Oppen’s “The Source”

I haven’t read enough of George Oppen to identify his major themes, but, like William Carlos Williams, he has written a number of poems focusing on the poor, and so far those tend to be my favorite poems, this one in particular:


If the city has roots, they are in filth.
It is a slum. Even the sidewalk
Rasps under the feet.

-In some black brick
Tenement, a woman’s body

Glows. The gleam; the unimaginable
Thin feet taper down
The instep naked to the wooden floor!

Hidden and disguised
-and shy?

The city’s
Secret warmth.

perhaps because it reflects some of my own experiences.

It seemed to me that the men in the poor areas where I grew up were most often angry or “tough,” perhaps because they needed to be to survive.

The women were tough, too; they had to be in order to survive; but they were often secretively kind and loving, managing to make such a life bearable.

One thought on “Oppen’s “The Source””

  1. Dear Loren, I am reading your sublime message and I recall my recent experience in Indianapolis. I went there for business representing my firm and I stepped out of the hotel to experience the Monument Circle, built to honor those who served in the Civil War. It is so beautiful monument. However, I was striken by the homeless that spend the day…and nights there. I was never poor because my father held two or more jobs and so do I now! But poverty it is still among us, no matter how many social programs sponsored by the government exist here and abroad…any place on earth. I hope one day that my children become independent. I will join a group to help the poor to develop. “Stand by the road and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” jeremiath 6:16 Best wishes Loren, Angelo

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