I found the bee as it fumbled about the ground
   Its leg mangled, its wing torn, its sting
   I picked it up, marvelled at its insistence
       to continue on, despite the dumb brute
       thing that had occurred
   I considered, remembered the fatal struggle
       the agony on the face of wounded friends
       and the same dumb drive to continue
   I became angry at the unfair conflict suffered
       by will and organism
   I became just, I became unreasoned, I became
   I observed the bee, there, lying in my palm
   I looked and I commanded in a harsh and angry shout –
       STOP THAT!
   Then it ceased to struggle, and somehow suddenly
       became marvellously whole, and it arose
       and it flew away
   I stared, I was appalled, I was overwhelmed
       with responsibility, and I knew not where to begin.



On the freeway
I follow redglow taillights
to my city of glass


I was not here yesterday
I will not be here tomorrow


Will you please explain this
I hate you
I fear you
I return always


The pain of your people
tears my flesh
There is the hour before dawn


I will not be here yesterday
I was not here tomorrow

'Letter from Kickapoo (pop. 250)'

   hiding out
   from the heat here

   this time
   they want me
   for Living without Believing
   for Working without Slavery
   Playing without Patterns
   and Loving without Misery

   please don't give me away?


What we doing, being
That argument Kitten, on
   the freeway
I couldn’t keep up our
   habits and
We cruised along sick,
   seeking magic
And you said – Hit some
   chump over his head
But I didn’t dig that so
   you offered
To find some good tricks

I got hot, indignant like
   a square with tears
And you felt pity, saying

 - Don’t cry Daddy, it’s just
another way to burn a sucker

'Things Exactly as They Are'

   Things exactly as they are
   Are Paradise
   But it's always so quiet
   When the crickets die

 the 6 x 6 bounces me down thewashboard roads, I see the sun-eaten walls of Korea, mygirl-wife & child in mud & straw hut back in Taegu & hereI am meeting the SEAL as he sits on his roller-skate cartminus arms & legs but beneath his ass a million $’s worthof heroin – I make my buy walk through the 10,000 cam-era market-place, jeeps for sale, people for sale, I’meven for sale as I find the porch of Cutie’s suckahatchihouse and fix, sitting in the sun on the adobe veranda, thetwo Chinese agents come around to make their buy, 2 youngboys, they’re hooked bad & I charge them too much – we sitthere and fix, I fix again, the so-called Enemy & I, but just3 angry boys lost in the immense absurdity of War and state suddenfriends who have decided that our hatred of Government exceedsour furthest imaginable limits of human calculation  

American poet William Wantling (1933-74) led a life of extremes. Much of his poetry reflects this. Born in Peoria, Illinois (a town which would come to represent the kind of conformism that Wantling detested), he was a soldier in the Korean War, became a heroin addict on his return to civilian life, and spent almost six years in San Quentin prison for forgery and possession of narcotics. It was in prison that Wantling began to write. His early poetry already reflected a need to transcend immediate circumstances as well as to confront them. 

'The Awakening', dated December 1962, was first published in a limited edition of 200 by Turret Books in 1967, and as the opening piece for In the Enemy Camp: Selected Poems 1964-74, 108pp, Tangerine Press.

The four-line poem, 'Things Exactly as They Are,' takes its title from Wallace Stevens' long poem 'The Man with the Blue Guitar' (which itself was inspired by a Picasso painting).