I saw the first pear
as it fell—
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
the yellow swarm
was not more fleet than I,
(spare us from loveliness)
and I fell prostrate
you have flayed us
with your blossoms,
spare us the beauty
the air thundered their song,
and I alone was prostrate.
god of the orchard,
I bring you an offering—
do you, alone unbeautiful,
son of the god,
spare us from loveliness:
these fallen hazel-nuts,
stripped late of their green sheaths,
dripping with wine,
pomegranates already broken,
and shrunken figs
and quinces untouched,
I bring you as offering.
By H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), from Collected Poems, 1912-1944, copyright © 1982 by The Estate of Hilda Doolittle. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Haven’t they moved like rivers—
like Glory, like light—
over the seven days of your body?
And wasn’t that good?
Them at your hips—
isn’t this what God felt when he pressed together
the first Beloved: Everything.
Fever. Vapor. Atman. Pulsus. Finally,
a sin worth hurting for. Finally, a sweet, a
You are mine.
It is hard not to have faith in this:
from the blue-brown clay of night
these two potters crushed and smoothed you
into being—grind, then curve—built your form up—
atlas of bone, fields of muscle,
one breast a fig tree, the other a nightingale,
both Morning and Evening.
O, the beautiful making they do—
of trigger and carve, suffering and stars—
Aren’t they, too, the dark carpenters
of your small church? Have they not burned
on the altar of your belly, eaten the bread
of your thighs, broke you to wine, to ichor,
to nectareous feast?
Haven’t they riveted your wrists, haven’t they
had you at your knees?
And when these hands touched your throat,
showed you how to take the apple and the rib,
how to slip a thumb into your mouth and taste it all,
didn’t you sing out their ninety-nine names—
Zahir, Aleph, Hands-time-seven,
Sphinx, Leonids, locomotura,
Rubidium, August, and September—
And when you cried out, O, Prometheans,
didn’t they bring fire?
These hands, if not gods, then why
when you have come to me, and I have returned you
to that from which you came—bright mud, mineral-salt—
why then do you whisper O, my Hecatonchire. My Centimani.
My hundred-handed one?
Shall I tell you, then, how it is?
There came a cloven gleam,
Like a tongue of darkened flame,
To burn in me.
And so I seem
To have you still the same
In one world with me.
In the flicker of a flower,
In a worm that is blind, yet strives,
In the mouse that pauses to listen,
Shadow as well, and deprives
Them none of their glisten.
In each shaken morsel
Our shadow trembles
As if it rippled from out of us hand in hand.
We are part and parcel
In shadow, nothing dissembles
Our darkened universe. You understand?
For I have told you plainly how it is.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Lips unused to Thee—
Bashful—sip thy Jessamines
As the fainting Bee—
Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—
Enters—and is lost in Balms.