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Outtakes from the Blue Guitar

This page contains verses that were (deservedly) cut from Wallace Stevens' poem cycle, The Man with the Blue Guitar, which I try to analyze in my short article Detuning the Blue Guitar.


The day is green and the wind is young.
The world is young and I play my guitar.

The skeletons sit on the wall. They drop
Red mango peels and I play my guitar.

The gate is not jasper. It is not bone.
It is mud, and mud baked long in the sun,

An eighteenth century fern or two
And the dewiest beads of insipid fruit

And honey from thorns and I play my guitar.
The negress with laundry passes me by.

The boatman goes humming. He smokes a cigar
And I play my guitar. The vines have grown wild.

The oranges glitter as part of the sky.
A tiara from Cohen's, this summer sea.


A letter for the ignorant.
The dithering goes on. I read.

"The myths in which we recognize
Ourselves, incessantly revealed,

Keep us concealed." Things as they are
Stand jabbering. But to catch the word,

To know completely we have heard,
To pick it on the blue guitar--

I read. "The subject of poetry
Is poetry, things as they are."

We hear them on the blue guitar.
The poet picks them as they are,

But picks them on a blue guitar,
A guitar that makes things as they are.


But then things never really are.
How does it matter how I play

Or what I color what I say?
It all depends on inter-play

Or inter-play and inter-say,
Like tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee,

Or ti-ri-la and ti-ri-li
And these I play on my guitar

And leave the final atmosphere
To the imagination of the engineer.

I could not find it if I would.
I would not find it if I could.

I cannot say what things I play,
Because I play things as they are

And since they are not as they are,
I play them on a blue guitar.


I play them on a blue guitar
And then things are not as they are.

The shaping of the instrument
Distorts the shape of what I meant,

Which takes a shape by accident.
Yet what I mean I always say.

The accident is how I play.
I still intend things as they are.

The greenish quaverings of day
Quiver upon the blue guitar.


To ride an old mule round the keys--
Mature emotional gesture, that--

Blond weather. One is born a saint,
Complete in wind-sucked poverty,

In such an air, poor as one's mule.
Here, if there was a peak to climb,

One could watch the blue sea's blueness flow
And blacken into indigo.

But squint and squeak, where no people are:
On such a peak, the blue guitar--

Blond weather. Give the mule his hay.
True, things are people as they are.

April 9, 2004 in Poems | Permalink