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Apples from Shinar: A Book of Poems

Apples from Shinar: A Book of Poems

by Hyam Plutzik

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<P>Apples from Shinar was Hyam Plutzik's second complete collection. Originally published in 1959 as a part of Wesleyan University Press's newly minted poetry series, the collection includes "The Shepherd"—a section of the book-length poem "Horatio," which earned Plutzik a finalist position for the Pulitzer Prize. "The love and the words and the simplicity," that mark Plutzik's poetry, writes Philip Booth, "are all here [in Apples from Shinar], and the poems come peacefully, and wonderfully, alive." With a previously unpublished foreword by Hyam Plutzik and a new afterword by David Scott Kastan, this edition marks the centenary of Plutzik's birth and will introduce a new generation of readers to the work of one of the best mid-century American poets.</P>

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819571687
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2012
Series: Wesleyan Poetry Program
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 64
File size: 396 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

<P>HYAM PLUTZIK (1911–1962) was the Deane Professor of Rhetoric and Poetry at the University of Rochester. The author of six volumes of poetry, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. DAVID SCOTT KASTAN is the George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University and one of the most widely read of American literary scholars.</P>

Read an Excerpt



Because the red osier dogwood Is the winter lightning,
The retention of the prime fire In the naked and forlorn season When snow is winner
(For he flames quietly above the shivering mouse In the moldy tunnel,
The eggs of the grasshopper awaiting metamorphosis Into the lands of hay and the times of the daisy,
The snake contorted in the gravel,
His brain suspended in thought Over an abyss that summer will fill with murmuring And frogs make laughable: the cricket-haunted time) —
I, seeing in the still red branches The stubborn, unflinching fire of that time,
Will not believe the horror at the door, the snow-white worm Gnawing at the edges of the mind,
The hissing tree when the sleet falls.
For because the red osier dogwood Is the winter sentinel,
I am certain of the return of the moth
(Who was not destroyed when an August flame licked him),
And the cabbage butterfly, and all the families Whom the sun fathers, in the cauldron of his mercy.


This midnight dream whispered to me:
Be swift as a runner, take the lane Into the green mystery Beyond the farm and haystack at Stone.
You leave tomorrow, not to return.

Hands that were fastened in a vise,
A useless body, rooted feet,
While time like a bell thundered the loss,
Witnessed the closing of the gate.
Thus sleep and waking both betrayed.

I had one glimpse: In a close of shadow There rose the form of a manor-house,
And in a corner a curtained window.
All was lost in a well of trees,
Yet I knew for certain this was the place.

If the hound of air, the ropes of shade,
And the gate between that is no gate,
Had not so held me and delayed These cowardly limbs of bone and blood,
I would have met him as he lived!


Seventy-seven betrayers will stand by the road,
And those who love you will be few but stronger.

Seventy-seven betrayers, skilful and various,
But do not fear them: they are unimportant.

You must learn soon, soon, that despite Judas The great betrayals are impersonal

(Though many would be Judas, having the will And the capacity, but few the courage).

You must learn soon, soon, that even love Can be no shield against the abstract demons:

Time, cold and fire, and the law of pain,
The law of things falling, and the law of forgetting.

The messengers, of faces and names known Or of forms familiar, are innocent.


I am disquieted when I see many hills,
As one who looks down on the backs of tremendous cattle,
Shoulder to shoulder, munching in silence the grass In a timeless region.

Where time is not, event and breath are nothing,
Yet we who are lost in time, growing and fading In the shadow of majesty, cannot but dumbly yearn For its stronger oblivion.

Reject this archaic craving to be a herdsman Of the immortals. Until they trample you down Be still the herdsman's boy among these giants And the ridges of laurel.


As the great horse rots on the hill till the stars wink through his ribs;
As the genera of horses become silent,
the thunder of the hooves receding in the silence;
As the tree shrivels in the wind of time,
as the wind Time dries the locust tree —
Thus you prepare the future for me and my loved ones.

