Two Poems by DeWitt Clinton

These two poems by DeWitt Clinton are varied in essence but allied in their sheer humanity. “All Aboard” explores the nature of how a rant evolves into a sense of flight out of an imaginary Dodge City, while “On Hearing Another Poet Has Died” persists as a protracted lament about how we all struggle to stay a little longer here on planet Earth…

by: Dewitt Clinton

All Aboard

How soon can I catch the train out of here?
No use catching the train out of here, is there?
What use is catching the train out of here
When all I want is to get out of here?
Somebody tell me what’s the point of leaving
Like that, out of here, on the way to Santa Fe
Where I’ve never been except for one weekend.
Lovely isn’t it, this situation where you see me
Just like this, trying to get out of Dodge in time?
Really, what’s so important about leaving now
Instead of leaving long ago when I could leave?
Now it’s pretty much impossible to leave as
I have no idea really where the train might stop.
You’ve been here, haven’t you, wondering what’s
Next, except you’re a lot like me, not knowing
Really what might make the difference staying
And living through all of this, or not living through
All of this, and just to make it clear to those who
Are still here, it’s something you’ve wondered
About, too, isn’t it, so it isn’t something that you’re
Completely bamboozled by, is it, but then why
In the world did you stay where you are all these
Years, thinking staying was what would make
All the difference, but then what the heck makes
All the difference, yes? But then you’re so wise
Much wiser than I’ll ever be as I’m trying to find
Even a way out of the ever-sinking situation
I’m in, but then, no one really cares about that,
Right and maybe that’s the problem here, isn’t
It, that you or me have no clue as to how to get
The heck out of here, and staying is just about
As worse, or is it, perhaps it’s just another night
Wondering why has this turned out this way
As nobody ever nobody ever wanted things to
Turn this way, but they have old buddy, they
Have, and just exactly what are we going to do
About what’s happened, and it not’s that it has
Happened before, really, is that what you’re
Thinking because if you are, well, we have a
Lot of work to do to get out of Dodge on the
Train that leaves late at night, and actually,
I’m a million miles from Dodge even though
I sat for years in the Long Branch Saloon
Wondering what might happen down the road
Next year, but now, it’s been so many years
None of us have enough fingers to even count
What’s happened to all of us, and then we were
So hopeful things would turn out so pleasant
And nobody ever told us about what the
Snipers were waiting for high up in the trees
Of Vietnam, just waiting to sight in on those
Beautiful double brass bars that would almost
Instantly evaporate a squad who probably
Never ever wanted to be here, or there, but
Then we were, and so maybe that’s how all
Of this probably started, like that, like now,
And we’re pretty close to losing it, but then,
We’re standing at the end of the line just
About to board the train for somewhere
Out of here, and please, please, would
Someone just say where we might last
The long night sitting on that seat, staring
Out into the darkness just like we did
When our whole firebase was overrun?
Please, who knows a good place to step
Off the world and enter into something
Nobody ever expected, like this, now.


