A caricature, a swollen shadow

Delmore Schwartz: The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me

“the withness of the body” –Whitehead

The heavy bear who goes with me,
A manifold honey to smear his face,
Clumsy and lumbering here and there,
The central ton of every place,
The hungry beating brutish one
In love with candy, anger, and sleep,
Crazy factotum, dishevelling all,
Climbs the building, kicks the football,
Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.

Breathing at my side, that heavy animal,
That heavy bear who sleeps with me,
Howls in his sleep for a world of sugar,
A sweetness intimate as the water’s clasp,
Howls in his sleep because the tight-rope
Trembles and shows the darkness beneath.
–The strutting show-off is terrified,
Dressed in his dress-suit, bulging his pants,
Trembles to think that his quivering meat
Must finally wince to nothing at all.

That inescapable animal walks with me,
Has followed me since the black womb held,
Moves where I move, distorting my gesture,
A caricature, a swollen shadow,
A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive,
Perplexes and affronts with his own darkness,
The secret life of belly and bone,
Opaque, too near, my private, yet unknown,
Stretches to embrace the very dear
With whom I would walk without him near,
Touches her grossly, although a word
Would bare my heart and make me clear,
Stumbles, flounders, and strives to be fed
Dragging me with him in his mouthing care,
Amid the hundred million of his kind,
the scrimmage of appetite everywhere.

2 thoughts on “A caricature, a swollen shadow

  1. I just discover that Delmore Schwartz is the model for Charlie Citrine in Humboldt’Gift, a book I reread manytimes with a kind of uneasiness; but this seemed to me a sharp vision of the artist caught between his life and art. This poem is great, and finally, a sort of reply to Bellows’novel, if I understand it right.
    Schwartz is almost unknown in France – but I must say that actually French people don’t really pay attention to modern or what they consider as “alien” poetry.Sad.
    PS : here’s a link I found – I think that’s Schwartz himself reading his poem:

  2. Hi. No, it’*s not a reply to bellow’s slanderous novel, which was published ten years later.

    I have put up two sections from a longer, older paper on Schwartz. The first bit has little to do with schartz himself and talks more about postmodern poetry per se https://shigekuni.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/postmodern-poetry/

    the last bit is basically teh conclusion of the paper and talks more about the poet

    the link isn’t schwartz himself, its a very ubiquitous and popular reader of poetry on youtube. thank you though.

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