I have been in many towns and seen innumerable houses,
also rocks, trees, people, stars and insects.
Thieves, like ants, are making off with them,
taking them to your old ant-hill.
Thus you prepare the future for me and my loved ones.

What spider made the machine of many threads?

The threads run from time's instants to all the atoms of the universe.
In each instant a wheel turns in your head, threads go taut,
and one of a quintillion atoms is transmuted.
Thus you prepare the future for me and my loved ones.

I observe the ordained explosions on the paper as I write,
The pinpoints of flame in the wood on the table, and on the wall
(Like a battlefield at night, or a field where fireflies flicker).
My hand, too, scintillates like a strange fish;
Fires punctuate the faces on the road;
A pox, a fever, burns in the tissues of the hills.
Thus you prepare the future for me and my loved ones.
As the great horse is transmuted on the hill Till the stars wink through his skull;
As the stars become husk and radiance;
As the locust tree is changed by the wind Time;
As the wind Time too will lapse, will blow from another quarter —
Thus you prepare the future for me and my loved ones.


The abrupt appearance of a yellow flower Out of the perfect nothing, is miraculous.
The sum of Being, being discontinuous,
Must presuppose a God-out-of-the-box Who makes a primal garden of each garden.
There is no change, but only re-creation One step ahead. As in the cinema Upon the screen, all motion is illusory.
So if your mind were keener and could clinch More than its flitting beachhead in the Permanent,
You'd see a twinkling world flashing and dying Projected out of a tireless, winking Eye Opening and closing in immensity —
Creating, with Its look, beside all else Always Adamic passion and innocence,
The bloodred apple or the yellow flower.


No one cared for the iron sparrow That fell from the sky that quiet day With no bird's voice, a mad beast's bellow.

Sparrow, your wing was a broken scar As you blundered into the mother-barley.
Sparrow, how many men did you bear?

"Ten good men, pilot and gunner —
Trapped in the whirlpool, held by no hands,
Twisting from truth with curse and prayer.

"Ten good men I bore in my belly —
Not as the mother-barley bears.
Ten good men I returned to her there."

Thunder rolling over the barley!
Fire swarming high and higher!

Home again to the barley-mother —
Ten good sons, pilot and gunner,
Radioman and bombardier.


Trying to imagine a poem of the future,
I saw a nameless jewel lying Lurid on a table of black velvet.

Light winked there like eyes half-lidded,
Raying the dark with signals,
Lunar, mineral, maddening

As that white night-flower herself,
And with her delusive chastity.

Then one said: "I am the poet of the damned.
My eyes are seared with the darkness that you willed me.
This jewel is my heart, which I no longer need."


As I was fishing off Pondy Point Between the tides, the sea so still —
Only a whisper against the boat —
No other sound but the scream of a gull,
I heard the voice you will never hear Filling the crannies of the air.

The doors swung open, the little doors,
The door, the hatch within the brain,
And like the bellowing of ruin The surf upon the thousand shores Swept through me, and the thunder-noise Of all the waves of all the seas.

The doors swung shut, the little doors,
The door, the hatch within the ear,
And I was fishing off Pondy Pier,
And all was as it was before,
With only the whisper of the swell Against the boat, and the cry of a gull.

I draw a sight from tree to tree Crossing this other from knoll to rock,
To mark the place. Into the sea My line falls with an empty hook,
Yet fools the world. So day and night I crouch upon the thwarts and wait.

There is a roaring in the skies The great globes make, and there is the sound Of all the atoms whirling round That one can hear if one is wise —
Wiser than most — if one has heard The doors, the little doors, swing wide.


I am troubled by the blank fields, the speechless graves.
Since the names were carved upon wood, there is no word For the thousand years that shaped this scribbling fist And the eyes staring at strange places and times Beyond the veldt dragging to Poland.
Lovers of words make simple peace with death,
At last demanding, to close the door to the cold,
Only Here lies someone.
Here lie no one and no one, your fathers and mothers.


