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When John Berryman Faints In Front Of The Picasso In The Museum Of Modern Art

When John Berryman faints in front of the Picasso

in the Museum of Modern Art,

it’s because he’s so tired, he’s strung out, or,

according to Delmore Schwartz, jealous,

Berryman feigning, pulling focus for spite,

having not been invited, as had Delmore,

to Auden’s. Which version is true?

Delmore had a tendency to exaggerate.

Or maybe it’s better to say

he dreamed about things in midair,

and why not swerve from truth’s constant voice,

from the grievance so steadfast it’s practically stone,

your gravel path of childhood, so absolute it’s ontology.

His mother Rose insisting they pull over the car

to run into the diner where father is philandering again,

with a pretty piece of ass. Oh the shouting!

She hold’s Delmore’s captive hand

the whole time, little prison. Love,

he begins, in his mind, love, love. . . He embroiders,

he makes a bible story. He was seven. So

he’s used to melodrama. So when Berryman faints,

the New York story deepens, something happening

to the poetry of the early twentieth century.

They move through the present tense in bits and increments,

in imperceptible sighs, and differences,

in pigments, and by degrees,

Delmore standing, Berryman turning

to the cool museum floor. On the wall the painting

proceeds into the future tense.

It was from Picasso’s Blue Period.

Everyone had had enough of that kind of sadness for a while,

but it wasn’t going to disappear.

from On This Day in Poetry HistoryFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
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on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Amy Newman Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.