Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987 Dedication:

To Harriet Skidmore Arnold
Katherine Meredith Goldenberg
Richard Harteis

Partial Accounts is a signal event for all who prize William Meredith's civil clarity and quiet art, his unrestrained wit and feeling, his stubborn love of life, his unique and credible voice.

    -Richard Wilbur

Partial Accounts is deeply healing and profoundly humane, a modern Guide for the Perplexed, a large-hearted and large-spirited collection of a lifetime's worth of poems.

    -May Swenson

...if poetry were landscape, this book would be a national park.

    -William Matthews


i. surgery

When they needed a foreign part,
a valve which was not to be found
or spared elsewhere in his ample,
useful body, they chose a pig's valve.
This will be compatible, they reasoned,
with such pig-headed machinery
as has maintained a minor poet
for sixty-three years in America.

ii. convalescence

Once a week on Thursday there's a souk
or open market in Sale, the old Roman port
facing Rabat across the Bou Regreg.
At least one dentist always sets up shop too-
a table full of gun-metal teeth, formerly human.
One day I saw a woman have one pulled,
or saw as much as a queasy heart could watch.
The chirurgien dentiste was a small man,
authoritative, Berber I think.
His left foot was set gently on the woman's
shoulder, and when I last looked,
difficult, silent progress was being made.
A concept of necessary suffering, praise Allah,
is common to all civilizations.

Soon I will need to imagine again
what she is feeling, but for a few more days
that will not be necessary, a sensation
my body was to fastidious to wait for
hovers inside me. Even mortality
is briefly imaginable, like pain.
Arab Sister, in your dark robed dignity,
May we both be healed of our cures and live
painlessly forever, as our bodies urge.

Other poems from Partial Accounts...

To The Cheer... | To Effort at Speech (bilingual edition)...