A miscellaneous screaming that comes from nowhere Raises the eyes at last to the moonward-flying Squadron of wild-geese arcing the spatial cold.

Beyond the hunter's gun or the will's range They press southward, toward the secret marshes Where the appointed gunmen mark the crossing

Of flight and moment. There is no force stronger
(In the sweep of the monomaniac passion, time)
Than the will toward destiny, which is death.

Value the intermediate splendor of birds.


If I should round the corner quickly —
Or suddenly turn my head —
I know I'd catch them preparing the scene,
Painting a tree or hanging the moon,
Arranging houses and streets exactly In the desperate game which is God's.

For I have seen through their plausible lies —
That of a uniform world,
And cities existing beyond these hills,
Or on rain-wet pampas ferocious bulls,
A logic of morrows and yesterdays Or real seeds under this field.

The surface is thin as a gilding of oil Upon an enormous lake Deep as infinity, void as a gas,
On which they plant the lying rose To delude the sniffing child or the fool.
But me they cannot expect

To wink forever, never to turn And look at their empty stage Of space starless and planetless Where they swarm to cover some nakedness,
A ravaged fruit tree perhaps, some sin That calls to me to judge.

One question has to be wrestled down Before I smash this façade:
Are they worlds, these other men, Thomas or Roger,
Like me, with their plague of conjurers Or but lesser dolls in the scene of one Who will deal alone with God?


Saunterer on this autumn track That edges the garden, brown with brown,
Along by the hickory tree remember To avoid the place where the dead rat lies.

Else how will you breathe untainted the sweet Rot of the indolent cucumber,
Apple-smell, stubble-reek, pumpkin-vinegar?

Someone is taking all the parts In this season's performance — ha! leaping the footlights Where your beating blood is most gay with his masking,
Marks your time too with his ticking bomb.


A nation of hayricks spotting the green solace Of grass,
And thrones of thatch ruling a yellow kingdom Of barley.

In the green lands, the white nation of sheep. And the woodlands,
Red, the delicate tribes of roebuck, doe And fawn.

A senate of steeples guarding the slaty and gabled Shires,
While aloof the elder houses hold a secret Sceptre.

To the north, a wall touching two stone-grey reaches Of water;
A circle of stones; then to the south a chalk-white Stallion.

To the north, the wireless towers upon the cliff. Southward The powerhouse, and monstrous constellations Of cities.

To the north, the pilgrims along the holy roads To Walsingham,
And southward, the road to Shottery, shining With daisies.
Over the castle of Warwick frightened birds Are fleeing,
And on the bridge, faces upturned to a roaring Falcon.


I who am sanctified —
Having lain with the holy harlots at Askelon On the roof of the great temple under her visage Who graces with splendor the night in the god-filled sky:
Mother, rich-wombed mistress, whose thighs are forever Rising and falling like the tides in the roadstead of Gath,
To strike with fear the arid and impotent damned And assure the fruit of field and man and animal With Adonis and her chosen, fortunate priests —
Must tell you of these barbarians from the mountains,
From the anarchic hills come to destroy us,
Recent siftings out of the east and south.

They call her the White One or the White Lady But do not worship her nor any mother-goddess.

I have seen them on the high days in Askelon When the harlots dance naked through the gala streets For the joy of Adonis and the blessed thirst of the loins Turn away angry, cursing these holy bodies,
Crying, "Let them be stoned and their evil wombs ripped up."
They hate delight. They have but a lone god And he is their enemy. I met a certain one:
Sly as a jackal yet arrogant as a lion,
Rough-bearded, out of the desert, desperate With his private phantoms, his eyes like an animal's
(Fearful, and darting here and there, yet ready To spring and rend), his hair and garments filthy With the rot of caves, his skin flayed red by scorpions.
Though his nights are writhings of fire, he will not clasp The salvation of sweet flesh, but for sustenance Communes with this impossible imageless demon,
Stuff of a barren race, who has tainted him With a sickness I cannot fathom, an evil spirit Like the guilt which dogs a murderer. So always He looks behind him, before, and within himself,
And the voice he hears becomes this maniacal thundering On our sunlit streets and before our gleaming temples.

