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By Robert Creeley

He wants to be

a brutal old man,

an aggressive old man,

as dull, as brutal

as the emptiness around him,


He doesn’t want compromise,   

nor to be ever nice

to anyone. Just mean,

and final in his brutal,

his total, rejection of it all.


He tried the sweet,   

the gentle, the “oh,

let’s hold hands together”

and it was awful,

dull, brutally inconsequential.


Now he’ll stand on

his own dwindling legs.   

His arms, his skin,   

shrink daily. And

he loves, but hates equally.


Robert Creeley, “Self-Portrait” from Selected Poems of Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991 by the Regents of the University of California. Reprinted with the permission of the University of California Press, www.ucpress.edu.

Source: Selected Poems (University of California Press, 1991)

  • Living

Poet Bio

Robert Creeley
Before he was five, Robert Creeley had lost the use of an eye in a freak accident and his father to a heart attack; not surprisingly, his poetry conveys an acute sense of the body’s frailty and the anguish of isolation, yet it also records the joys of love and family life. His verse is instantly recognizable—brief in its individual lines and overall length, and often so terse as to be opaque—while concerned to trace the puzzlements of the mind and heart as they move through experiences of intense intimacy. Much influenced by jazz musicians and action painters, Creeley stressed the process of writing over any finished product.

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