Maximus to Gloucester

Gloucester Harbor

Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts, ca. 1940, Boston Public Library, Print Department

 

Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]

Charles Olson

 

 

I come back to the geography of it,

the land falling off to the left

where my father shot his scabby golf

and the rest of us played baseball

into the summer darkness until no flies

could be seen and we came home

to our various piazzas where the women

buzzed

 

To the left the land fell to the city,

to the right, it fell to the sea

 

I was so young my first memory

is of a tent spread to feed lobsters

to Rexall conventioneers, and my father,

a man for kicks, came out of the tent roaring

with a bread-knife in his teeth to take care of

the druggist they’d told him had made a pass at

my mother, she laughing, so sure, as round

as her face, Hines pink and apple,

under one of those frame hats women then

 

This, is no bare incoming

of novel abstract form, this

 

is no welter or the forms

of those events, this,

 

Greeks, is the stopping

of the battle

 

It is the imposing

of all those antecedent predecessions, the precessions

 

of me, the generation of those facts

which are my words, it is coming

 

from all that I no longer am, yet am,

the slow westward motion of

 

more than I am

 

There is no strict personal order

 

for my inheritance.

 

No Greek will be able

 

to discriminate my body.

 

An American

 

is a complex of occasions,

 

themselves a geometry

 

of spatial nature.

 

I have this sense,

 

that I am one

 

with my skin

 

Plus this—plus this:

 

that forever the geography

 

which leans in

 

on me I compell

 

backwards I compell Gloucester

 

to yield, to

 

change

 

Polis

 

is this

 

CHARLES-OLSON

________________________

Charles Olson, “Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]” from The Maximus Poems, The University of California Press, 1985. A remarkable film from 1966 showing Olson reading this poem at his home in Gloucester can be viewed here.

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