What I saw in the eyes of this vagrant (one of a tribe Cultureless, without iron, art, or altar)
Was the whole world made somber, and man lonely In a proud empty heaven like a hell,
Estranged from the field and the beast and his own body And kin to the mothering earth only in death.
I cannot break this knot, but I know he thought —
And I thought too in the wizardry of that moment —
Our sunwashed cities despicable and meaningless,
Our splendid artistic productions abominable,
Our majestic pantheon foul as a kennel,
The harbor jostling with keen ships and mariners From the farthest ocean, trivial as a sigh.
And joy unimportant too. The dignity of sorrow Was the only blessing under the cloud of his god.

I say these are faces of stone no years can weather.
They scheme to take your ease. Listen, you nations:
They will lure you from your spontaneous ecstasies And positive possessions, and with themselves,
Carry you forth on arduous pilgrimages Whose only triumph can be a bitter knowledge Out of the suffering they make our worth.
They see the desert in the growing leaf:
That is their sickness. The sky will be darker then;
The White Lady of splendid thighs and bosom Without a seedsman or a harvester,
A pallid virgin; and the lands beneath Dark with this god and people. I who am wise Through the sacred harlots' embraces know the syllables
(Ah, they are powerful and barbarous!)
Of the secret incantation that gives them strength.
Hear how they thunder! Listen: Issachar
Levi simon reuben judah dan Zebulun asher naphtali menassah ephraim.


Like successive layers of leaf that dwindle the sunlight Are the overlapping cumulative shadows Projected by things, which huddle in them darkly Within the greater shadow: suffering.

Breaching the shores of matter a swell of shadows Destroys all sanctions of formal separateness;
And objects, transposed of vesture, take doubtful values Like hulks vaguely discerned under the tides.

What inner or outer flames may shine are random In the one, shadowed sea where all things melt,
While through all, the superior dark, the subjective night Encloses and bathes the universe.


To whom do the bass pay homage,
Leaping to break the dimness Of the reedy, dawn-gray water?

I heard the rare message From Sirius and Capella,
The Dog-Star and the Goat,

Whom I saw as I rode to this water Over the empty streets And the houses cold with dream.

They have paled into the sunlight That whitens the upper air,
But they say still: "Come,

"We are the great fireflies,
Sweeter than soft minnows.
Take us before we fade."

And the shape with the whispering lure,
The dark shape with the net,
Draws them to that shore.


Excerpted from "Apples from Shinar"
by .
Copyright © 1959 Estate of Hyam Plutzik.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
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.

Table of Contents

<P>Preface<BR>Because the Red Osier Dogwood<BR>The Dream About Our Master<BR>To My Daughter<BR>I am Disquieted<BR>As the Great Horse<BR>If Casualty is Impossible<BR>The Old War<BR>The Premonition<BR>Jim Desterland<BR>After Looking into a Book<BR>The Geese<BR>The Mythos of Samuel Huntsman<BR>Beware, Saunterer<BR>The Airman Who Flew Over<BR>The Priest Ekranath<BR>I Imagined a Painter<BR>The Bass<BR>The Importance of Poetry<BR>Winter, Never Mind Where<BR>The Zero That is All<BR>For T.S.E. Only<BR>A New Explanation of the Quietude<BR>Portrait<BR>Requiem for Edward Carrigh<BR>And in the 51st Year<BR>Man and Tree<BR>Of Objects Considered as Fortresses<BR>A Philosopher on a Mountain<BR>Trio for Two Voices and a Woodwind<BR>The Mythos of the Man From Enoch<BR>The Milkman<BR>The Last Fisherman<BR>The Shepherd (from Horatio)<BR>Afterword by David Scott Kastan</P>

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