They are walking in the woods along the coast and in a grassy meadow, wasting, they come upon two old neglected apple trees. Moss thickened every bough and the wood of the limbs looked rotten but the trees were wild with blossom and a green fire of small new leaves flickered even on the deadest branches. Blue-eyes, poppies, a scattering of lupine flecked the meadow, and an intricate, leopard-spotted leaf-green flower whose name they didn't know. Trout lily, he said; she said, adder's-tongue. She is shaken by the raw, white, backlit flaring of the apple blossoms. He is exultant, as if some thing he felt were verified, and looks to her to mirror his response. If it is afternoon, a thin moon of my own dismay fades like a scar in the sky to the east of them. He could be knocking wildly at a closed door in a dream. She thinks, meanwhile, that moss resembles seaweed drying lightly on a dock. Torn flesh, it was the repetitive torn flesh of appetite in the cold white blossoms that had startled her. Now they seem tender and where she was repelled she takes the measure of the trees and lets them in. But he no longer has the apple trees. This is as sad or happy as the tide, going out or coming in, at sunset. The light catching in the spray that spumes up on the reef is the color of the lesser finch they notice now flashing dull gold in the light above the field. They admire the bird together, it draws them closer, and they start to walk again. A small boy wanders corridors of a hotel that way. Behind one door, a maid. Behind another one, a man in striped pajamas shaving. He holds the number of his room close to the center of his mind gravely and delicately, as if it were the key, and then he wanders among strangers all he wants.
From The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass. Copyright © 2010 by Robert Hass. Used by permission of Ecco/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.
Still sleepwalking through her life,
I wrap her up
and we go through the snow that fell all night
and all through this Christmas morning:
her trainers barely denting the whitened lawn, her
two strides for every stride of mine.
Leaving her home
to the warmth of the house
I step back out, and see where my footprints turn
and walk through hers,
the other way—following the trail
of rabbit and deer into the unreachable silences of snow.
I can bring nothing of this back intact.
My face is smoke, my body water,
my tracks are made of snow.
The next morning is a dripping thaw, and winter
is gone from the grass—except for a line
of white marks going nowhere:
the stamped ellipses of impacted snow;
everything gone, leaving just this, this ghost-tread,
these wafer-thin footsteps of glass.
Used with permission by Harcourt, Copyright 2006.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The music stopped playing years ago
but we’re still dancing.
There’s your bright skirt scissoring
through the crowd—
our hips tipping the instruments over.
You open me up and walk inside
until you reach a river
where a child is washing her feet.
You aren’t sure
if I am the child
or if I am the river.
You throw a stone
and the child wades in to find it.
This is memory.
Let’s say the river is too deep
so you turn around and leave
the same way you entered—
spent and unwashed.
It’s ok. We are young, and
our gowns are as long as the room.
I told you I always wanted a silk train.
We can both be the bride,
we can both empty our lover.
And there’s nothing different about you—
about me—about any of this.
Only that we wish it still hurt, just once.
Like the belts our fathers whipped us with,
not to hurt us but just to make sure we remembered.
Like the cotton ball, dipped in alcohol,
rubbed gently on your arm
moments before the doctor asks you to breathe.
From Cenzontle (BOA Editions, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. Used with the permission of BOA Editions.
A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy, receives my admission and points the way. Here are gray jackets with holes in them, red sashes with individual flourishes, things soft as flesh. Someone sewed the gold silk cord onto that gray sleeve as if embellishments could keep a man alive. I have been reading War and Peace, and so the particulars of combat are on my mind—the shouts and groans of men and boys, and the horses' cries as they fall, astonished at what has happened to them. Blood on leaves, blood on grass, on snow; extravagant beauty of red. Smoke, dust of disturbed earth; parch and burn. Who would choose this for himself? And yet the terrible machinery waited in place. With psalters in their breast pockets, and gloves knitted by their sisters and sweethearts, the men in gray hurled themselves out of the trenches, and rushed against blue. It was what both sides agreed to do.
From Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon. Copyright © 1996 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.
At night the moon shakes the bright dice of the water;
And the elders, their flower light as broken snow upon the bush,
Repeat the circle of the moon.
Within the month
Black fruit breaks from the white flower.
The black-wheeled berries turn
Weighing the boughs over the road.
There is no harvest.
Heavy to withering, the black wheels bend
Ripe for the mouths of chance lovers,
Twigs show again in the quick cleavage of season and season.
The elders sag over the powdery road-bank,
As though they bore, and it were too much,
The seed of the year beyond the year.
I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.
When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door.
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.
This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.
The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.
And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Nothing was remembered, nothing forgotten.
When we awoke, wagons were passing on the warm summer pavements,
The window-sills were wet from rain in the night,
Birds scattered and settled over chimneypots
As among grotesque trees.
Nothing was accepted, nothing looked beyond.
Slight-voiced bells separated hour from hour,
The afternoon sifted coolness
And people drew together in streets becoming deserted.
There was a moon, and light in a shop-front,
And dusk falling like precipitous water.
Hand clasped hand,
Forehead still bowed to forehead—
Nothing was lost, nothing possessed,
There was no gift nor denial.
I have remembered you.
You were not the town visited once,
Nor the road falling behind running feet.
You were as awkward as flesh
And lighter than frost or ashes.
You were the rind,
And the white-juiced apple,
The song, and the words waiting for music.
You have learned the beginning;
Go from mine to the other.
Be together; eat, dance, despair,
Sleep, be threatened, endure.
You will know the way of that.
But at the end, be insolent;
Be absurd—strike the thing short off;
Be mad—only do not let talk
Wear the bloom from silence.
And go away without fire or lantern.
Let there be some uncertainty about your departure.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.
This poem is in the public domain.
All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed! A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches. Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold.
This poem is in the public domain.