raised in speech. Whereupon the father
Of the little green blackbird quietly said:
"It is our sentence, to endure;
And our only crime, that we are here to serve it."


At 5:39 PM, Blogger tyromaven said...

this is a weird poem. And it's not often that that's the thing I've got to say. hm. anything in particular bring you to this one recently?

At 2:09 AM, Blogger Ammegg said...

It made me laugh out loud. Which I really needed. Yeah, I think that kind of covers it. I'm not attaching any particular significance to it, other than it was silly and weird and I enjoyed it.

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Robert said...

I first read this poem in a public speaking class in school back in 1970 I choose it as I didn't like the idea of getting up in front of everyone and I knew it would totally distract them. The teacher asked me to stop just past the halfway point as the class was laughing hysterically and she felt they had heard enough. I have never forgot this poem and who wrote it but, until now I could never find another copy of it, or anyone else who had ever read it. Thank you whoever is responsible for putting this out here. I love this poem and believe I always will. I just may ask to have it read at my funeral when the time comes.


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