Ann Arnold

Poetry by Ann Arnold

Ann McEwen-Arnold attended the University of Wichita in the middle 1950s, and was a part of the “Beat” group at the university at that time.

Ann’s poetry is filled with sharp and compelling images of the senses and the imagination, and she employs original linguistic techniques to achieve her effects. Her poetry is very different from the polemic writing often associated with her contemporaries.

This work was originally produced in 1958 as a handmade edition.

Printed by Vortex Press: Lee Streiff, Wichita, 1997


anyone who does not notice
that above the particolored doors
and the big windows
clear behind glass and holding
fake people and plaster candy
are the pure and incongruous
copies of venetian forts
pale green bricks and interlain scarlet
enamel and gold metals

with odd windows set in the centers
of blue and
violet heraldries

which pretend to be commonplace

notices neither
that wild birds fly with disharmony and
veering as if they feel the bright wind
drawing them over
and with a sharp splash
their dark wings become white wings
and north is south

nor that a strange butterfly
marked with the old pattern
of the sun and shade
and dancing
seeks flowers that do not blossom
on pavement


night is so
softly drawn from the day
that its color
changing blue to blue
is yet deeper than that of dark
as in gray clarity
morning is deeper than
the center of darkness
hooded over our part of the world
when there are stars
paler than ice water drawn
deep out of the well of midnight.


seek what white silver
snowflake follows
the leaden sky
run lift with the leaf
the gray moss
see that the tensile
branches of the trees
spring back
full of freed leaves and full
of the scent of dreamt
get the glitter of
the water leaping
around the heavy sleeping stones
walk out slowly from the loud places

streaking above the sky
the startling clouds are
from sunset upward into star.


flying fast
so that the bluest
clouds are paler than water
frozen in pond-spans, and
scribbled with the tracks of
icy grass
so that the deepest clouds are lighter
than a lost feather
fleeting a flying
bird and swaying
downward from where the feather came,
is an idea of freedom so careless
that only by extreme concentration
can the mind envy
movement of wings and breath
quick drawn and speed.

sun-set, winter

the world all in its turning
lifts up the last touch of daylight,
which is entwined in the twigs
broken out from the ice-lapsed trees.
the twinkle of intricate
carving of ice-lace
draped over rooftops
grasps at the dusk sun, casting
silver and marvelous
shadows on the winter-wretched grass.

but listening
poised in the midst of a
sentence between
two phrases of flight,
a bird thinks fleetingly of warmth,
of sun scorched in the sky like
one eyeblast of fire,
then continues his patchwork
of finding snow-crowned seeds.

we remember the eternal
recurrence of seasons,
how with so small a changing series
of dimness or of brightness each
becomes the rest,
while we are knowing
life does itself move in this pace
to change us.

winter dreaming

fleet fleet is the dreaming
that is in the swift sound
of eyelid closing and of eye
as seeing light upon light, the dream
brittle and wound like a tense wire
around the spool of brain

and fleeter fleeter is the wire
fragile and certain as the swift sound
of ice being broken in the
pond of mind
of bird being token of the
flight of ice
swift through the fleet fleet
stream of brittle sleep


come seeking
and if you find the faceless nameless
anonymous, amorphous, nonexisting it
tell me where the grass is bowing
close in the wind before
the eyeblue plant.

false spring

if spring is that indefinable
air, that color of uncurling leaf,
that rose-top fall of sprung
grass from hill
to valley-below in
fitted-together smile,
that sureness folding sunlight and
mitering tree with earth so that shade
follows a measured rise of flower,

then we are dreaming of
the proper mist,
that knowledge of a bird whirling,
that twilight piercing
its shadow-shafts
far over round-about with glisten


earth being
climate, tradewind, boundary, ocean,
being strange
the small leaves starting pale orange,
the child-flowers
the always-little, brittle,
half-ghosted, lost
feather, sky-eye, kiss,
are this-
wordless forms born of the dreamt-of
gentle, snow song,
grass, touch of whisper,
bone, love, sky-eye.

the thought-of

when snow falls sheathing
the grass in frozen verticals,
making a blue-bright-bare
stiletto of the sunlight hiding
in the shadow-caves of spiralled
wild grasses

varied the way the snow invents itself
but more inclusive of the thoughtful
scent of earth
warmed and beginning green,
and of the mist
floating the small valleys
in its white still sea and being
caught in the morning trees

the summer-winter of my sightful
clasps the sheen-chain
of its gates about
the loving outermost
bringing the whole of spoken,
thought-of, dreaming
into the earth and air of
present seeing


somehow little summer
is in itself as lovely
as being almost-afternoon in the

as being
aware of a score of singings
all shades of lilac

while the wind is making
shadows of the vine


bittersweet is a red
berry like August
moon orioles
saying their
last little
songs before darkness
and their moon that
bronzes your hair to
scents me of bittersweet
its crisp leaves
are ghosts to your fingers
sweet here


according to the darkness, trees make

a skeletal equinox of grace
and ignorance.

this our being

warmly a secret being, of not
so much knowledge

as grace

is appropriate to winter:

as may trees
under the proper soil turn leaves

we know that asleep
our fingers turn to flowers


our eyes the moon sees
how brightly closing as through
our lashes glints some
belief of our shadow
here perfectly

is the great magic of our knowing
that however subtly ice
shines in the darkness warmth is
here perfectly


gave me this day
wholly, as a long
meadow of grass through which
softly the wind shimmers;
a visible grace.
and this day all days wholly,
even night which might be a ghostly
city if
i am not sunlight’s heart;
in this close shape with sunlight,
to kiss me to just this sleeping


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