Under the harvest moon, When the soft silver Drips shimmering Over the garden nights, Death, the gray mocker, Comes and whispers to you As a beautiful friend Who remembers. Under the summer roses When the flagrant crimson Lurks in the dusk Of the wild red leaves, Love, with little hands, Comes and touches you With a thousand memories, And asks you Beautiful, unanswerable questions.
This poem is in the public domain.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
First printed in Harper's Magazine, December 1920.
I made love to you, & it loomed there. We sat on the small veranda of the cottage, & listened hours to the sea talk. I didn't have to look up to see if it was still there. For days, it followed us along polluted beaches where the boys herded cows & the girls danced for the boys, to the moneychanger, & then to the marketplace. It went away when the ghost of my mother found me sitting beneath a palm, but it was in the van with us on a road trip to the country as we zoomed past thatch houses. It was definitely there when a few dollars exchanged hands & we were hurried through customs, past the guards. I was standing in the airport in Amsterdam, sipping a glass of red wine, half lost in Van Gogh's swarm of colors, & it was there, brooding in a corner. I walked into the public toilet, thinking of W.E.B. buried in a mausoleum, & all his books & papers going to dust, & there it was, in that private moment, the same image: obscene because it was built to endure time, stronger than their houses & altars. The seeds of melon. The seeds of okra in trade winds headed to a new world. I walked back into the throng of strangers, but it followed me. I could see the path slaves traveled, & I knew when they first saw it all their high gods knelt on the ground. Why did I taste salt water in my mouth? We stood in line for another plane, & when the plane rose over the city I knew it was there, crossing the Atlantic. Not a feeling, but a longing. I was in Accra again, gazing up at the vaulted cathedral ceiling of the compound. I could see the ships at dusk rising out of the lull of "Amazing Grace," cresting the waves. The governor stood on his balcony, holding a sword, pointing to a woman in the courtyard, saying, That one. Bring me that tall, ample wench. Enslaved hands dragged her to the center, then they threw buckets of water on her, but she tried to fight. They penned her to the ground. She was crying. They prodded her up the stairs. One step, & then another. Oh, yeah, she still had some fight in her, but the governor's power was absolute. He said, There's a tyranny of language in my fluted bones. There's a poetry on every page of the good book. There's God's work to be done in a forsaken land. There's a whole tribe in this one, but I'll break them before they're in the womb, before they're conceived, before they're even thought of. Come, up here, don't be afraid, up here to the governor's quarters, up here where laws are made. I haven't delivered the head of Pompey or John the Baptist on a big silver tray, but I own your past, present, & future. You're special. You're not like the others. Yes, I'll break you with fists & cat-o'-nine. I'll thoroughly break you, head to feet, but sister I'll break you most dearly with sweet words.
From So Much Things To Say: 100 Calabash Poets, edited by Kwame Dawes and Colin Channer. Copyright © 2010 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Used with permisson of Calabash International Literary Trust and the author.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Written September 19, 1819; first published in 1820. This poem is in the public domain.