Delusions, Etc.

Delusions, Etc.

by John Berryman

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Delusions, Etc.

By John Berryman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 1972 Estate of John Berryman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7901-0



    (a layman's winter mockup, wherein moreover
    the Offices are not within one day said
    but thro' their hours at intervals
    over many weeks — such being the World)

    Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick,
    and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into
    the fire, and oft into the water.

    And he did evil, because he prepared not
    his heart to seek the Lord.


    Let us rejoice on our cots, for His nocturnal miracles
    antique outside the Local Group & within it
    & within our hearts in it, and for quotidian miracles
    parsecs-off yielding to the Hale reflector.

    Oh He is potent in the corners. Men
    with Him are potent: quasars we intuit,
    and sequent to sufficient discipline
    we perceive this glow keeping His winter out.

    My marvellous black new brim-rolled felt is both stuffy & raffish.
    I hit my summit with it, in firelight.
    Maybe I only got a Yuletide tie
    (increasing sixty) & some writing-paper

    but ha (haha) I've bought myself a hat!
    Plus-strokes from position zero! Its feathers sprout.
    Thank you, Your Benevolence!
    permissive, smiling on our silliness You forged.


    Thou hard. I will be blunt: Like widening
    blossoms again glad toward Your soothe of sun
    & solar drawing forth, I find meself

    little this bitter morning, Lord, tonight.
    Less were you tranquil to me in my dark
    just now than tyrannous. O some bore down
    sore with enticements — One abandoned me —
    half I swelled up toward — till I crash awake.

    However, lo, across what wilderness
    in vincible ignorance past forty years
    lost to (as now I see) Your sorrowing
    I strayed abhorrent, blazing with my Self.

    I thought I was in private with the Devil
    hounding me upon Daddy's cowardice
    (trustless in stir the freeze: 'Do your own time').
    Intertangled all — choking, groping bodies.

    'Behold, thou art taken in thy mischief,
    because thou art a bloody man' with horror
    loud down from Heaven did I not then hear,
    but sudden' was received, — appointed even

    poor scotographer, far here from Court,
    humming over goodnatured Handel's Te Deum.
    I waxed, upon surrender, strenuous
    ah almost able service to devise.

    I am like your sun, Dear, in a state of shear —
    parts of my surface are continually slipping past others,
    not You, not You. O I may, even, wave
    in crisis like a skew Wolf-Rayet star.

    Seas and hills, the high lakes, Superior,
    accomplish your blue or emerald donations —
    manifest too your soft forbearance, hard
    & flint for fierce man hardly to take in.

    I take that in. Yes. Just now. I read that.

    Hop foot to foot, hurl the white pillows about,
    jubilant brothers: He is our overlord,
    holding up yet with crimson flags the Sun
    whom He'll embark soon mounting fluent day!


    Occludes wild dawn. Up thro' green ragged clouds
    one sun is tearing, beset alders sway
    weary under swollen sudden drops
    and February winds shudder our doors,

    Lord, as thou knowest. What fits me today
    which work I can? I've to poor minimum
    pared my commitments; still I'm sure to err
    grievous & frequent before Evensong

    and both I long toward & abhor that coming.
    Yet if You and I make a majority
    (as old Claudel encouraged) what sharp law
    can pass this morning? — upon which, I take heart.

    Also: 'The specific gravity of iron
    is one and one-half times the size of Switzerland.'
    Zany enlivens. People, pipe with pipes:
    the least of us is back on contract, even

    unto myself succeeding in sunrise
    all over again!
    All customary blessings,
    anathemas of the date (post-Lupercal,
    and sure The Baby was my valentine),

    I'm not Your beaver, here disabled, still
    it is an honour, where some have achieved,
    to limp behind along, humming, & keen
    again upon what blue trumps, hazy, vainless glory.

    In Alexandria, O Saint Julian
    gouty, chair-borne, displayed then on a camel
    thorough the insufferable city, and burned.
    In other places, many other holy

    bishops, confessors, and martyrs. Thanks be to God.

    Interstitial Office

    Bitter upon conviction
    (even of the seven women jurors
    several wept) I will not kneel just now,
    Father. I know I must

    but being black & galled for these young men,
    sick with their savage Judge
    ('we felt we had no alternative,
    since all their evidence was ordered stricken') —

    deep fatigue.
    Conducting his own defence: 'men do pass laws
    that usurp God's power ...
    I hope you'll try in your own way to speak peace.

    God guide you.' Grim the prosecutor:
    'He's trying to weasel his way out of it.'
    Draft records here would have gone up in fire.
    Peasant ladies & poupies there went up go up in fire.

    Who sat thro' all three trials tells me the juror in blue
    looked inconsolably sad, and hid her eyes,
    when one propped up on his table a little hand-lettered sign

    The judge is called P N.
    This is of record. Where slept then Your lightning?
    Loafed Your torque.
    Well. Help us all! Yes — yes — I kneel.


    OH half as fearful for the yawning day
    where full the Enemy's paratus and
    I clearly may
    wholly from prime time fail, as yet from yesterday

    with good heart grateful having gone no more
    (under what gentle tempting You knew I bore)
    than what occurred astray,
    I almost at a loss now genuflect and pray:

    Twice, thrice each day five weeks at 'as we forgive
    those who trespass against us' I have thought
    ah his envenomed & most insolent missive
    and I have done it! — and I damn him still

    odd times & unawares catch myself at it:
    I'm not a good man, I won't ever be,
    there's no health in here. You expect too much.
    This pseudo-monk is all but at despair.

