Monday, June 23, 2003

Orrick Johns' "Olives"

The Mainstream Poets are happy to sponsor this forgotten classic, "Olives" by Orrick Johns. Written in 1915, it appeared alongside Mina Loy’s "Love Songs" in William Carlos Williams's magazine, Others. Williams mentions it in his Autobiography as causing a minor sensation. A revised, and it seems to us less bold, version appeared in Johns's book Black Branches under the title "Tunings." Johns is well worth checking out! His poetry is all over the map but some of it, including this poem, exhibits a wonderfully bizarre combination of sincerity and stupidity not seen again until some of the New York Schoolies tried on a similar tone. Very Mainstream! Happy reading....

OLIVES (1915)

1. Fingers

I've ten fingers
Very much admired,
I shall frame them
For they cannot do anything;
They cannot earn dinner
Or even hold a pebble...
Pebbles are pretty falling through them.

2. Shoestring

Little old shoe,
You need a shoe-string;
I shall find one for you,
For without it you are helpless
As a man who studies regulations,
But with a yellow one
Like a woman who is bald.

3. Beautiful Mind

Oh, beautiful mind,
I lost it
In a lot of frying pans
And calendars and carpets
And beer bottles....
Oh, my beautiful mind!

4. Miggles

That was his name,
Everyone always said,
"Miggles did it."
Oh, Miggles,
I admired you from the beginning,

5. A Room

It is a room that sets people thinking,
So they say,
Lighted like grandma's moonflowers....
Swish--I hear something in the corner,
And I wish I were a cat.

6. Blue Undershirts

Blue Undershirts,
Upon a line,
It is not necessary to say to you
Anything about it--
What they do,
What they might do ... blue undershirts.

7. In Bed

I am tortured
By this borrowed mattress...
How do you lie,

8. In the Square

They made a statue
Of a general on horseback,
With his face turned nobly
Toward the crupper...
'Twas true
Of him
Quite half the time.

9. At the Door

I have only a tingling remembrance
Not of his eyes
But of
A dandelion...
The whole of him,
The whole of me,
Known, elicited, understood.

10. On the Table

Little duck
Made of plaster,
With your head
Upon a spring,
When my hand trembles upon the table
You nod,
And when I chuckle too...
Such understanding,
C'est henaurme!

11. In the Street

Dinky, slinky,
You must not wink
That way...
You hussy,
Do you forget I think
For both of us?

12. In the Orchard

This morning,
As the quince blossoms died,
The cherries were ripening...
Such are all your moments,
Little one.

13. Somewhere

Now I know
I have been eating apple-pie for breakfast
In the New England
Of your sexuality.

14. A Moon

It lasted a month,
We had one moon...
You took it for a baby
And when it cried
For a bib and a bottle,
All was over.