American Poetry
for Students of English Worldwide

..............Jack Kimball.............

Prediction with JOHN WIENERS

Mixing the present with the past... making clear predictions of love and pain... John Wieners' poetry moves through a city of dreams. Here are two poems about very different kinds of transportation.

My Mother

talking to strange men on the subway,

doesn't see me when gets on,

at Washington Street
but I hide in a booth at the side

and watch her worried, strained face --
the few years she has got left.
Until at South Station

I lean over and say:
I've been watching you since you got on.
She says in an artificial
voice: Oh, for Heaven's sake!

as if heaven cared.

But I love her in the underground
and her gray coat and hair
sitting there, one man over from me
talking together between the wire grates of a

Two Years Later

The hollow eyes of shock remain
Electric sockets burnt out in the

The beauty of men never disappears
But drives a blue car through the

Match the words from John Wieners' two poems in "A" with the words in "B" that mean the SAME.


worried _______
strange _______
shock _______
grates _______
hollow _______
booth _______
sockets _______


unexpected blow
openings (of a plug or of eyes)

All of the definitions (or meanings) below are correct, but from your reading of these two poems, which meaning is MORE APPROPRIATE?


a) pulled tight
b) forced beyond limit


a) shallow
b) sunken

get on:

a) advance
b) enter


a) made by man (not made by nature)
b) pretended


a) unfamiliar
b) extraordinary


a) an outrageous surprise
b) a severe blow

Decide if the following statements are TRUE or FALSE.

1) "To lean over" means "to sit down."
2) "Strained" means "relaxed."
3) "To get on" means "to step outside."
4) "To care" means "to ignore."
5) "Skull" means "cranium."
6) "Artificial" means "fake."
7) "To remain" means "to go in hiding."
8) "Underground" is another word for "subway."

For the following quotations, choose the MORE APPROPRIATE meaning.

1) "the beauty of men never disappears"

a) mankind's character endures
b) men always look good

2) "her worried, strained face"

a) her wrinkled forehead
b) her anxious expression

3) "talking to strange men"

a) speaking to foreigners
b) chatting with unfamiliar people

4) "Oh, for Heaven's sake!"

a) my goodness!
b) ouch!

5) "the wire grates"

a) metal grillwork
b) telephone booths

In re-reading My Mother, describe the mother's mood (use words from the poem if you wish).

Describe the mother's reaction to the speaker (the "I") in the poem.

Where does the speaker predict (that is, talk about the future of) his mother's death?

Would you say the speaker is sneaky or straightforward?


Does the speaker believe in heaven's protection?

What words are clues?

From your understanding of the poem Two Years Later, would you say the speaker is looking forward to the future?

What words seem to prove this?

Some people feel the speaker in this poem is describing and predicting a terrible pain. What do you think? Why?

"Hollow eyes of shock" is an image, a picture to the mind using language. Find an image in the last two lines of Two Years Later.

After re-reading both of John Wieners' poems, write a poem about someone from your own past, a member of your family or a friend who has died, or perhaps a neighbor who has moved away. Imagine he or she has returned. What is he or she wearing? Predict (that is, talk about the future of) where he or she is going. Predict when.

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