somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.

To live without the one you love
an empty dream never known
true happiness except as such youth

watching snow at window
listening to old music through morning.
Riding down that deserted street

by evening in a lonely cab
     past a blighted theatre
oh god yes, I missed the chance of my life

     when I gasped, when I got up and
        rushed out the room
          away from you.

From Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners, edited by Joshua Beckman, CAConrad, and Robert Dewhurst © 2015 John Wieners Literary Trust, Raymond Foye, Administrator. Reprinted with the permission of The John Wieners Literary Trust. 

translated from the French of Judith Gautier by James Whitall

Before daybreak the breezes whisper 
through the trellis at my window;
they interrupt and carry off my dream, 
and he of whom I dreamed 
vanishes from me. 

I climb upstairs 
to look from the topmost window, 
but with whom? . . .

I remember how I used to stir the fire 
with my hairpin of jade 
as I am doing now . . .
but the brasier holds nothing but ashes. 

I turn to look at the mountain; 
there is a thick mist, 
a dismal rain, 
and I gaze down at the wind-dappled river, 
the river that flows past me forever 
without bearing away my sorrow. 

I have kept the rain of my tears 
on the crape of my tunic; 
with a gesture I fling these bitter drops 
to the wild swans on the river, 
that they may be my messengers.



Les Cygnes Sauvages

translated from the Chinese of Li Qingzhao by Judith Gautier

Le vent souffle, avant l’aube, au dehors, sur les treillis de ma fenêtre.

Il interrompt et emporte mon rêve, il efface tout vestige de lui.

Pour voir aux alentours, je monte à l’étage supérieur . . . avec qui? . . .

Autrefois, je me souviens, du bout de l’épingle en jade de ma coiffure, je remuais le feu,

Comme je le fais à présent . . . mais le brasero est éteint.


Je tourne la tête vers la montagne: la pluie, un épais brouillard.

Je regarde vers le fleuve, tout bossué de vagues; le fleuve qui coule toujours, devant moi, sans emporter ma peine.

Sur le crêpe de ma tunique, j’ai gardé la pluie de mes larmes;

D’une chiquenaude, je chasse ces gouttes amères vers les cygnes du fleuve, pour qu’ils soient mes messagers.






This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.