Friday, April 10, 2009

Day's Poem, Good Friday

This is the penultimate poem in Berryman's "Delusions, Etc.", a collection he completed just before he jumped to his death from the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis. The poem reminds me, in its passion, in its unhinged-ness, of Pascal's "Memorial." It's not great poetry, though the diction & rhythm are still active in that trademark Berryman way, with surprising turns and explosive uses of colloquial language-- but even if it isn't great poetry, the intensity of emotion, the all-soul-bared Confessional style in which it is written, uncovers in me a powerful feeling, appropriate to this day.

The Facts & The Issues
by John Berryman

I really believe He's here all over this room
in a motor hotel in Wallace Stevens' town.
I admit it's weird; and could--or could it?--not be so;
but frankly I don't think there's a molecular chance of that.
It doesn't seem hypothesis. Thank heavens
millions agree with me, or mostly do,
and have done ages of our human time,
among whom were & still are some very sharp cookies.
I don't exactly feel missionary about it,
though it's very true I wonder if I should.
I regard the boys who don't buy this as deluded.
Of course they regard me no doubt as deluded.
Okay with me! And not the hell with them
at all--no!--I feel dubious on Hell--
it's here, all right, but elsewhere, after? Screw that,
I feel pretty sure that evil simply ends
for the doer (having wiped him out,
but the way, usually) where good does on,
or good may drop dead too: I don't think so:
I can't say I have hopes in that department
myself, I lack ambition just just there,
I know that Presence says it's mild, and it's mild,
but being what I am I wouldn't care
to dare go nearer. Happy to be here
and to have been here, with such lovely ones
so infinitely better, but to me
even in their suffering infinitely kind
& blessing. I am a greedy man, of course,
but I wouldn't want that kind of luck continued,--
or even increased (for Christ's sake), & forever?
Let me be clear about this. It is plain to me
Christ underwent man & treachery & socks
& lashes, thirst, exhaustion, the bit, for my pathetic &
disgusting vices,

to make this filthy fact of paticular, long-after,
faraway, five-foot-ten & moribund
human being happy. Well, he has!
I am so happy I could scream!
It's enough! I can't BEAR ANY MORE.
Let this be it. I've had it. I can't wait.

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