Not to measure my height into the clouds
And cheat in the reflected vision,
So judge myself soberly,
In a way a superior force has dealt with faith:
These things were told me on a sidewalk;
Once I heard them in a pitched tent;
The words came to me another time at dinner;
Once I heard them in my sleep;
That in my whirling flesh and other possibilities,
There are a number of like things,
Each for a different agent residue;
We—so many are (they told me) one in a “faith”
That must not be broken down to death;
Presents of unalike none-objects in “I” cloaked
In a curious “felt-only” condition—given,
In accord to established proportion;
All other superficial “none-objects” must wait,
With yes-objects: No instructions, only listen;
And for me to “render-unto” means only with grace,
And if I rule (in this areas-connected to my flesh)
Do so with diligence,
Do give out with no-frounds, no deep hurt,—mercy;
In a time when only infants know what evil is,
And how it differs with “un-evil”—expectations,
Of unabhority. Where is affection to come from?
And hope, and patient in tribulation?
The necessity in the existence of saints,—yes;
Any kind (deep in a dwelling of devotion
Of long-run—ultimate—good, though surfacewise,
Apparently-unapparently “evil”) yes; no rejoicing
In the un-goods hunger; Feed not-yourself, feed
—Come out of your flesh (they whispered) love.
A superior-force taking “repay” for each no-good.
Employ you to “empty out self love, all.”—Love!
Clarence Major‘s most recent book is My Studio (2018). A full biography, and additional poems, can be found at the Poetry Foundation.
Dennis Cooper on Clarence Major, with many extras.
From the deep archive, “The Necessity of Saints” originally appeared in the winter 1959 issue of The Literary Review. We republished it in 2017 as part of our sixtieth anniversary issue, Current Events.