Kenneth Patchen

Here you will find the Poem The Rites Of Darkness of poet Kenneth Patchen

The Rites Of Darkness

The sleds of the children 
Move down the right slope. 
To the left, hazed in the tumbling air, 
A thousand lights smudge 
Within the branches of the old forest, 
Like colored moons in a well of milk. 

The sleds of the children 
Make no sound on the hard-packed snow. 
Their bright cries are not heard 
On that strange hill. 
The youngest are wrapped 
In cloth of gold, and their scarfs 
Have been dipped in blood. 
All the others, from the son 
Of Tegos, who is the Bishop 
Of Black Church?near Tarn, 
On to the daughter of the least slut, 
Are garbed in love's shining dress; 
Naked little eels, they flash 
Across the amazed ice. 
And behind each sled 
There trots a man with his sex 
Held like a whip in his snaking hand. 

But no one sees the giant horse 
That climbs the steps which stretch forth 
Between the calling lights and that hill 
Straight up to the throne of God. 
He is taller than the highest tree 
And his flanks steam under the cold moon. 
The beat of his heart shakes the sky 
And his reaching muzzle snuffles 
At the most ancient star. 


The innocent alone approach evil 
Without fear; in their appointed flame 
They acknowledge all living things. 
The only evil is doubt; the only good 
Is not death, but life. To be is to love. 
This I thought as I stood while the snow 
Fell in that bitter place, and the riders 
Rode their motionless sleds into a nowhere 
Of sleep. Ah, God, we can walk so easily, 
Bed with women, do every business 
That houses and roads are for, scratch 
Our shanks and lug candles through 
These caves; but, God, we can't believe, 
We can't believe in anything. 
Because nothing is pure enough. 
Because nothing will ever happen 
To make us good in our own sight. 
Because nothing is evil enough. 


I squat on my heels, raise my head 
To the moon, and howl. 
I dig my nails into my sides, 
And laugh when the snow turns red. 
As I bend to drink, 
I laugh at everything that anyone loves. 

All your damn horses climbing to heaven