“Birth Dues” by Robinson Jeffers

For this last Sunday of National Poetry Month here's a harsh poem by the great late Northern California Big Sur eco-poet Robinon Jeffers.

Birth-Dues

Joy is a trick in the air; pleasure is merely contemptible, the dangled
Carrot the ass follows to market or precipice;
But limitary pain–the rock under the tower and the hewn coping
That takes thunder at the head of the turret–
Terrible and real. Therefore a mindless dervish carving himself
With knives will seem to have conquered the world.

The world's God is treacherous and full of unreason; a torturer, but also
The only foundation and the only fountain.
Who fights him eats his own flesh and perishes of hunger; who hides in the grave
To escape him is dead; who enters the Indian
Recession to escape him is dead; who falls in love with the God is washed clean
Of death desired and of death dreaded.

He has joy, but Joy is a trick in the air; and pleasure, but pleasure is contemptible;
And peace; and is based on solider than pain.
He has broken boundaries a little and that will estrange him; he is monstrous, but not
To the measure of the God…. But I having told you–
However I suppose that few in the world have energy to hear effectively–
Have paid my birth-dues; am quits with the people.

About Richard Long

I'm a Professor of English at Saint Louis Community College--Meramec, where I teach composition, creative writing, environmental literature, and poetry. I also edit 2River, home of the 2River View, the 2River Chapbook Series, and Muddy Bank. You can also follow me on my bicycle as I tour the country, self supported, at richardtreks.blogspot.com.
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