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By Kenneth Patchen

In the shape of this night, in the still fall

        of snow, Father

In all that is cold and tiny, these little birds

        and children

In everything that moves tonight, the trolleys

        and the lovers, Father

In the great hush of country, in the ugly noise

        of our cities

In this deep throw of stars, in those trenches

        where the dead are, Father

In all the wide land waiting, and in the liners

        out on the black water

In all that has been said bravely, in all that is

        mean anywhere in the world, Father

In all that is good and lovely, in every house

        where sham and hatred are

In the name of those who wait, in the sound

        of angry voices, Father

Before the bells ring, before this little point in time

        has rushed us on

Before this clean moment has gone, before this night

        turns to face tomorrow, Father

There is this high singing in the air

Forever this sorrowful human face in eternity’s window

And there are other bells that we would ring, Father

Other bells that we would ring.


Kenneth Patchen, “At the New Year” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1939 by Kenneth Patchen. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Collected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1939)

  • Nature
  • Relationships
  • Religion

Poet Bio

Kenneth Patchen
An inspiration for the Beat Generation and a true “people’s poet,” Kenneth Patchen was a prolific writer, visual artist and performer whose exuberant, free-form productions celebrate spontaneity and attack injustices, materialism, and war. Born in Niles, Ohio, he was an avid reader as a child and kept a diary from an early age; later he traveled throughout the United States, meeting a wide range of people and having the experiences he would explore in his prose and poetry. Patchen was also one of the first poets to read his work to a background of jazz.

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