Who Made The Snow Waits Where Love Is

Kenneth Patchen Picture Poems

And to think … It all started out like any other world. Intended, one might almost have been led to believe, to last for a good long time … Peace or we all perish.

Kenneth Patchen

The Snow Is Deep on the Ground

By Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)
The snow is deep on the ground.   
Always the light falls
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.
This is a good world.
The war has failed.
God shall not forget us.
Who made the snow waits where love is.
Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.   
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love.
The snow is beautiful on the ground.   
And always the lights of heaven glow   
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

Kenneth Patchen believed that creativity was in itself an act of protest.   He is best known for a series of poems at the end of his life, that combined words with playful images.  His creations combine his love and understanding of jazz, from his years in New York, with his ideas on poetry as physical performance.  Bedridden from chronic pain from a back injury and failed lung surgery,  his drawings became his physicality in the world that he had lost.  Patchen’s picture poems are playful, stylistic, and deeply personal, conveying his thoughts on social consciousness, equity and personal struggles.  The images are surreal, a bit crude but invite a deeper investigation into his world and ideas.  Patchen also wrote gorgeous love poems.  His earlier verse is more traditional than his picture poems later in life.  The poem below is like some of Charles Mingus’ jazz, beautiful but might make you uncomfortable in places.  


Patchen Picture Poem of quote above

Eve of St. Agony or The Middleclass Was Sitting on Its Fat Ass

By Kenneth Patchen
Man-dirt and stomachs that the sea unloads; rockets
of quick lice crawling inland, planting their damn flags,   
putting their malethings in any hole that will stand still,
yapping bloody murder while they slice off each other’s heads,   
spewing themselves around, priesting, whoring, lording   
it over little guys, messing their pants, writing gush-notes   
to their grandmas, wanting somebody to do something pronto,   
wanting the good thing right now and the bad stuff for the other boy.
Gullet, praise God for the gut with the patented zipper;   
sing loud for the lads who sell ice boxes on the burning deck.   
Dear reader, gentle reader, dainty little reader, this is
the way we go round the milktrucks and seamusic, Sike’s trap and Meg’s rib,
the wobbly sparrow with two strikes on the bible, behave   
Alfred, your pokus is out; I used to collect old ladies,   
pickling them in brine and painting mustaches on their bellies,   
later I went in for stripteasing before Save Democracy Clubs;   
when the joint was raided we were all caught with our pants down.
But I will say this: I like butter on both sides of my bread   
and my sister can rape a Hun any time she’s a mind to,
or the Yellow Peril for that matter; Hector, your papa’s in the lobby.
The old days were different; the ball scores meant something then,
two pill in the side pocket and two bits says so; he got up slow see,
shook the water out of his hair, wam, tell me that ain’t a sweet left hand;
I told her what to do and we did it, Jesus I said, is your name McCoy?
Maybe it was the beer or because she was only sixteen but I got hoarse
just thinking about her; married a john who travels in cotton underwear.
Now you take today; I don’t want it. Wessex, who was that with I saw you lady?
Tony gave all his dough to the church; Lizzie believed in feeding her own face;
and that’s why you’ll never meet a worm who isn’t an antichrist, my friend,
I mean when you get down to a brass tack you’ll find some sucker sitting on it.
Whereas. Muckle’s whip and Jessie’s rod, boyo, it sure looks black
in the gut of this particular whale. Hilda, is that a .38 in your handbag?
         Ghosts in packs like dogs grinning at ghosts   
         Pocketless thieves in a city that never sleeps
         Chains clank, warders curse, this world is stark mad
Hey! Fatty, don’t look now but that’s a Revolution breathing down your neck.