To slash me shocked

John Berryman: “I didn’t.”

I didn’t. And I didn’t. Sharp the Spanish blade
to gash my throat after I’d climbed across
the high railing of the bridge
to tilt out, with the knife in my right hand
to slash me knocked or fainting till I’d fall
unable to keep my skull down but fearless

unless my wife wouldn’t let me out of the house
unless the cops noticed me crossing the campus
up to the bridge
& clappt me in for observation, costing my job –
I’d be now in a cell, costing my job –
well, I missed that;

but here’s the terror of tomorrow’s lectures
bad in themselves, the students dropping the course,
and Administration hearing
& offering me either a medical leave of absence
or resignation – Kitticat, they can’t fire me –

This is an untitled poem by John Berryman, written on Jan 5, 1972. This version is from my copy of Henry’s Fate & Other Poems, 1967-1972. In Mariani’s biography (Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman), he also quotes the poem, but in Mariani’s version it says “shocked” instead of “knocked” in line 5

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One thought on “To slash me shocked

  1. I think I would be able to relate to poetry better if the best poets weren’t mad. As is stands, I like one or two poems by Denise Levertov, a few lines from Laura Riding and Emily Dickinson, and am generally pleased by “A Book of Luminous Things,” edited by Czeslaw Milosz. Also, for dark humor, poems like “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin. It seems to me that what one considers a great poem must be highly subjective. I wonder what serious students of poetry think constitutes a good poem.

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