Theodore Roethke


American Poet, Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Author Quotes

I came where the river Ran over stones; My ears knew An early joy. And all the waters Of all the streams Sang in my veins That summer day.

I think of the nestling fallen into the deep grass, the turtle gasping in the dusty rubble of the highway, the paralytic stunned in the tub, and the water rising,— All things innocent, hapless, forsaken.

My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,

The indignity of it! - With everything blooming above me, Lilies, pale-pink cyclamen, roses, Whole fields lovely and inviolate,- Me down in the fetor of weeds, Crawling on all fours, Alive, in a slippery grave.

What is desire? — The impulse to make someone else complete? That woman would set sodden straw on fire.

Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It's what everything else isn't.

I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing, in my veins, in my bones I feel it,— the small waters seeping upward, the tight grains parting at last.

I wake to sleep and take my waking slow. I feel my fate in what I cannot fear. I learn by going where I have to go... Great Nature has another thing to do to you and me, so take the lively air, and, lovely, learn by going where to go.

Nothing would give up life: even the dirt keeps breathing a small breath.

The living all assemble! What's the cue? — Do what the clumsy partner wants to do!

What is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance.

Bacterial creepers wriggling through wounds like elvers in ponds, their wan mouths kissing the warm sutures, cleaning and caressing, creeping and healing.

I have come to a still, but not a deep center.

If only I could nudge you from this sleep, my maimed darling, my skittery pigeon. Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love: I, with no rights in this matter, neither father nor lover.

Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch, bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark…

The mind enters itself, and God the mind, and one is One, free in the tearing wind.

What shakes the eye but the invisible? Running from God's the longest race of all.

But she rode it out, that old rose-house, she hove into the teeth of it,

I have gone into the waste lonely places.

I'm cold. I'm cold all over. Rub me in father and mother. Fear was my father, Father Fear. His look drained the stones.

Nudges a sand-crumb loose.

The pure serene of memory in one man — A ripple widening from a single stone winding around the waters of the world.

Wheels shake the roadbed stone, the pistons jerk and shove, I stay up half the night to see the land I love.

But still the delicate slips keep coaxing up water; the small cells bulge; one nub of growth

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils, neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper-weight, all the misery of manilla folders and mucilage, desolation in immaculate public places.

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American Poet, Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry