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John Berryman

Berryman’s Dream Song 235

It’s hard to imagine how Berryman could have stated more clearly, or more effectively, the terrible effect his father’s suicide had on him than here in Song

235

Tears Henry shed for poor old Hemingway
Hemingway in despair, Hemingway at the end,
the end of Hemingway,
tears in a diningroom in Indiana
and that was years ago, before his marriage say,
God to him no worse luck send.

Save us from shotguns & fathers’ suicides.
It all depends on who you’re the father of
if you want to kill yourself-
a bad example, murder of oneself,
the final death, in a paroxysm, of love
for which good mercy hides?

A girl at the door: ‘A few coppers pray’
But to return, to return to Hemingway
that cruel & gifted man.
Mercy! my father; do not pull the trigger
or all my life I’ll suffer from your anger
killing what you began.

“God to him [but especially to ME] no worse luck send.“

One almost wonders if Berryman could somehow see his own fate in Hemingway’s suicide after all the times Hemingway ranted about his father’s weakness in taking his life because he (allegedly) couldn’t stand up to his wife.

The poems seem like the ultimate testament to “or all my life I’ll suffer from your anger/ killing what you began.”