—And yet this great wink of eternity,
Of rimless floods, unfettered leewardings,
Samite sheeted and processioned where
Her undinal vast belly moonward bends,
Laughing the wrapt inflections of our love;

Take this Sea, whose diapason knells
On scrolls of silver snowy sentences,
The sceptred terror of whose sessions rends
As her demeanors motion well or ill,
All but the pieties of lovers' hands.

And onward, as bells off San Salvador
Salute the crocus lustres of the stars,
In these poinsettia meadows of her tides,—
Adagios of islands, O my Prodigal,
Complete the dark confessions her veins spell.

Mark how her turning shoulders wind the hours,
And hasten while her penniless rich palms
Pass superscription of bent foam and wave,—
Hasten, while they are true,—sleep, death, desire,
Close round one instant in one floating flower.

Bind us in time, O Seasons clear, and awe.
O minstrel galleons of Carib fire,
Bequeath us to no earthly shore until
Is answered in the vortex of our grave
The seal's wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.

From The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane by Hart Crane, edited with an introduction and notes by Brom Weber. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1933, 1958, 1966 by Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Is he native to this realm? No,
his wide nature grew out of both worlds.
They more adeptly bend the willow's branches
who have experience of the willow's roots.

When you go to bed, don't leave bread or milk
on the table: it attracts the dead—
But may he, this quiet conjurer, may he
beneath the mildness of the eyelid

mix their bright traces into every seen thing;
and may the magic of earthsmoke and rue
be as real for him as the clearest connection.

Nothing can mar for him the authentic image;
whether he wanders through houses or graves,
let him praise signet ring, gold necklace, jar.

From Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow. Copyright © 2004 by Edward Snow. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved.

In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
      Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland. Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Darkness swept the earth in my dream,
Cold crowded the streets with its wings,
Cold talons pursued each river and stream
Into the mountains, found out their springs
And drilled the dark world with ice.
An enormous wreck of a bird
Closed on my heart in the darkness
And sank into sleep as it shivered.

Not even the heat of your blood, nor the pure
Light falling endlessly from you, like rain,
Could stay in my memory there
Or comfort me then.
Only the comfort of darkness,
The ice-cold, unfreezable brine,
Could melt the cries into silence,
Your bright hands into mine.

From Collected Poems by Galway Kinnell. Copyright © 2017 by The Literary Estate of Galway Kinnell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

There is a burning star and there is a gift
of choice at least sometimes
once something will come
from the world, it just appears
from nowhere
making event
of the given
heat-guided drives

for public use
for ease of swallowing
honey, fog, and come what may
unsteady in the gravel
unsteady in the sandy murk

I never said
the end I said
credit functions
on the edifice
of the routine
of pillage and extinction
debt swallows the moon

As an ear’s for
tonguing the open out
an ear’s for breathing
engine of thought
knowing what
listens won’t die
but it’s hard to hear
it’s hard to hear
 

Copyright © 2015 by Alli Warren. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

A slumber did my spirit seal;
   I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
   The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
   She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
   With rocks, and stones, and trees.

This poem is in the public domain.

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

This poem is in the public domain. 

Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
Had dimm'd mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
Flings arching like a bridge;—that branchless ash,
Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
Of the blue clay-stone.

                                  Now, my friends emerge
Beneath the wide wide Heaven—and view again
The many-steepled tract magnificent
Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
And hunger'd after Nature, many a year,
In the great City pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
Spirits perceive his presence.
                                            A delight
Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch'd
Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
The shadow of the leaf and stem above
Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
Yet still the solitary humble-bee
Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
Beat its straight path across the dusky air
Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
Had cross'd the mighty Orb's dilated glory,
While thou stood'st gazing; or, when all was still,
Flew creeking o'er thy head, and had a charm
For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

Written in June, 1797. This poem is in the public domain.

    1

She went around pre-registered
for her own eventual absence.

Not that she believed
her self-estrangement
would save her,
whatever that meant,

but she hoped
that registering this estrangement
with the proper authorities
might still


    2

Nice as it was, she resented it—
this memory—this
river-boat hotel deck chair
in—Phoenix (?).

There was no place for it
in her already crowded rooms.

She was no hoarder!

