Theodore Roethke


American Poet, Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Author Quotes

Death of the self in a long, tearless night, all natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

I long for the imperishable quiet at the heart of form.

Let others probe the mystery if they can. Time-harried prisoners of Shall and Will- the right thing happens to the happy man. The bird flies out, the bird flies back again; the hill becomes the valley, and is still; let others delve that mystery if they can. God bless the roots! -Body and soul are one the small become the great, the great the small; the right thing happens to the happy man. Child of the dark, he can out leap the sun, his being single, and that being all: the right thing happens to the happy man. Or he sits still, a solid figure when the self-destructive shake the common wall; takes to himself what mystery he can, and, praising change as the slow night comes on, wills what he would, surrendering his will till mystery is no more: No more he can. The right thing happens to the happy man.

She sailed until the calm morning, carrying her full cargo of roses.

The whisky on your breath could make a small boy dizzy; but I hung on like death; such waltzing was not easy.

Do I imagine he no longer trembles when I come close to him? He seems no longer to tremble.

I lose and find myself in the long water. I am gathered together once more.

Like a wet log, I sang within a flame. In that last while, eternity's confine, I came to love, I came into my own.

She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake, coming behind her for her pretty sake (But what prodigious mowing we did make).

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know. What falls away is always. And is near. I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. I learn by going where I have to go.

For something is amiss or out of place when mice with wings can wear a human face.

I may look like a beer salesman, but I'm a poet.

Like witches they flew along rows keeping creation at ease; with a tendril for needle they sewed up the air with a stem.

Slow, slow, as a fish she came, slow as a fish coming forward, swaying in a long wave; her skirts not touching a leaf, her white arms reaching towards me.

Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.

All finite things reveal infinitude: The mountain with its singular bright shade Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow, The after-light upon ice-burdened pines; Odor of basswood upon a mountain slope, A scene beloved of bees; Silence of water above a sunken tree: The pure serene of memory of one man,-

God bless the roots! Body and soul are one.

I measure time by how a body sways.

Long live the weeds that overwhelm My narrow vegetable realm! The bitter rock, the barren soil That force the son of man to toil; All things unholy, marred by curse, The ugly of the universe.

So much of adolescence is an ill-defined dying, An intolerable waiting, A longing for another place and time, Another condition.

Time for the flat-headed man. I recognize that listener, him with the platitudes and rubber doughnuts, melting at the knees, a varicose horror. Hello, hello. My nerves knew you, dear boy. Have you come to unhinge my shadow?

All lovers live by longing, and endure: summon a vision and declare it pure.

How body from spirit slowly does unwind, until we are pure spirit at the end.

I remember how they picked me up, a spindly kid, pinching and poking my thin ribs till I lay in their laps, laughing, weak as a whiffed.

Love begets love. This torment is my joy.

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American Poet, Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry