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William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Dedication for a Plot of Ground


              1This plot of ground
              2facing the waters of this inlet
              3is dedicated to the living presence of
              4Emily Dickinson Wellcome
              5who was born in England; married;
              6lost her husband and with
              7her five year old son
              8sailed for New York in a two-master;
              9was driven to the Azores;
            10ran adrift on Fire Island shoal,
            11met her second husband
            12in a Brooklyn boarding house,
            13went with him to Puerto Rico
            14bore three more children, lost
            15her second husband, lived hard
            16for eight years in St. Thomas,
            17Puerto Rico, San Domingo, followed
            18the oldest son to New York,
            19lost her daughter, lost her "baby,"
            20seized the two boys of
            21the oldest son by the second marriage
            22mothered them -- they being
            23motherless -- fought for them
            24against the other grandmother
            25and the aunts, brought them here
            26summer after summer, defended
            27herself here against thieves,
            28storms, sun, fire,
            29against flies, against girls
            30that came smelling about, against
            31drought, against weeds, storm-tides,
            32neighbors, weasels that stole her chickens,
            33against the weakness of her own hands,
            34against the growing strength of
            35the boys, against wind, against
            36the stones, against trespassers,
            37against rents, against her own mind.

            38She grubbed this earth with her own hands,
            39domineered over this grass plot,
            40blackguarded her oldest son
            41into buying it, lived here fifteen years,
            42attained a final loneliness and --

            43If you can bring nothing to this place
            44but your carcass, keep out.

Notes

4] Williams' grandmother, whose house was in West Haven, Connecticut (Litz and MacGowan, 489). She died in 1920 of a stroke (Mariani, xiv, 7).

8] two-master: a small ship, with just two masts, powered only by the wind.

9] Azores: North Atlantic islands about 800 miles off the coastof Portugal, far from any direct route from England to New York.

10] Fire Island: very narrow bar parallel to Long Island and protecting it from the Atlantic.

12] Brooklyn: borough in New York.

16] St. Thomas: one of the Virgin Islands in the West Indies.

17] San Domingo: chief city in the Dominican Republic in the West Indies.

40] blackguarded: swore at.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Carlos Williams, A Book of Poems. Al Que Quiere! (Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1917): 69-71. York University Library Special Collections 5773.
First publication date: 1917
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/20

Composition date note: not known but in 1920 or after
Form note: unrhyming rhythmic lines


Other poems by William Carlos Williams