But the alternative
seemed even worse

Copyright © 2016 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 9, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the 
day. The sun is 
bright, but the 
chickens are in 
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens, 
dense with them.
They turn and 
then they turn 
again. These 
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small—
various breeds.
Now they have 
come home
to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed.

From The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press. Copyright © 2005 by Kay Ryan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Often now as an old man 
Who sleeps only four hours a night, 
I wake before dawn, dress and go down 
To my study to start typing: 
Poems, letters, more pages 
In the book of recollections. 
Anything to get words flowing, 
To get them out of my head 
Where they're pressing so hard 
For release it's like a kind 
Of pain. My study window 
Faces east, out over the meadow, 
And I see this morning 
That the sheep have scattered 
On the hillside, their white shapes 
Making the pattern of the stars 
In Canis Major, the constellation 
Around Sirius, the Dog Star, 
Whom my father used to point 
Out to us, calling it 
For some reason I forget 
Little Dog Peppermint. 

What is this line I'm writing? 
I never could scan in school. 
It's certainly not an Alcaic. 
Nor a Sapphic. Perhaps it's 
The short line Rexroth used 
In The Dragon & The Unicorn,
Tossed to me from wherever 
He is by the Cranky Old Bear 
(but I loved him). It's really 
Just a prose cadence, broken 
As I breathe while putting 
My thoughts into words; 
Mostly they are stored-up 
Memories—dove sta memoria. 
Which one of the Italians 
Wrote that? Dante or Cavalcanti? 
Five years ago I'd have had 
The name on the tip of my tongue 
But no longer. In India
They call a storeroom a godown,
But there's inventory
For my godown. I can't keep 
Track of what's m there. 
All those people in books 
From Krishna & the characters 
In the Greek Anthology 
Up to the latest nonsense 
Of the Deconstructionists, 
Floating around in my brain, 
A sort of "continuous present"
As Gertrude Stein called it; 
The world in my head 
Confusing me about the messy 
World I have to live in. 
Better the drunken gods of Greece 
Than a life ordained by computers. 

My worktable faces east; 
I watch for the coming 
Of the dawnlight, raising 
My eyes occasionally from 
The typing to rest them, 
There is always a little ritual, 
A moment's supplication 
To Apollo, god of the lyre; 
Asking he keep an eye on me 
That I commit no great stupidity. 
Phoebus Apollo, called also 
Smintheus the mousekiller
For the protection he gives 
The grain of the farmers. My 
Dawns don't come up like thunder 
Though I have been to Mandalay 
That year when I worked in Burma. 
Those gentle, tender people
Puzzled by modern life; 
The men, the warriors, were lazy, 
It was the women who hustled, 
Matriarchs running the businesses. 
And the girls bound their chests 
So their breasts wouldn't grow; 
Who started that, and why? 
My dawns come up circumspectly, 
Quietly with no great fuss. 
Night was and in ten minutes 
Day is, unless of course 
It's raining hard. Then comes 
My first breakfast. I can't cook 
So it's only tea, puffed wheat and 
Pepperidge Farm biscuits. 
Then a cigar. Dr Luchs 
Warned me the cigars 
Would kill me years ago 
But I'm still here today. 

Copyright © 2005 by James Laughlin. From Byways. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing.

Now let us understand each other, love,
Long time ago I crept off home,
To my own gods I went.

The tale is old,
It has been told
By many men in many lands.
The lands belong to those who tell.
Now surely that is clear.

After the plow had westward swept,
The gods bestowed the corn to stand.
Long, long it stood,
Strong, strong it grew,
To make a forest for new song.

Deep in the corn the bargain hard
Youth with the gods drove home.
The gods remember,
Youth forgets.
Doubt not the soul of song that waits.

The singer dies,
The singer lives,
The gods wait in the corn,
The soul of song is in the land.
Lift up your lips to that.

This poem is in the public domain. 

A gleaming glassy ocean
  Under a sky of grey;
A tide that dreams of motion,
  Or moves, as the dead may;
A bird that dips and wavers
  Over lone waters round,
Then with a cry that quavers
  Is gone—a spectral sound.

The brown sad sea-weed drifting
  Far from the land, and lost;
The faint warm fog unlifting,
  The derelict long tossed,
But now at rest—though haunted
  By the death-scenting shark,
Whose prey no more undaunted
  Slips from it, spent and stark.

