I’m so wildly unprolific, the poems I have not written would reach from here to the California coast if you laid them end to end. And if you stacked them up, the poems I have not written would sway like a silent Tower of Babel, saying nothing and everything in a thousand different tongues. So moving, so filled with and emptied of suffering, so steeped in the music of a voice speechless before the truth, the poems I have not written would break the hearts of every woman who’s ever left me, make them eye their husbands with a sharp contempt and hate themselves for turning their backs on the very source of beauty. The poems I have not written would compel all other poets to ask of God: "Why do you let me live? I am worthless. please strike me dead at once, destroy my works and cleanse the earth of all my ghastly imperfections." Trees would bow their heads before the poems I have not written. "Take me," they would say, "and turn me into your pages so that I might live forever as the ground from which your words arise." The wind itself, about which I might have written so eloquently, praising its slick and intersecting rivers of air, its stately calms and furious interrogations, its flutelike lingerings and passionate reproofs, would divert its course to sweep down and then pass over the poems I have not written, and the life I have not lived, the life I’ve failed even to imagine, which they so perfectly describe.
Copyright © 2005 by John Brehm.
My Love is of a birth as rare As ’tis for object strange and high: It was begotten by despair Upon Impossibility. Magnanimous Despair alone Could show me so divine a thing, Where feeble Hope could ne'r have flown But vainly flapt its Tinsel Wing. And yet I quickly might arrive Where my extended Soul is fixt, But Fate does Iron wedges drive, And alwaies crowds it self betwixt. For Fate with jealous Eye does see Two perfect Loves; nor lets them close: Their union would her ruine be, And her Tyrannick pow'er depose. And therefore her Decrees of Steel Us as the distant Poles have plac'd, (Though Love's whole World on us doth wheel) Not by themselves to be embrac'd. Unless the giddy Heaven fall, And Earth some new Convulsion tear; And, us to joyn, the World should all Be cramp'd into a Planisphere. As Lines so Loves oblique may well Themselves in every Angle greet: But ours so truly Parallel, Though infinite can never meet. Therefore the Love which us doth bind, But Fate so enviously debarrs, Is the Conjunction of the Mind, And Opposition of the Stars.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.
From Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa. Copyright © 1988 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.