    My blustering & whining & ill will
    versus His will — Forgive my insolence,
    since when I was a fervent child to You
    and Father Boniface each 5 a.m.

    But this world that was not. Lavender & oval,
    lilac, dissolve into one's saying hurriedly
    'In sex my husband is brutal, beating, dirty, and drunk.'
    Has this become Thy will, Thou Reconciler?


    High noon has me pitchblack, so in hope out,
    slipping thro' stasis, my heart skeps a beat
    reflecting on the subtler menace of decline.

    Who mentioned in his middle age 'Great Death
    wars in us living which will have us all'
    caused choreographers to tinker maps
    pointing a new domestic capital

    and put before Self-Preservation '1)'.
    We do not know, deep now the dire age on,
    if it's so, or mere a nightmare of one dark one,
    Mani's by no means ultimate disciple.

    I wish You would clear this up. Moreover, I know
    it may extend millennia, or ever, till
    you tell somebody to. Meantime: Okay.
    Now hear this programme for my remnant of today.

    Corpuscle-Donor, to the dizzy tune
    of half a hundred thousand while I blink
    losing that horrid same
    scarlet amount and reel intact ahead:

    so of rare Heart repair my fracturing heart
    obedient to disobedience
    minutely, wholesale, that come midnight neither
    my mortal sin nor thought upon it lose me.


    Problem. I cannot come among Your saints,
    it's not in me — 'Velle' eh? — I will, and fail.
    But I would rather not be lost from You —
    if I could hear of a middle ground, I'd opt:

    a decent if minute salvation, sort of, on some fringe.
    I am afraid, afraid. Brothers, who if
    you are afraid are my brothers — veterans of fear —
    pray with me now in the hour of our living.

    It's Eleseus' grave makes the demons tremble,
    I forget under what judge he conquered the world,
    we're not alone here. Hearing Mark viii, though,
    I'm sure to be ashamed of by. I am ashamed.

    Riotous doubt assailed me on the stair,
    I paused numb. Not much troubled with doubt,
    not used to it. In a twinkling can man be lost?
    Deep then in thought, and thought brought no relief.

    But praying after, and somewhat after prayer
    on no occasion fear had gone away!
    I was alone with You again: 'the iron did swim'.
    It has been proved to me again & again

    He does not want me to be lost. Who does? The other.
    But 'a man's shaliach is as it were himself':
    I am Your person.

    I have done this & that which I should do,
    and given, and attended, and been still,
    but why I do so I cannot be sure,
    I am suspicious of myself. Help me!

    I am olding & ignorant, and the work is great,
    daylight is long, will ever I be done,
    for the work is not for man, but the Lord God.
    Now I have prepared with all my might for it

    and mine O shrinks a micro-micro-minor
    post-ministry, and of Thine own to Thee I have given,
    and there is none abiding but woe or Heaven,
    teste the pundits. Me I'm grounded for peace.

    Flimsy between cloth, what may I attain
    who slither in my garments? there's not enough of me,
    Master, for virtue. I'm loose, at a loss.

    Lo, where in this whirlpool sheltered in bone,
    only less whirlpool bone, envisaging,
    a sixtieth of an ounce to every pint,
    sugar to blood, or coma or convulsion,

    I hit a hundred and twenty notes a second
    as many as I may to the glory of confronting —
    unstable man, man torn by blast & gale —
    Your figure, adamantly frontal.


    Vanity! hog-vanity, ape-lust
    slimed half my blue day, interspersed
    solely almost with conversation feared,
    difficult, dear, leaned forward toward & savoured,

    survivaling between. I have not done well.
    Contempt — if even the man be judged sincere —
    verging on horror, top a proper portion,
    of the poor man in paracme, greeding still.

    That's nothing, nothing! For his great commands
    have reached me here — to love my enemy
    as I love me — which is quite out of the question!
    and worse still, to love You with my whole mind

    insufferable & creative addition to Deuteronomy 6 —
    Shift! Shift!

    Frantic I cast about abroad
    for avenues of out: Who really this this?
    Can all be lost, then? (But some do these things ...
    I flinch from some horrible saints half the happy mornings —

    so that's blocked off.) Maybe it's not God's voice
    only Christ's only. (But our Lord is our Lord.
    No vent there.) If more's demanded of man than can
    man summon, You're unjust. Suppose not. See Jewish history,

    tormented & redeemed, millennia later
    in Freud & Einstein forcing us sorry & free,
    Jerusalem Israeli! flames Anne Frank
    a beacon to the Gentiles weltering.

    With so great power bitter, so marvellous mild even mercy?
    It's not conformable. It must be so,
    but I am lost in it, dire Friend. Only I remember
    of Solomon's cherubim 'their faces were inward'.

    And thro' that veil of blue, & crimson, & linen,
    & blue, You brood across forgiveness and
    the house fills with a cloud, so that the priests
    cannot stand to minister by reason of the cloud.


Excerpted from Delusions, Etc. by John Berryman. Copyright © 1972 Estate of John Berryman. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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