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From Dan's Desk

Daniel Aaron’s Passing Thoughts

Daniel Aaron, “Passing Thoughts,” undated. Copyright: The Estate of Daniel Aaron.

Those who knew Dan well also knew that he loved writing poems or “pomes,” as he liked to call them, perhaps remembering Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach. Dan’s poems range from the whimsical to the wistful, from doggerel to deep reflections on mortality, though they are almost always tinged with his trademark self-irony.  As “aggressively unsentimental” as he was (in Andrew Delbanco’s formulation), his poetry never shows traces of self-pity or any desire to embellish reality, even if the result is—which is indeed often the case—unflattering to himself. I will devote the space of his blog to sharing some of Dan’s mostly unpublished poetry, one poem a week. The manuscripts are either at Houghton or in the possession of the family. The copyright lies with the estate of Daniel Aaron. The first one to be featured here is undated, typed on a small sheet of blue paper, 8,5 x 5,5 inches, with multiple corrections in Dan’s handwriting. My transcription reflects the final stage of the manuscript, as I think Dan had intended it, with two exceptions. There is some ambiguity regarding the intended placement of the final line (and perhaps even the section before that). While Dan’s pencil annotation seems to indicate that he wanted it to appear right after the first stanza, his marks are far from clear, and I have left this section the way he hard originally typed it. As it is, it’s a very effective ending, too.


Passing Thoughts



Go turn, body! Go it, soul!

You wax stronger when you both contend.

Spirit, once refreshed by flesh,

Abets as flesh attenuates.


When Death carts off this body

To the Graveyard

(No want of bodies there);

When wars and quakes and epidemics

Stuff ash pits, and grievers grieve—

Will I survey the piles of clay 

And bless what He hath wrought?

Probably not.


Booted look-alikes,

Absorbed in Self,

Studied deshabille,

March to the beat

Of the same drummer.


Some current locutions:

”Let there be no mistake.”

”Wake-up call,” “slam-dunk,” “iconic,” “robust,”

”Thank you for having me.”


Grasshopper to Ant: “I squander time. You can’t.”

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