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Ten Poems (1960).  Reprinted from The Hudson Review (Autumn 1960) vol. 13, no. 3.  Pamphlet.  Paper back. Note:  Autographed "A. R. Ammons."

Date: Identifier: 1096-001.18.k
Very rare small press chapbook or broadside. date: 19960 creator: A. R. Ammons more...

Ten Poems

Ten Poems A.R. Ammons




Jersey Cedars....6


Canto 1:........8

Canto 7:.........9

Canto 8:.........11

Canto 10:........14

Canto 12:.......15

Canto 17:.......16


I thought Silver must have snaked logs when young

She couldn't stand to have the line brush her lower hind leg

In blinded halter she couldn't tell what had loosened behind her and was coming downhill to rush into her crippling her to the ground

And when she almost went to sleep, me dreaming at the slow plow, I would at dream's end turning over the mind to a new chapter let the line drop and touch her leg and she would bring the plow out of the ground with speed but wisely fall soon again into the slow requirements of our dreams

How we turned at the ends of rows without sense to new furrows and went back flicked by cornblades and hearing the circling in the cornblades of horseflies in pursuit

I hitch up early, the raw spot on silver's shoulder sore to the collar, get a wrench and change the plow's bull-tongue for a sweep, and go out, wrench in my hip pocket for later adjustments, down the ditch-path by the white-bloomed briars, wet crabgrass, cattails, and rusting ferns, riding the plow handles down, keeping the sweep's point from the ground, the smooth bar under the plow gliding, the traces loose, the raw spot wearing its soreness out in the gentle movement to the fields

When the snake-bitten in the spring pasture grass Silver came up to the gate and stood head-down enchanted in her fate

I found her sorrowful eyes by accident and knew

Nevertheless the doctor could not keep her from all the consequences, rolls in the sand, the blank extension of limbs, head thrown back in the dust, unless unfocusing eyes, belly swollen wide as I was tall and I went out in the night and saw her in the solitude of her wilderness

But she lived and one day half got up and looking round at the sober world took me back into her eyes and then got up and walked and plowed again, mornings her swollen snake-bitten leg wept bright as dew and dried to streaks of salt leaked white from the hair


Coming to cottonwoods, an

Orange rockshelf,

And in the gully

An edging of stream willows,

I made camp

And turned my mule loose

To graze in the dark

evening of the mountain

Drowzed over the coals

And my loneliness

Like an inner image went

Out and shook

Hands with the willows,

And running up the black scarp

Tugging the heavy moon

Up and over into light,

And on a hill-thorn of sage

Called the coyotes

And told ghost stories to

A night-circle of lizards.

Tipping on its hands the Dipper unobtrusively

poured out the night

At dawn returning, wet

To the hips with meetings, my loneliness woke me up

And we merged refreshed into

The breaking of camp and day

Jersey Cedars

The wind inclines the cedars and lets snow riding in the bow them

Swaying weepers

On the hedgerows of open fields

Black-green branches stubby fans under snow

Bent spires dipping at the ground

Oh said the cedars will spring let us rise

And I said rain

Will thawing

Unburder you

And will

They said

We stand again green-cone arrows at the sun

The forces I said are already set up

But they splintering in that deep soft day

Could not herd

Their moans

Into my quiet speech

And I bent

Over arms

Dangling loose to wind and snow to be

With them assailing the earth with moans


When I got past relevance

The singing shores

Told me to turn back

But I took the outward gray

To be

Some meaning of foreign light

Trying to get through and

When I looked back I saw the shores were dancing

Willows of it was not far to look back on waves

So I came to the decimal of being entered and was gone

What light there no tongue turns to tell

Though willows weep and shores sing always

Canto 1:

You cannot come to unity and remain material:

In that perception is no perceiver:

When you arrive

You have gone too far:

At the Source you are in the mouth of Death:

You cannot

Turn around in

The Absolute: there are no entrances or exits

No precipitations of forms

To use like tongs against the formless;

No freedom to choose:

