Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
An armchair journey
An armchair journey
I perceive that I have come
Rather a Journey, and the sum
Of' my two and one-score years,
Plus some poems and loves and fears,
Totals, neatly wrapped and weighed,
The Arrival I have made.
At this time I breathe and pause,
Note the Why, the How, because,
Surely, being twenty-two,
I should know what brought me through.
On a Journey, I suppose,
One should travel as he goes.
I have lately tried to find
God, to satisfy my mind,
Though I'll not define the Term
Either as a Germ or Sperm.
Neither would account for me,
And unaccountably here I be.
I would say that God's the thing
I think I'm being when I sing
In the bath-tub, Though my voice
With its rich falsetto noise
Is not the music of the spheres
Still it echoes in my ears
Rather sweetly, but you see,
I pretend what cannot he.
That's one idea of God, and not
So trivial as to be mere rot,
But doesn't tell, God bless or damn
Me, why I'm here, and here I am.
It makes us happy now and then,
Probably keeps us better men,
God-feeling even the piteous dub
Sometimes gets, maybe, but why?
Why, and everlasting Thy?
Among the things that pass the time,
Keep me out of jail and crime,
One that holds me hard is books.
They have changed my mind and looks,
Made me lie or shoot my brother,
Starve, or steal, to get another,
Or made me willing, though I've never,
Nor will I, broadly speaking, ever.
After that the lust to own
In its craving stands alone.
A new-bought Cabell, Conrad, Frost,
Marks a day not wholly lost.
Millay and Gautier, de la Mare,
A hundred others, in my lair -
The place where books are, please to note,
Is a surer home than a hung-up coat.
All the good lads, all in rows
Sit kind by each, jowl by nose,
Cabells with their backs of brown,
Blue Conrads, Morleys two shelves down,
Four feet of Everymen, and odd
Volumes gathered home, by God,
With more pleasure than I've known
Since there's been the Itch to Own.
First editions, few but good -
I gloat, as anybody would.
De Maupin, Jurgen, Leaves of Grass -
Imagine these behind the glass!
Open shelves shall hold my Pepys,
Thumbtacks hang my prints and maps.
Shakespere's sonnets, Hardy's Tess,
Emerson's Journal, have, I guess,
Like the others, that great Shout
At finding what Life's all about,
Wake the shouts and cries in me,
And give me mighty eyes to see,
In my Windsor chair I sit,
Near the shelves, the good pipe lit,
Chant the Bibliomaniac's Song,
And burn tobacco blue and strong:
Boswell, Keats, and Rupert Brooke -
Noble volume, lovely book,
Figures of Earth, Cream of the Jest,
Cabell's good and Jurgen's best.
Browning, Palgrave and - Charles Lamb!
There's a hearty boy, by damn.
Messer Marco Polo, too.
Days were sweet when that was new.
Robinson's Collected Verse,
Somber, beautiful and terse;
Nostromo and the Shropshire Lad,
Lord Jim, Bovary, lives they had -
One man said the thing, no less:
Men and Books, by R. L. S.
Books to read. and own and hold
In the hand, beat Much Fine Gold.
And that's a certain way of saying:
Better than endless means of paying
Any bill that you could run
For anything anywhere under the sun.
In an evening's talk, you know
These old subjects come and go,
God and Woman, Self and Books.
I've mentioned God and Self and Books.
On this Journey, Books and God
Have not urged me with the rod.
Half so much as Women's Ways,
Though the first two fill more days
And better, surely, in the maze
I am going, yet these three
Drive the thing I know as me.
Half my life, because of She,
(That would be since puberty)
Has been an effort to instal
Some woman on a Pedestal.
We must worship 'em, it seems,
Make 'em the coming-true-of-dreams,
Bluff ourselves the one we've got
Is that, whether she is or not.
And when we've put 'em up so high
Neither themselves nor you nor I
Could breathe the air or bear the crown
Cunningly try to pull them down.
We hate them if they're there to stay,
Despise them if they reach our way
And level; want them down and up -
The throat full, and the full cup.
Both at once of course, and blame
Them only, if they play our game
Love and worship, if above
Our reach, worship and love
Them when at last they're not,
Rarely value what we've got,
And suffer both ways plenty long -
Like it; make our curse and song,
Find it makes the Journey go
Best of all. This we know.
So the Women, Books and God
Fret me through this land of Nod.
But it wouldn't be quite true
Not to add a thing or two
For the crannies, gaps and chinks,
Such as hearing people's thinks,
Using a handful of my own -
That's the only way I've grown,
Exclusive of the six-foot-three
Lean and lankiness of me;
Such as evenings when we've said.
All the best things in our head;
Such as mail the P. 0. sends
My better friends are letter friends.
Such as hours chattering art -
Owning it's the pleasant part.
Many own, but few possess.
Takes living with it, is my guess;
Such as weekends, clothes, New York,
Occasionally to pull a cork......
Such as golf, or smoking when
Alone or with good smoking , men;
Such as travel, let us say,
In New England - and N. J.
Where the fun's to come away;
Many comrades and few friends,
Theaters, college - there it ends.
So Books and Extras, Woman, God,
Contrive to make my Journey Odd,
Nor is it enough to call it Queer
How these things have brought me here.
Incomprehensible won't do,
Nor other words about half true.
None explain the question Why.
Neither, be it known, Can I.
Curious, Wonderful, or Good,
Rotten, Absorbing - if I could
Thus be-adjective it all
I wouldn't butt this old, old wall.
God - if there is one - funny mess
Life is. Let's go. That's all, I guess.