As much as I want to post another Don Marquis poem (and may, if 1927 lasts long enough), I shift now to another American poet, Sherwood Anderson, I have never read before but am impressed by. In 1927, Anderson published an anthology called A New Testament, and it’s a strange but compelling set of poems. I think the format is almost that of “prose poetry”, but I hope those of you who know what that means will tell me if I’m correct. Here’s a poem to ponder: “The Man with the Trumpet”—
I stated it as definitely as I could.
I was in a room with them.
They had tongues like me, and hair and eyes.
I got up out of my chair and said it as definitely as I could.
Their eyes wavered. Something slipped out of their grasp. Had I been white and strong and young enough I might have plunged through walls, gone outward into nights and days, gone onto prairies, into distances—gone outward to the doorstep of the house of God, gone into God’s throne room with their hands in mine.
What I am trying to say is this…
By God I made their minds flee out of them.
Their minds came out of them as clear and straight as anything could be.
I said they might build temples to their lives.
I threw my words at faces floating in a street.
I threw my words like stones, like building stones.
I scattered words in alleyways like seeds.
I crept at night and threw my words in empty rooms of houses in a street.
I said that life was life, that men in streets and cities might build temples to their souls.
I whispered words at night into a telephone.
I told my people life was sweet, that men might live.
I said a million temples might be built, that doorsteps might be cleansed.
At their fleeing harried minds I hurled a stone.
I said they might build temples to themselves.