To be

You have to stop not-being and break

Off from is to flowing and

This is the sin you weep and praise:

Origin is your original sin:

The return you long for will ease your guilt and you will have your longing:

The wind that is my guide said this it

Should know having

Given up everything to eternal being but


How I said can I be glad and sad: but a man goes from one foot to the other;

Wisdom wisdom:

To be glad and sad at once is also unity

And death:

Wisdom wisdom: a peachblossom blooms on a particular

Tree on a particular day:

Unity cannot do anything in particular:

Are these the thoughts you want me to think I said but

the wind was gone and there was no more knowledge then

Canto 7:

here are some pretty things I picked for you:

1) Dry thunder

Rustling like water

down the sky's caves

2) The fieldwild

Yellow daisy

Focusing dawn


The cosmos

3) The universe comes

To bear

On a willow-slip; and

You cannot unwind

A pebble

From its constellations

4) Chill frog-gribber

From grass

Or loose stone


Crucial as fieldwild

Yellow daisy:

Such proposition!

Each thing boundless in its effect,

Eternal in the working our

Of its effect: each brush

Of beetle-bristle against a twig

And the whole

Shifts, compensates, realigns:

The crawl of a slug

On the sea's floor

Quivers the moon to a new dimension;

Bright philosophy,

Shake us all here on the

Bottom of an ocean of space

We babble words recorded

In waves

Of sound that

Cannot fully disappear

Washing up

Like fossils on the shores

Of unknown worlds:

Nevertheless, taking our identities,

We accept destruction:

A tree, committed as a tree,

Cannot in a flood

Turn a fish,

Sprout gills (leaves are

A tree's gills) and fins:

The molluscs

Dug out of mountain peaks

Are all dead

Oh I will be addled and easy and move

Over this prairie in the wind's keep,

Long-lying sierras blue-low in the distance:

I will glide and say little

(What would you have me say? I know nothing:

Still, I cannot help singing)

And after much grace

I will pause

And break cactus water for your lips;

Identity's strict confinement! A risk

And possibility,

Granted by mercy

in your death is the mercy of your granted life:

do not quibble:

dry thunder in the locus weed!

The supple willow-slip leafless in the winter!

The chill gribber of the frog

Still in the nightsnake's foraging thrust!



Repeating mid might these songs for these divisions

Canto 8:

Every evening, down into the hardweed


The slop bucket, heavy, held out, wire handle

Freezing in the hand, put it down a minute, the jerky

Smooth, unspilling levelness of the knees,

Meditation of a bucket rim,

Lest the what meal,

Floating on clear grease-water, spill

Down the grown-up path:

Don't forget to slop the hogs,

Feed the chickens,

Water the mule,

Cut the kindling,

Build the fire,

Call up the cow:

Supper is over, it's starting to get

Dark early,

Better get the scraps together, mix a little meal in, nothing but swill.

The dead-purple woods hover on the west. I know those woods. Under the tall, ceiling-solid pines, beyond the edge of field and brush, where the wild myrtle grows, I let my jo-reet loose. A jo-reet is a bird. Nine weeks of summer he sat on the well-bench in a screened box, a stick inside to walk on, "Jo-reet," he said, "jo-reet."

And I would come up to the well and draw the bucker down deep into the cold place where red and white marbled clay oozed the purest water, water celebrated throughout the country.

Throw a dipper of cold water on him. Reddish-black flutter.

"Reet, reet, reet!"

Better turn him loose before cold weather comes on.

Doom caving in


Any pleasure, pure


Of love.

Beyond the wild myrtle away from cats I turned him loose and his eyes asked me what to do, where to go; he hopped around, scratched a little, but looked at me. Don't look at me. Winter is coming. Disappear in the bushes. I'm tired of you and will be alone hereafter. I will go dry in my well.

I will turn still. Go south. Grits is not available in any natural form. Look under leaves, try mushy logs, the floors of pinywoods. South into the dominion of bugs.

They're good woods. But lay me out if a mourning dove far off in the dusky pines starts.

