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Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams

Light Hearted Author

    The birches are mad with green points
    the wood's edge is burning with their green,
    burning, seething--No, no, no.
    The birches are opening their leaves one
    by one. Their delicate leaves unfold cold
    and separate, one by one. Slender tassels
    hang swaying from the delicate branch tips--
    Oh, I cannot say it. There is no word.
    Black is split at once into flowers. In
    every bog and ditch, flares of
    small fire, white flowers!--Agh,
    the birches are mad, mad with their green.
    The world is gone, torn into shreds
    with this blessing. What have I left undone
    that I should have undertaken?

    O my brother, you redfaced, living man
    ignorant, stupid whose feet are upon
    this same dirt that I touch--and eat.
    We are alone in this terror, alone,
    face to face on this road, you and I,
    wrapped by this flame!
    Let the polished plows stay idle,
    their gloss already on the black soil.
    But that face of yours--!
    Answer me. I will clutch you. I
    will hug you, grip you. I will poke my face
    into your face and force you to see me.
    Take me in your arms, tell me the commonest
    thing that is in your mind to say,
    say anything. I will understand you--!
    It is the madness of the birch leaves opening
    cold, one by one.

    My rooms will receive me. But my rooms
    are no longer sweet spaces where comfort
    is ready to wait on me with its crumbs.
    A darkness has brushed them. The mass
    of yellow tulips in the bowl is shrunken.
    Every familiar object is changed and dwarfed.
    I am shaken, broken against a might
    that splits comfort, blows apart
    my careful partitions, crushes my house
    and leaves me--with shrinking heart
    and startled, empty eyes--peering out
    into a cold world.

    In the spring I would be drunk! In the spring
    I would be drunk and lie forgetting all things.
    Your face! Give me your face, Yang Kue Fei!
    your hands, your lips to drink!
    Give me your wrists to drink--
    I drag you, I am drowned in you, you
    overwhelm me! Drink!
    Save me! The shad bush is in the edge
    of the clearing. The yards in a fury
    of lilac blossoms are driving me mad with terror.
    Drink and lie forgetting the world.

    And coldly the birch leaves are opening one by one.
    Coldly I observe them and wait for the end.
    And it ends.


Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

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