“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.


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 2River

Since 1996, 2River has been an online site of poetry and art, quarterly publishing THE 2RIVER VIEW and occasionally publishing individual authors in the 2River Chapbook Series.
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