Down the hardweed path going, leaning, balancing, away from the bucket, to Sparkle, my favorite hog, sparse, fine black hair, grunted while feeding, if rubbed, scratched against the hair, or if talked to gently: got the bottom of the slop bucket:


"grunt, grunt."

"You hungry?"

"grunt, grunt."

"hungry, girly?"

"grunt, grunt, grunt"

Blowing, bubbling in the trough.

"think it's going to freeze tonight?" say the neighbors, the neighbors, going by


Oh, Sparkle, when the axe tomorrow morning falls and the rush is made to open your throat, I will sing, watching dry-eyed as a man, sing my love for you in the tender feedings.

She's nothing but a hog, boy.

Bleed out, Sparkle, the moon-chilled bleaches of your body hanging upside-down hardening through the mind and night of the first freeze.

Canto 10

The soul is a region without definite boundaries: it is not certain a prairie can exhaust it

Or a range enclose it: it floats (self-adjusting) like the continental mass

Where it towers most extending its deepest mantling base (exactly proportional):

Does not flow all the way: there is a divide:

River systems thrown like winter tree-shadows against the hills: branches, runs, high lakes: stagnant lily-marshes:

Is variable, has weather: floods unbalancing gut, it silt altering the distribution of weight, the nature of content: whirlwinds move through it or stand spinning like separate orders: the moon comes: by self-attrition from themselves, a growth into destruction of growth, change of character. Invasion of peat by poplar and oak: semi-precious stones and precious metals drop from muddy water into mud: it is an area of poise, really, held from tipping, dark wild water, fierce cels, countercurrents: a habitat, precise ecology, of forms mutually to some extent tolerable, not entirely self-destroying: a crust float Mutually to countercurrents: a habitat, precise ecology , of forms mutually to some extent tolerable not entirely self destroying: a crust afloat: a scum, foam to the deep and other natured: but deeper than depth, too: a vacancy and swirl: it may be spherical; light and knowledge merely the iris and opening to the dark methods of its sight: how it comes and goes, ruptures and heals whirls and stands still: the moon come: terrain:


A tea-garden shows you how:

You sit in rhododendron shade at table on a pavilion-like lawn the sun midafternoon through the blooms and you watch loves and single pavilion-like lawn the sun midafternoon through the blooms and you watch lovers and single people go over the steep moon bridge at the pond's narrows where flies nip circles in the glass and vanish in the widening sight except for an uncertain gauze memory of wings

And you sip from the small thick cup help bird-warm in the hands you watch the people rising on the bridge descend into the pond, where bridge and mirrorbridge merge at the bank returning their images to themselves: a grove of pepper trees (sgraffito) screens them into isolation of love or loneliness: it is enough from this to think in the green tea scent and turn to further things: when the spirit comes to the bridge of consciousness and climbs higher and higher toward the peak no one reaches live but where ascension and descension meet

Completing the idea of a bridge think where the body is, that going too deep it may lose touch, wander a ghost in hell sing irretrievably in gloom, and think how the spirit silvery with vision may break loose in high wind and go off weightless body never to rise or spirit to fall again to unity, to lovers strolling through pepper tree shad: paradise was when Dante regathered from height and depth came out onto the soft, green, level earth into the natural light, come, sweat, bloodblessings, and thinning sheaf of days

Canto 17: I shall go down to the deep river, to the moonwaters, where the silver willows are and the bay blossoms, to the songs of dark birds, to the great wooded silence of lowing forever down the dark river silvered at the moon-singing of hidden birds


The forsythia is out, sprawling like yellow amoebae, the long uneven branches - pseudo-podia- angling on the bottom of a pool of spring -clear wind: shall I go down to the deep river, to the moon waters, where the silver willows are and the bay blossoms, to the songs of dark birds, to the great wooded silence following forever down the dark river silvered at the moon-singing of hidden birds:


Reprinted from the Hudson Review, Vol. XIII, No. 3, Autumn, 1960

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