Kenneth Koch

Poetry on Peace

Kenneth Koch (1925-2002):

The Pleasure of Peace (1969)

Edited by Peter Y. Chou


Another ribald tale of the good times at Madame Lipsky's
Giorgio Finogle had come in with an imitation of the latest Russian poet...

So now I must devote my days to The Pleasures of Peace—
To my contemporaries I'll leave the Horrors of War,
They can do them better than I— each poet shares only a portion
Of the vast Territory of Rhyme. Here in Peace shall I stake out
My temporal and permanent claim. But such silver as I find
I will give to the Universe— the gold I'll put in other poems.
Thus in time there'll be a mountain range of gold
Of considerable interest. Oh may you come back in time
And in my lifetime to see it, most perfect and most delectable reader!
We poets in our youth begin with fantasies,
But then at least we think they may be realities—
The poems we create in our age
Require your hand upon our shoulder, your eye on our page...

Chapter Thirty Seven.
On the Planisphere everyone was having a nut
When suddenly my Lulu appeared.
She was a big broad about six feet seven
And she had a red stone in her ear
Which was stringent in its beauty...

Here are listed all the Pleasures of Peace that there could possibly be.
Among them are the pleasures of Memory
    (which Delmore Schwartz celebrated), the pleasures of autonomy,
The pleasures of agoraphobia and the sudden release
Of the agoraphobic person from the identified
    marketplace, the pleasure of roving over you
And rolling over the beach, of being in a complicated car, of sleeping,
Of drawing ropes with you, of planning a deranged comic strip,
    of shifting knees
At the accelerator pump, of blasphemy, of cobra settlement
    in a dilapidated skin country
Without clops, and therefore every pleasure is also
    included; which after these—

Oh the Pleasures of Peace are infinite and they cannot be counted—
One single piece of pink mint chewing gum contains more pleasures
Than the whole rude gallery of war! And the moon passes by
In an otherwise undistinguished lesson on the geography of this age
Which has had fifty-seven good lovers and ninety-six wars.
    By Giorgio Finogle...

"A lovely starry catalogue for peace!" "Is it Shakespeare
    or Byron who breathes
In the lines of his poem?" "You have given us the Pleasures of Peace,
Now where is the real thing?" "Koch has studied his history!"
    "Bold!" "Stunning!" "It touches us like leaves
Sparkling in April— but is that all there is
To his peace plea?" Well, you be the one
To conclude it, if you think it needs more— I want to end it,
I want to see real Peace again! Oh peace bams!
I need your assistance— and peace drams, distilling through
    the world! peace lamps, be shining! and peace lambs, rumble up the shore!
O Goddess, sweet Muse, I'm stopping— now show us where you are!
And the big boats come sailing into the harbor for peace
And the little apes are running around the jungle for peace
And the day (that is, the star of day, the sun) is shining for peace...
And the Mediterranean peach trees are fast asleep for peace...
And the monkeys are climbing for coconuts and peace...

Crackle, love's flat, sun's sweets, oh peace, to you.

Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)
"The Pleasure of Peace"
The Pleasure of Peace and Other Poems
Grove Press, New York, 1969, pp. 96-111

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P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (3-9-2003)