Donald Justice

On a Painting by Patient B of the Independence State Hospital for the Insane

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On a Painting by Patient B of the Independence State Hospital for the Insane


These seven houses have learned to face one another,   

But not at the expected angles. Those silly brown lumps,   

That are probably meant for hills and not other houses,   

After ages of being themselves, though naturally slow,   

Are learning to be exclusive without offending.

The arches and entrances (down to the right out of sight)   

Have mastered the lesson of remaining closed.

And even the skies keep a certain understandable distance,   

For these are the houses of the very rich.

One sees their children playing with leopards, tamed   

At great cost, or perhaps it is only other children,

For none of these objects is anything more than a spot,   

And perhaps there are not any children but only leopards   

Playing with leopards, and perhaps there are only the spots.   

And the little maids that hang from the windows like tongues,   

Calling the children in, admiring the leopards,

Are the dashes a child might represent motion by means of,   

Or dazzlement possibly, the brilliance of solid-gold houses.

The clouds resemble those empty balloons in cartoons   

Which approximate silence. These clouds, if clouds they are   

(And not the smoke from the seven aspiring chimneys),   

The more one studies them the more it appears

They too have expressions. One might almost say

They have their habits, their wrong opinions, that their   

Impassivity masks an essentially lovable foolishness,

And they will be given names by those who live under them   

Not public like mountains’ but private like companions’.

A Map of Love

   Your face more than others' faces

Maps the half-remembered places
I have come to I while I slept—
Continents a dream had kept
Secret from all waking folk
Till to your face I awoke,
And remembered then the shore,
And the dark interior.

Two Blues

  1. The Sometime Dancer Blues

When the light go on uptown,

Why do you feel so low, honey,

Why do you feel so low-down?

When the piano and the trombone start,

Why do you feel so blue, honey,

Like a rubber glove had reached in for your heart?

Oh, when the dancers take the floor,

Why don’t you step out with them, honey,

Why won’t you step out with them any more?

The stars are gone and the night is dark,

Except for the radium, honey,

That glows on the hands of the bedside clock,

The little hands that go around and around,

Oh, as silently as time, honey,

Without a sound, without a sound.

  1. Angel Death Blues

A dark time is coming, and the gypsy knows what else.

Fly away, O angel death.

It looks like a raven sitting on the wire.

It looks like a raven sitting on the telephone wire.

Oh, it is some high flyer!

Look out now, it’s got loose in the yard.

Look out, look out, it’s loose in the back yard.

Oh, no, don’t you look at me, big bird.

If you are lost, I can’t help.

If you are lost, I can’t help.

I am a stranger in this place myself.

Fly away, fly away,

Fly away, O angel death.

And shine down, moonlight, make those long feathers shine.

I want to keep track of where it’s going.

[Spoken] Shine down, moonlight.

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