Kilroy Text of the Poem
by Peter Viereck

Start Your Free Trial

Download Kilroy Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Text of the Poem

(Poetry for Students)

1
Also Ulysses once—that other war.
(Is it because we find his scrawl
Today on every privy door
That we forget his ancient rôle?)
Also was there—he did it for the wages—                           5
When a Cathay-drunk Genoese set sail.
Whenever “longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,”
Kilroy is there; he tells The Miller’s Tale.

2
At times he seems a paranoiac king                                 10
Who stamps his crest on walls and says, “My own!”
But in the end he fades like a lost tune,
Tossed here and there, whom all the breezes sing.
“Kilroy was here”; these words sound wanly gay,
Haughty yet tired with long marching.                              15
He is Orestes—guilty of what crime?—
For whom the Furies still are searching;
When they arrive, they find their prey
(Leaving his name to mock them) went away.
Sometimes he does not flee from them in time:                20
“Kilroy was—”
(with his blood a dying man
Wrote half the phrase out in Bataan.)

3
Kilroy, beware. “HOME” is the final trap
That lurks for you in many a wily shape:                          25
In pipe-and-slippers plus a Loyal Hound
Or fooling around, just fooling around.
Kind to the old (their warm Penelope)
But fierce to boys,
thus “home” becomes that sea,                                       30
Horribly disguised, where you were always drowned,—
(How could suburban Crete condone
The yarns you would have V-mailed from the sun?)—
And folksy fishes sip Icarian tea.
One stab of hopeless wings imprinted your           35
Exultant Kilroy-signature
Upon sheer sky for all the world to stare:
“I was there! I was there! I was there!”

4
God is like Kilroy; He, too, sees it all;
That’s how He knows of every sparrow’s fall;                    40
That’s why we prayed each time the tightropes cracked
On which our loveliest clowns contrived their act.
The G.I. Faustus who was everywhere
Strolled home again. “What was it like outside?”               45
Can’t, with his good neighbors Ought and But
And pale Perhaps and grave-eyed Better Not;
For “Kilroy” means: the world is very wide.
He was there, he was there, he was there!

And in the suburbs Can’t sat down and cried.        50