This poem is in the public domain.

Because the smallness of our being
is our only greatness.

Because one night I was in a room
listening until only one heart beat.

Because in these last years I’ve
worn and worn and nearly worn out
my black funeral shoes.

Because the gesture of after words
means the same thing no matter
who speaks them.
Because faith belief forever
are only words, no matter.
Because matter disappears
always and eventually.
Because action is not matter
but energy
that spent, changes being.

And if death, too, is a change of being
perhaps action counts.
And if death is a land of unknowing,
perhaps we do well to live with uncertainty.
And if death is a forested land,
it would be good to learn trees.
And if death is a kingdom,
it would be good to practice service.
And if death is a foreign state
we should loosen allegiance to this one.
And if the soul leaves our body
then we must rehearse goodbye.

Originally published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Issue 54. Copyright © 2014 by Kimberly Blaeser. Used with the permission of the author.

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

From Collected Poems by Philip Larkin. Copyright © 1988, 2003 by the Estate of Philip Larkin. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved.

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

This poem is in the public domain.

Pour O pour that parting soul in song,
O pour it in the sawdust glow of night,
Into the velvet pine-smoke air to-night,
And let the valley carry it along.
And let the valley carry it along.

O land and soil, red soil and sweet-gum tree,
So scant of grass, so profligate of pines,
Now just before an epoch's sun declines
Thy son, in time, I have returned to thee,
Thy son, I have in time returned to thee.

In time, for though the sun is setting on
A song-lit race of slaves, it has not set;
Though late, O soil, it is not too late yet
To catch thy plaintive soul, leaving, soon gone,
Leaving, to catch thy plaintive soul soon gone.

O Negro slaves, dark purple ripened plums,
Squeezed, and bursting in the pine-wood air,
Passing before they stripped the old tree bare
One plum was saved for me, one seed becomes

An everlasting song, a singing tree,
Caroling softly souls of slavery,
What they were, and what they are to me,
Caroling softly souls of slavery.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Those who can’t find anything to live for,
always invent something to die for.

Then they want the rest of us to
die for it, too.

Copyright © 1979 by Lew Welch. From Ring of Bone: Collected Poems 1950-1971, Grey Fox Press.

But I love the I, steel I-beam
that my father sold. They poured the pig iron
into the mold, and it fed out slowly,
a bending jelly in the bath, and it hardened,
Bessemer, blister, crucible, alloy, and he
marketed it, and bought bourbon, and Cream
of Wheat, its curl of butter right
in the middle of its forehead, he paid for our dresses
with his metal sweat, sweet in the morning
and sour in the evening. I love the I,
frail between its flitches, its hard ground
and hard sky, it soars between them
like the soul that rushes, back and forth,
between the mother and father. What if they had loved each other,
how would it have felt to be the strut
joining the floor and roof of the truss?
I have seen, on his shirt-cardboard, years
in her desk, the night they made me, the penciled
slope of her temperature rising, and on
the peak of the hill, first soldier to reach
the crest, the Roman numeral I—
I, I, I, I,
girders of identity, head on,
embedded in the poem. I love the I
for its premise of existence—our I—when I was
born, part gelid, I lay with you
on the cooling table, we were all there, a 
forest of felled iron. The I is a pine,
resinous, flammable root to crown,
which throws its cones as far as it can in a fire.

From Blood, Tin, Straw by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf. Copyright © 1999 by Sharon Olds. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

From Collected Poems of Stevie Smith by Stevie Smith, published by New Directions Publishing Corp. Copyright © 1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
  The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
  The forest-field of Shiloh—
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
  Around the church of Shiloh—
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
 	And natural prayer
  Of dying foemen mingled there—
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve—
  Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
  But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
  And all is hushed at Shiloh.

This poem is in the public domain.

Adieu, farewell, earth’s bliss;
This world uncertain is;
Fond are life’s lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys;
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die.
    Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die.
    Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
    Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds open her gate.
“Come, come!” the bells do cry.
I am sick, I must die.
    Lord, have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply.
I am sick, I must die.
    Lord, have mercy on us!

Haste, therefore, each degree,
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage;
Mount we unto the sky.
I am sick, I must die.
    Lord, have mercy on us!

This poem is in the public domain.