Now light the candles; one; two; there's a moth;
What silly beggars they are to blunder in
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame—
No, no, not that,—it's bad to think of war,
When thoughts you've gagged all day come back to scare you;
And it's been proved that soldiers don't go mad
Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts
That drive them out to jabber among the trees.

Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand.
Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen,
And you're as right as rain….
                                     Why won't it rain?…
I wish there'd be a thunder-storm to-night,
With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark,
And make the roses hang their dripping heads.

Books; what a jolly company they are,
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves,
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green
And every kind of colour. Which will you read?
Come on; O do read something; they're so wise.
I tell you all the wisdom of the world
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet
You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out,
And listen to the silence: on the ceiling
There's one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters;
And in the breathless air outside the house
The garden waits for something that delays.
There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees,—
Not people killed in battle,—they're in France,—
But horrible shapes in shrouds—old men who died
Slow, natural deaths,—old men with ugly souls,
Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.

* * *

You're quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home;
You'd never think there was a bloody war on!…
O yes, you would … why, you can hear the guns.
Hark! Thud, thud, thud,—quite soft … they never cease—
Those whispering guns—O Christ, I want to go out
And screech at them to stop—I'm going crazy;
I'm going stark, staring mad because of the guns.

This poem is in the public domain.

            When battles were fought
With a chivalrous sense of should and ought,
            In spirit men said,
             “End we quick or dead,
            Honour is some reward!
Let us fight fair—for our own best or worst;
            So, Gentlemen of the Guard,
                 Fire first!”

            In the open they stood,
Man to man in his knightlihood:
            They would not deign
            To profit by a stain
            On the honourable rules,
Knowing that practice perfidy no man durst
            Who in the heroic schools
                 Was nurst.

            But now, behold, what
Is war with those where honor is not!
            Rama laments
            Its dead innocents;
            Herod howls: “Sly slaughter
Rules now! Let us, by modes once called accurst,
            Overhead, under water
                 Stab first.”

This poem is in the public domain.

I leant upon a coppice gate 
    When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires. 

The land's sharp features seemed to be
    The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

This poem is in the public domain.

Those years are foliage of trees
their trunks hidden by bushes;
behind them a gray haze topped with silver
hides the swinging steps of my first love
the Danube.

On its face
grave steel palaces with smoking torches,
parading monasteries moved slowly to the Black Sea
till the bared branches scratched the north wind.

On its bed
a great Leviathan waited
for the ceremonies on the arrival of Messiah
and bobbing small fishes snapped sun splinters
for the pleasure of the monster.

Along its shores
red capped little hours danced
with rainbow colored kites,
messengers to heaven.

My memory is a sigh
of swallows swinging
through a slow dormant summer
to a timid line on the horizon.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

A green and copper-backed frog
keeps me from seeing
brick-colored eucalyptus flowers
dancing on an apple-green sky;
large rose-hued cotton fists
with gold knuckles
chase a blushing sun
into a purple, lead sea:
I am hungry and he is cautious.

This poem is in the public domain.

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies' soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air's soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer's boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another's ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o'erfull heart, without aim or art;
'T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.

From The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1913)

we convince ourselves of what we need
allowing obstacle a rebirth as reason

the ground cracks and our body reacts
adjusting balance with footing, ear canal to cochlea

perspective shifts as focus clarifies, position of neck
to spine merges into planet's gyration

we orbit the occipital orb
the eyeball retracted by obstacle's incision

merged into our head our feet, somehow planted
on our eyes, as ground shakes we adjust our view

our heart follows close behind looking for an orbit
to call its own, gravity tells a story . . .

           . . . has falling helped you see how to stand. will melting
             away
          cover improve intuition. porous like mine. I want to fall in
          the nothing. find what's there. challenge my something
          with surrounding nothing. maybe the certain. question the
          maybe. enter the sweat of what falls before I catch it. attach
          impulse to tributary. feather away grass from its skin. remind
          each blade of my pores. my static charge of light and dusk.
          magnetize distress. vanish emblems of pointed
             palmistry           
          paining hull. esperanza savior. salivant sonority. have you

          instincted the instants yet. stepped in line. what is the water
          like when followed unwillingly. when skin is checked
          by the surface of surround. the speed of slow.
          who gets wet in the blade of water that cuts the wake.
          is there friction with a name for blend. do I remove the
          image before it envelops. rescue the outcome before it lands.

Copyright © 2007 by Edwin Torres. “The Law of the Apple” was originally published in In the Function of External Circumstances (Nightboat Books, 2007). Reprinted with permission of the author.

Break, break, break,
    On thy cold gray stones, O sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
    The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
    That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
    That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
    To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
    And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
    At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
    Will never come back to me.

This poem is in the public domain.

One spake amid the nations, “Let us cease
   From darkening with strife the fair World's light,
We who are great in war be great in peace.
   No longer let us plead the cause by might.”

But from a million British graves took birth
   A silent voice—the million spake as one—
“If ye have righted all the wrongs of earth
   Lay by the sword! Its work and ours is done.”

This poem is in the public domain.

              10

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Copyright © 1956, 1984, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust from The Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage. Reprinted by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

For the dim regions whence my fathers came
My spirit, bondaged by the body, longs.
Words felt, but never heard, my lips would frame;
My soul would sing forgotten jungle songs.
I would go back to darkness and to peace,
But the great western world holds me in fee,
And I may never hope for full release
While to its alien gods I bend my knee.
Something in me is lost, forever lost,
Some vital thing has gone out of my heart,
And I must walk the way of life a ghost
Among the sons of earth, a thing apart;
For I was born, far from my native clime,
Under the white man's menace, out of time.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I was so small, so very much afraid.
I prayed my father might turn into light.
There was no price that I would not have paid

to pray the way the light knelt down and prayed.
I prayed that I might learn to be like light,
but I was small, and very much afraid,

and he stayed silent. Was I badly made?
His violin made sound turn into light,
and there’s no price that I would not have paid

to hear him play Thais each night. He made
it sound as though the bow was made of light.
Still I was small, and very much afraid

when he got mad and broke the things he’d made.
He tried and tried so hard to do things right,  
and there’s no price that he would not have paid

to sit with me at dusk and watch light fade.
Both of us were made from that same light,
And there’s no price we two would not have paid—
we who were small and very much afraid.

Copyright © 2016 by Marilyn Krysl. Originally published in December in 2016. Used with permission of the author.