Showing 11 - 20 of 23 annotations associated with Williams, William Carlos
The story begins in New York as a young immigrant Scandinavian woman gives birth to a daughter: "She entered, as Venus from the sea, dripping. The air enclosed her, she felt it all over her, touching, waking her." The time is at the turn of the 20th century, the baby's name is Flossie, and she is the second child of Joe and Gurlie Stecher. Joe is a printer, who takes great pride in his craftsmanship. He had once been a union activist, but became disillusioned with union corruption and now works as a shop foreman. Gurlie's driving ambition is for she and her husband to strike it rich and make their mark in this new land, where the streets are paved in gold (for some people).
Flossie turns out to be a sickly baby. At first, she won't nurse at all and almost dies of malnutrition and infection. Later, she remains so scrawny that a doctor claims the only way to save her life is to take her to live in the country. Thus, Gurlie and her two children travel to upstate New York for the summer, where they board with an aged Norwegian couple. While there, the baby begins to thrive, and so does Gurlie, who had spent her early childhood on a farm in Scandinavia.
Soon after Flossie's birth, the printers' union calls a strike. Joe successfully holds the line and keeps the shop running, but his grateful employers are not grateful enough even to give him a raise. Toward the end of the book, he negotiates with another businessman to obtain the wherewithal to start his own printing company.
Summary:This is a description of the last moments of the narrator's ailing grandmother. She is "wrinkled and nearly blind," and protests cantankerously as the ambulance speeds her towards the hospital. However, in a sudden change of character, her last words express how tired she is of looking at the passing trees; her loss of interest in the view parallels her loss of interest in life.
A physician is summoned to make a housecall on a family with whom he has had no prior contact. He quickly sizes up the situation: the household is poor but clean; the patient is a female child whose parents are nervously concerned, dependent on, yet distrustful of the doctor. The child's beauty and penetrating stare make an immediate impression on him.
Concerned that diphtheria may be the cause of illness, he uses his customary professional manner to determine whether or not the child has a sore throat. But the child will have none of it and "clawed instinctively for my eyes." The attempt at an examination rapidly escalates into a physical "battle" as the physician, convinced that it is crucial to see the child's throat "and feeling that I must get a diagnosis now or never," becomes ever more enraged and forceful while the girl continues to resist with all her strength, and the parents are in an agony of fear for her health and embarrassment over her behavior.
This is no longer a professional encounter. The doctor admits at the beginning of the struggle to having "fallen in love with the savage brat" and recognizes that he is behaving irrationally. The closing sequence could as easily be depicting a rape as a forced throat examination.
In this chapter from late in his autobiography Williams focuses on his subjective experience in caring for patients. The unusual truthfulness of patients in need, their "coming to grips with the intimate conditions of their lives," inspires him both personally and artistically, as a poet. The things that patients reveal about themselves and about the human condition not only keep him going as a physician; they are the stuff of poetry, the human truths that lie beneath the "dialectical clouds" we construct to protect ourselves from contact in everyday life.
Summary:The narrator describes a housecall to a woman in labor. It is past midnight in winter time when the road is frozen. The doctor enters the house where the "great woman" is in misery; she is "sick," "perhaps vomiting," about to give birth to her tenth child. He exclaims to the reader "Joy! Joy!" knowing that the situation is as bleak as the wintry landscape, and, in fact, joyless. He will offer compassion and "pick the hair from her eyes."
The speaker describes his grandmother, just prior to her death. She is "impossible to get on with," unless you are the nineteen year old grandson, who has not just a soft spot for her, but who sees the benefits of a free place to stay and eat. On Thanksgiving Day just after dinner, "death touched the old lady," requiring that she move from the beach house where they had been staying to the family "home."
Several verses describe her decline: the ravings, the daze, the smell, the cries. She refused to go to the hospital, "I won't go." In alarm he calls an ambulance for the actively resistant woman. "Is this what you call / making me comfortable?" she cries to the lifting attendants. Then, as if to defy the "smart . . . young people," she lets them know she's still in charge by promptly dying. Her final words dismiss the elm trees seen from the ambulance window, and life as well: "Well, I'm / tired of them."
The speaker proposes that traditional practices of burying the dead are too sober and should be replaced by simpler practices. Townspeople are as skilled as "artists" and able to "perform a funeral." Instead of the lugubrious black hearse, a farm wagon will do. There is no need for "windows," "upholstery," or "brass rollers."
Nor are formal "wreaths" or "Hot house flowers" appropriate; more suitable are mementos such as a prized book or old clothes. The silk hatted driver is overdressed and should wear more ordinary attire and walk at the wagon's side. Whatever the weather, mourners, who soon will follow the dead person's lead, should abandon their cars and follow the wagon on foot--and grieve openly.
On one level the poem urges a more honest funeral, one without pomp and circumstance. On another level, Williams is addressing the need for an American idiom devoid of pretension and borrowed imagery.
Summary:A doctor is called to the home of a poor, immigrant family. A beautiful little girl is quite ill. As diphtheria has been going around, the doctor attempts to examine her throat. The girl, however, won't open her mouth. She fights him off and all attempts to cajole her into compliance fail. Yet, the doctor is resolved to see that throat. He forces the girl's father to hold her down, while he manages to wrest open her mouth after a long battle. She does, in fact, have diphtheria.
This collection contains all 52 of Williams’s published stories, together with a new introduction by physician-writer, Sherwin B. Nuland. The stories were first collected in one volume in 1961 under the title The Farmer’s Daughers (New Directions); that book, in turn, included three earlier collections, plus "The Farmer’s Daughters"(1956), Williams’s last published story.
Thirteen stories featuring physician protagonists were previously collected by Robert Coles and issued by New Directions as The Doctor Stories (1984). (That volume also includes several poems and an "Afterword" by Williams’s son.) Among the stories with medical themes are Old Doc Rivers, The Girl with a Pimply Face annotated by Jack Coulehan (also annotated by John A. Woodcock), The Use of Force annotated by Felice Aull (also annotated by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan), Jean Beicke(annotated by Felice Aull and also by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan--see Jean Beicke), A Night in June, and A Face of Stone. The tales of a nonmedical nature include such masterpieces as "The Knife of the Times," "A Visit to the Fair," "Life Along the Passaic River," "The Dawn of Another Day," "The Burden of Loveliness," and "Frankie the Newspaper Man."
It is the voice of the woman in bed that makes this poem, and she is a tough character as she reveals herself, physically and otherwise. "I won’t work / and I’ve got no cash. / What are you going to do/about it?" she demands in the first few lines. She implies that she is a loose woman and perhaps even comes on to the physician: "Lift the covers / if you want me . . . ." and later, "Corsets / can go to the devil-- / and drawers along with them-- / What do I care!"
The woman shifts subjects rapidly, between poverty and sexuality, hinting that she might be pregnant again, writing off her two sons. At the end, she delivers a proud challenge to the physician who has come to see her in the abandoned house: "Try to help me / if you want trouble / or leave me alone-- / that ends trouble. // The county physician / is a damned fool / and you / can go to hell! // You could have closed the door / when you came in; / do it when you go out. / I’m tired."