On Hearing Another Poet Has Died

I do not like dying at 72.
I simply do not want to.
But then, nobody wants to.
That’s just it, some go, some stay.
I’ve never cared about any of this.
I can meditate for a few minutes,
But I’m not going to take a whole
Day to figure this one out. No sir.
I’ve just figured out the mystery
Of Adho Mukha Vrksasana. So
Why would I want to leave when
The asana is just now in the air.
It’s a desire, of course, I know,
And desire brings us suffering,
I know, but I’ve kicked my old
Legs up the wall so many times
To come down without touching
The wall, that now, all I really
Want to do is float up to the
Wall, lift my shoulders, just
Like Pip might have, though
He had help with hanging
Like that, in the air, upside
Down. But I like the world
From upside down, who
Wouldn’t, as it’s such a blood
Rush, and of course, it doesn’t
Last all that long, but long
Enough to try again maybe
Tomorrow. My dear wife
Asked just the other day,
What’s the point of living
Like this, and she’s in pain
Just every day, every hour,
And I’m just speechless
As to what to say, as no
Good argument can be
Made for saying, well,
There’s time for something
You might want to do,
Maybe, but then, what
If we’ve all done what
We’ve ever wanted
To do, and that’s so
Unimaginable, isn’t it,
But some have thought
This through, not very
Well I might add, as now
They’re not here to see
What might surprise
Anyone waking up into
New light, a new world,
But that’s being a bit
Rosy about it, isn’t it
As much of what’s around
Here isn’t rosy, isn’t that
Right but still, there’s
Coffee, and those egg
White wraps I’ve really
Got a taste for these
Days, so yes, I’m still
About to taste a few
Treats in the world,
And there’s always
Scores of last night’s
Games, and who doesn’t
Like a game now and
Then, even if we’re
Not out there, looking
Up into the night lights,
Holding the mitt even
If we’re standing about
10 feet maybe more
From where we should
Be standing, and that’s
Sort of it, really, isn’t
It, we’re just not quite
Sure where we should
Be standing or maybe
We don’t have to even
Be standing, as I’ve found
A long mat to be just
As good a place to
Send the arms or legs
Out into all sorts of
Odd directions, I should
Say, and who wouldn’t
I mean, really, who wouldn’t
Want to run through a
Sun salutation every
Day until the very end,
But it’s so perplexing,
Don’t you think so, as
To when the end is
Finally here, while some
Of our best friends are
Making sense of the long
Tube in some lab where
A lab tech says firmly
Lay still, but how do you
Lay still for 30 minutes
When the whole idea
Of being inside a missile
Is just too hard to put
Inside our heads, but then
The problem might be
In the head, or chest,
Or even an old leg
But not everybody is
In a tight squeeze as
Our friend is, so we
Might conjecture it’s
Really something, more
Than that, it’s a miracle
We’re not yet in the
Missile, and that’s
Quite wonderful, perhaps
Good enough reason
To pretend we’re still
Here, looking for a cup
Of coffee, or whatever
Goes down nice and warm
In sips, and then, soon
It’s all gone, and then
We start to wonder
What else, oh there’s
The news, but I’ve been
Frightened of what’s
Going to happen next,
So I’ve stopped reading
The news, and spend
More time figuring out
How to balance in such
A way, that the whole
Body is resting on the
Elbows, with a nose that
Close to the ground, so
You need to know what
In the world you are
Doing, as the ground
Is very close at this stage.
But isn’t that what keeps
Us away from the ground
That we’re all so close
But where was I oh
Yes, well, the rabbi last
Year made it perfectly
Clear, the purpose?
Really, it’s just to live,
And not just to live,
But do something
But it’s okay to just
Breathe, and really,
There are so many
New techniques for
Breathing, sometimes
Slow, sometimes fast,
Sometimes short,
Sometimes with a
Nostril closed, fingers
Folding in on all parts
Of a face, that heck,
We’re all still glad
We have, not had.
What about you,
I’m pretty spent
Just getting us this
Far, so let’s lie down
A bit, for a quick nap.


DeWitt Clinton is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin — Whitewater, and lives in Shorewood. Recent poems of his have appeared in The Last Call: The Anthology of Beer, Wine & Spirits Poetry, Santa Fe Literary Review, Verse-Virtual, New Verse News, Ekphrastic Review, Diaphanous Press, Meta/Phor(e)Play, The Arabesques Review, Lowestoft Chronicle, The New Reader Review, The Bezine, The Poet by Day, Poetry Hall, and Muddy River Poetry Review. He has two poetry collections from New Rivers Press, a new collection of poems, At the End of the War, (Kelsay Books, 2018), and another is in production, a collection of poetic adaptations of Kenneth Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese. ​

2 replies on “Two Poems by DeWitt Clinton”
  1. says: Arthur Rosch

    I can appreciate so much of what DeWitt Clinton does: his yoga work, his struggle to grasp the nature of his own awareness. Nicely done, Mr. Clinton. Am I the only person who comments here? I hate writing something, publishing it and feeling ignored.
    That’s why I always comment. Writers need to know they’ve been read. Anthology of Beer, Wine And Spirits Poetry? What a lovely place to publish.

    1. says: Chris Thompson

      Thank you for reading Arthur, and for your feedback. These hit close to home on many levels!

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