Online Poems

for Craig White's Literature Courses

"How Calmly . . . "

by Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

How calmly does the orange branch
observe the sky begin to blanch,    [blanch = whiten, go pale]
without a cry, without a prayer,
with no betrayal of despair.                    4

Sometime while night obscures the tree
the zenith of its life will be                 [zenith = highest point]
gone, passed forever; and from thence 
a second history will commence:               8
a chronicle no longer gold,               [chronicle = history]
a bargaining of mist and mold—

and finally, the broken stem,
the plummeting to earth, and then          12
an intercouse not well designed
for beings of this golden kind
whose native green must arch above  
the earth's obscene, corrupting love.      16

But still the ripe fruit and the branch
observe the sky begin to blanch
without a cry, without a prayer, 
with no betrayal of despair.             20

Oh courage, could you not as well
select a second place to dwell
not only in that golden tree,    
but in the frightened heart of me?         24

from The Night of the Iguana (1961)