Bill Yarrow – Three Poems


Thinking of Pale Susan

whose face was a quilt
whose body was a comforter
who always wrote in full sentences
whose forebears were Huguenots

zealot of every cause
swift patriot of progress
a debauchee of do

who invoked the dryads
who lobbied for compromise
who sustained the ill defended
who assailed the overfed

who would read one line of Proust every night
who read tea leaves in the stars
who learned Italian for fun
who could read Bukowski without throwing up

who held my hand on subways and trains
who wrote me reams of unrealized dreams
who led me not into temptation

who choked my anger
who reduced my crucifixion
who relieved my insurrection

who took heart not prisoner
who saw sober hope in addled time
who smote the litigious in the corners of the world

who took saffron and candles into the bath
who, indifferent to applause, could be induced to dance
who among the sprightly rocks sang to stone birds

who dried the shining keys of my young eyes
with the lustrous locks of her greying hair

mon petit chou
you who will be old soon forever
still rock the cradle of my sobbing heart

Language Out of Water

All of speech is just like life—maddening
in its small colors and declivities of spirit
and beauty. What we need is less hysteria,
less flap. Words are words. They come out
unannounced. A slim process, hardly
mysterious. Even our teeth understand
how we speak—but not when we speak
in torsion, tongues, or brute translation.
The problem’s feeling—its misery and
muteness. Not to mention knowledge,
hot, wild, which saying’s helpless to abet.
Talking’s a kind of commonsense angling.
Language the fish, truth the broken net.

The Dry World

this from a poem:
bison rest, tigers roam

this from a book:
deer mice sleep, spotted owls look

this from a play:
husbands sit silent, wives have their say

this from a song:
adolescents exclude, kids get along

this from the news:
drunkards indulge, addicts abuse

this is the dance:
glaciers recede, the barrens advance


Author’s Statement on Beauty

If I had three words in which to define beauty, I would go with Blake: “Exuberance is beauty.” When I think about the form beauty takes, I’m with Dali: “Beauty is order. Ugliness is disorder.” Thus in “A Connoisseur of Chaos,” Stevens’ a “violent order is disorder” means excessively ordered poetry (pick any long eighteenth-century poem) is ugly while “a great disorder is an order” means consciously disordered poetry (e.g. Smart’s “Jubilat Agno,” Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” Rimbaud’s “Une saison en enfer” Huidobro’s “Altazor,” or Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra”) is beautiful.  That’s basically what Herrick was saying in his “Delight in Disorder” in which “a sweet disorder” or a “wild civility” is preferable to art which is not “too precise in every part.” In other words, “Your goodness must have some edge to it—else it is none” (Emerson).


Bill Yarrow is the author of The Vig of Love (Glass Lyre Press 2016), Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press 2015), Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX 2012) and four chapbooks. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College where he teaches creative writing, Shakespeare, and film.