William Carlos Williams

Here you will find the Long Poem January Morning of poet William Carlos Williams

January Morning


I have discovered that most of 
the beauties of travel are due to 
the strange hours we keep to see them: 

the domes of the Church of 
the Paulist Fathers in Weehawken 
against a smoky dawn -- the heart stirred -- 
are beautiful as Saint Peters 
approached after years of anticipation. 


Though the operation was postponed 
I saw the tall probationers 
in their tan uniforms 
hurrying to breakfast! 


-- and from basement entries 
neatly coiffed, middle aged gentlemen 
with orderly moustaches and 
well-brushed coats 


-- and the sun, dipping into the avenues 
streaking the tops of 
the irregular red houselets, 
the gay shadows drooping and drooping. 


-- and a young horse with a green bed-quilt 
on his withers shaking his head: 
bared teeth and nozzle high in the air! 


--and a semicircle of dirt-colored men 
about a fire bursting from an old 
ash can, 


-- and the worn, 
blue car rails (like the sky!) 
gleaming among the cobbles! 


-- and the rickety ferry-boat "Arden"! 
What an object to be called "Arden" 
among the great piers, -- on the 
ever new river! 
"Put me a Touchstone 
at the wheel, white gulls, and we'll 
follow the ghost of the Half Moon 
to the North West Passage -- and through! 
(at Albany!) for all that!" 


Exquisite brown waves -- long 
circlets of silver moving over you! 
enough with crumbling ice crusts among you! 
The sky has come down to you, 
lighter than tiny bubbles, face to 
face with you! 
His spirit is 
a white gull with delicate pink feet 
and a snowy breast for you to 
hold to your lips delicately! 


The young doctor is dancing with happiness 
in the sparkling wind, alone 
at the prow of the ferry! He notices 
the curdy barnacles and broken ice crusts 
left at the slip's base by the low tide 
and thinks of summer and green 
shell-crusted ledges among 
the emerald eel-grass! 


Who knows the Palisades as I do 
knows the river breaks east from them 
above the city -- but they continue south 
-- under the sky -- to bear a crest of 
little peering houses that brighten 
with dawn behind the moody 
water-loving giants of Manhattan. 


Long yellow rushes bending 
above the white snow patches; 
purple and gold ribbon 
of the distant wood: 
what an angle 
you make with each other as 
you lie there in contemplation. 


Work hard all your young days 
and they'll find you too, some morning 
staring up under 
your chiffonier at its warped 
bass-wood bottom and your soul -- 
-- among the little sparrows 
behind the shutter. 


-- and the flapping flags are at 
half-mast for the dead admiral. 


All this -- 
was for you, old woman. 
I wanted to write a poem 
that you would understand. 
For what good is it to me 
if you can't understand it? 
But you got to try hard -- 
But -- 
Well, you know how 
the young girls run giggling 
on Park Avenue after dark 
when they ought to be home in bed? 
that's the way it is with me somehow.