483 Readings | 3 Ratings

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

{Wallace Stevens/Paul McCartney}

A man and a woman: I do not know which 
to prefer. (O thin men I’ve had, damn!)

I was of three minds. (It was a small part
of the pantomime. Of one. Of many.)

Circles. Black night. It was snowing. 

Four blackbirds.

(In the cedar limbs, you were only
waiting–flying in a green night.)
The only moving thing all your life: 
the shadow of the blackbird. 

(The mood! And lucid, inescapable 

Do you not see 
how the blackbird singing 
in the dead of night
like a tree
marked the edge all your life?

When the blackbird flew out of sight
into the dark–
among twenty snowy mountains–
icicles filled the long window. 

(The beauty of inflections
in which there are three blackbirds!)

Blackbird singing, traced in the shadow
or the beauty
of innuendos.

It was evening all afternoon. 

The blackbird whirled in the autumn
winds of the women about you. 

(For this moment to arrive! To be free 
in what I know!
An indecipherable cause! Hour one or 
just after! Take these sunken eyes
into the light–
for this moment I know noble accents!)

But I know, too, 
the blackbird whistling in a glass coach
walks around. (The feat!)

Blackbird, fly!

Take these broken wings with 
barbaric glass! And learn to see
the shadow of his equipage! 

(Even the bawds of euphony–
a man and a woman
and a blackbird–would cry out
sharply and learn to fly!) 

The river is moving
all your life. You were only waiting;
he rode over Connecticut.
Was the eye of the blackbird in that?

Why do you imagine 
golden birds at the sight of blackbirds? 

The blackbird sat in the dead of night. 
Crossed it, to and fro. Once, 
a fear pierced him: That the blackbird 
is involved. (And it was going to snow.) 

He mistook this moment. 

To arise, the blackbird must be flying.

Posted 01/08/14
Statement of Concept: This poem is a line-based mash-up of the Beatles song "Blackbird" (written by Paul McCartney) and the poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" (written by Wallace Stevens). ("Blackbird": http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/paulmccartney/blackbird.html; the text of Stevens' poem: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/(tilde)afilreis/88/stevens-13ways.html.) The order of lines in the original works has been rearranged, and on occasion punctuation, enjambment, and typeface have been amended. Otherwise, the lines remain intact, though their meaning has of course been substantially altered. As in contemporary music, the verse mash-up is intended to both honor and creatively expand upon its source texts. This is defiantly not a work of "uncreative writing."
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