Letter to His Brother
The night is on these hills, and some can sleep.
Some stare into the dark, some walk.
Only the sound of glasses and of talk,
Of cracking logs, imagining who weep,
Comes on the night wind to my waking ears.
Your enemies and mine are still,
None works upon us either good or ill:
Mint by the stream, tree-frogs, are travellers.
What shall I say for anniversary?
At Dachau yellow blows forbid
And Becket's brains upon his altar spread
Forbid my trust, or hungry prophecy.
Prediction if I make, I violate
The just expectancy of youth, --
Although you know as well as I whose tooth
Sunk in our heels, the western guise of fate.
When Patrick Barton chased the murderer
He heard behind him in the wood
Pursuit, and suddenly he knew he fled:
He was the murderer, the others were
His vigilence. But when he crouched behind
A tree, the tree moved off and left
Him naked while the cry came on; he laughed
And like a hound he leapt out of his mind.
I wish for you -- the moon was full, is gone --
Whatever bargain can be got
From the violent world our fathers bought,
For which we pay with fantasy at dawn,
Dismay at noon, fatigue, horror by night.
May love, or an image in work,
Bring you the brazen luck to sleep with dark
And so to get responsible delight.
-- John Berryman
Written in 1938 on the occasion of his brother's nineteenth birthday.