To Elsie

Original Text: 
William Carlos Williams, Spring and All ([Paris]: Contact, 1923): 67-70. PS 3545 .I544S7 1970 Victoria College Library
XVIII
2go crazy --
3mountain folk from Kentucky
4or the ribbed north end of
5Jersey
6with its isolate lakes and
7valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
8old names
9and promiscuity between
10devil-may-care men who have taken
11to railroading
12out of sheer lust of adventure --
14in filth
15from Monday to Saturday
16to be tricked out that night
17with gauds
18from imaginations which have no
19peasant traditions to give them
20character
21but flutter and flaunt
22sheer rags -- succumbing without
23emotion
24save numbed terror
27which they cannot express --
28Unless it be that marriage
29perhaps
30with a dash of Indian blood
31will throw up a girl so desolate
32so hemmed round
33with disease or murder
34that she'll be rescued by an
35agent --
36reared by the state and
37sent out at fifteen to work in
38some hard pressed
39house in the suburbs --
40some doctor's family, some Elsie --
41voluptuous water
42expressing with broken
43brain the truth about us --
44her great
45ungainly hips and flopping breasts
46addressed to cheap
47jewelry
48and rich young men with fine eyes
49as if the earth under our feet
50were
51an excrement of some sky
52and we degraded prisoners
53destined
54to hunger until we eat filth
55while the imagination strains
56after deer
58the stifling heat of September
59Somehow
60it seems to destroy us
61It is only in isolate flecks that
62something
63is given off
64No one
65to witness
66and adjust, no one to drive the car

Notes

1] Elsie was the retarded nanny who came from a state orphanage to work for Williams (Litz and MacGowan, 504). Back to Line
13] slatterns: slovenly women. Back to Line
25] choke-cherry: wild cherry shrub. Back to Line
26] viburnum: honeysuckle shrub. Back to Line
57] goldenrod: plant with long stems topped by small yellow flowers. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1923
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Rhyme: 
Form: