The pure products of America go crazy— mountain folk from Kentucky or the ribbed north end of Jersey with its isolate lakes and valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves old names and promiscuity between devil-may-care men who have taken to railroading out of sheer lust of adventure— and young slatterns, bathed in filth from Monday to Saturday to be tricked out that night with gauds from imaginations which have no peasant traditions to give them character but flutter and flaunt sheer rags-succumbing without emotion save numbed terror under some hedge of choke-cherry or viburnum- which they cannot express— Unless it be that marriage perhaps with a dash of Indian blood will throw up a girl so desolate so hemmed round with disease or murder that she'll be rescued by an agent— reared by the state and sent out at fifteen to work in some hard-pressed house in the suburbs— some doctor's family, some Elsie— voluptuous water expressing with broken brain the truth about us— her great ungainly hips and flopping breasts addressed to cheap jewelry and rich young men with fine eyes as if the earth under our feet were an excrement of some sky and we degraded prisoners destined to hunger until we eat filth while the imagination strains after deer going by fields of goldenrod in the stifling heat of September Somehow it seems to destroy us It is only in isolate flecks that something is given off No one to witness and adjust, no one to drive the car
Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with 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.
A second crop of hay lies cut and turned. Five gleaming crows search and peck between the rows. They make a low, companionable squawk, and like midwives and undertakers possess a weird authority. Crickets leap from the stubble, parting before me like the Red Sea. The garden sprawls and spoils. Across the lake the campers have learned to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t. Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!” Cloud shadows rush over drying hay, fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine. The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod brighten the margins of the woods. Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts; water, silver-still, and a vee of geese. * The cicada’s dry monotony breaks over me. The days are bright and free, bright and free. Then why did I cry today for an hour, with my whole body, the way babies cry? * A white, indifferent morning sky, and a crow, hectoring from its nest high in the hemlock, a nest as big as a laundry basket.... In my childhood I stood under a dripping oak, while autumnal fog eddied around my feet, waiting for the school bus with a dread that took my breath away. The damp dirt road gave off this same complex organic scent. I had the new books—words, numbers, and operations with numbers I did not comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled by use, in a blue canvas satchel with red leather straps. Spruce, inadequate, and alien I stood at the side of the road. It was the only life I had.
Jane Kenyon, "Three Songs at the End of Summer" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.