Selected Poems by Ned O’Gorman


Childhood is when the mouth tastes earth.
When the body is the body’s sign;
When there is no studied end to time;
When hands join and make a cradle.

The child races through the snow in circles
And hears on the swing the sound of air;
The world’s grave mummery is everywhere
and the sun like a falcon swerves toward his wrist.

There are drummers drumming and red sails
Making April conquests in the bay;
The flesh is still a flurried sound of clay;
Kites go as high as God and there are birds.

Though children are not passionate
They feel the thigh against the sheet;
When there is thunder they will weep;
Stairs go down to halls and rooms are darkness.

The child is a verb and hieroglyphic of his day
And sits and broods like a thinking flame;
That is called the playing of the game;
A child tends to glory like a pirate in a church.

And suffering fills him up with light
That holds its lumen for another time;
And one day as he plays he’ll see a sign
And lift his arms and cry aloud like Man.

—Ned O’Gorman, from The Night of the Hammer, dedicated to his mother, Annette de Bouthillier-Chavigny O’Gorman

Blue Shutter

J’ai prononcé le mot réalité. Il faut encore bien s’entendre sur signification de ce mot; c’est pas un fiction, c’est une réalité.
—Père de Regnon

It opens, closes, opens and freezes
on the blue shutter surging, hinge
and pine, against the stone walls and
spider lights of autumn. The eye dreams
in its sanctum of bone. The shutter
rumbles against the skull, swings inward
and halts against the bramble of the eye
like a hand holding in the dusk a shield
of hide. At the burning edge of the iris,
circling the heart, the shutter opens
like a leaf fallen on the edge of bright water.

—Ned O’Gorman, from The Harvester’s Vase (1968)

A Poem in a Time of Deepest Pondering

There are dreams in my intellect’s riding,
stupendous ponderings, that roll through
my mind as mountains roll through
the bucking light.

In the prance of my intellect’s riding
a poem breaks through my mind
as a trout breaks through,
the cords of midsummer.

The horns and bells of the earth’s music
strike through the governance of suns
as cords of water shine in the bucking light
high on the plains of my intellect’s riding.
—Ned O’Gorman, from Adam before His Mirror
Harcourt, Brace & World/New York (1961)

Two Poems on Rapture and Delirium


I would welcome flesh
and open doors again
upon your skin and its
oblique commandments.  But
rapture and its delirium
had scudded off to hinter
lands where we had
wandered once with your
ferocity afloat and no-
where a rest, a landing,
a covered place to
settle down.  You’d not have
it, such were the scant
illuminations.  It was over.
Across the long day
we cast down our traps
and watched the light go by.


This is the color
of rapture:  his face,
small shadows round
his eyes, the interrogation
at his lips and no flex
of heart anywhere
in stride or gesture.  I
pass my hand over his face,
a vegetable lattice, sun
splayed through my fingers,
a plow over wet soil.  From the
basket in my hands I ladle the harvest
that will never break from any season.

—Ned O’Gorman, unpublished

These are among the last poems Ned wrote. Jerl Surratt received them by fax from Ned on November 29, 2013, one from his handwritten manuscript and the other typed.