Strange that a single white iris
Given carelessly one slumbering spring midnight
Should be the first of love,
Yet life is written so.
If it had been a rose
I might have smiled and pinned it to my dress:
We should have said Good Night indifferently
And never met again.
But the white iris!
It looked so infinitely pure
In the thin green moonlight.
A thousand little purple things
That had trembled about me through
the young years
Floated into a shape I seem always to have known
That I suddenly called Love!
The faint touch of your long fingers on mine
I saw that your tumbled hair was bright
That your eyes were sapphire souls with
hungry stars in them,
And your lips were too near not to be kissed.
Life crouches at the knees of Chance
And takes what falls to her.
From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.
Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility—
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess—in the Ring—
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain—
We passed the Setting Sun—
Or rather—He passed us—
The Dews drew quivering and chill—
For only Gossamer, my Gown—
My Tippet—only Tulle—
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground—
The Roof was scarcely visible—
The Cornice—in the Ground—
Since then—’tis Centuries—and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity—
Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
The city breaks in houses to the sea, uneasy with waves,
And the lonely sun clashes like brass cymbals.
In the streets truck-horses, muscles sliding under the steaming hides,
Pound the sparks flying about their hooves;
And fires, those gorgeous beasts, squirm in the furnaces,
Under the looms weaving us.
At evening by cellars cold with air of rivers at night,
We, whose lives are only a few words,
Watch the young moon leaning over the baby at her breast
And the stars small to our littleness.
The slender trees stand alone in the fields
Between the roofs of the far town
And the wood far away like a low hill.
In the vast open
The birds are faintly overheard.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
There’s a man who sits on a bench
waiting for a train, though the trains
arrive and depart and the man remains
seated, the heaviness of resignation on
his face. As evening falls the light flickers
awake in the waiting room and a moth
begins to flutter in and out of sight
until it rests finally on the white bulb
above his head. All things come to calm
this way—even the trains. The cycles
of grinding metal stretch out into yawns—
each iron wheel a flower folding its petals in.
Night concludes its hymn. The man rises but
hesitates to leave this station of his cross.
From The Book of Ruin. Copyright © 2019 by Rigoberto González. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Four Way Books.
I’m here, on the dark porch, restyled in my mother’s chair.
10:45 and no moon.
Below the house, car lights
Swing down, on the canyon floor, to the sea.
In this they resemble us,
Dropping like match flames through the great void
Under our feet.
In this they resemble her, burning and disappearing.
And I’m here, sizing the dark, saving my mother’s seat.
From China Trace. Copyright © 1977 by Charles Wright. Courtesy of Charles Wright and Wesleyan University Press.