In the dreamy silence
Of the afternoon, a
Cloth of gold is woven
Over wood and prairie;
And the jaybird, newly
Fallen from the heaven,
Scatters cordial greetings,
And the air is filled with
Scarlet leaves, that, dropping,
Rise again, as ever,
With a useless sigh for
Rest—and it is Autumn.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me--
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire--
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
This poem is in the public domain.
The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.
—Translation by William George Aston
This poem is in the public domain.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Written June 12, 1814. This poem is in the public domain.
The colors of the rainbow are fading in the silent
and distant West, and the heartache of
twilight trembles within my aching breast.
For the light of my love has faded like sunbeams
in the West, and the color of twilight will
tremble forever in my breast.
I think of thy kindness often, when lonesome I feel
and cold, I have not forgotten our childhood,
nor your loving words of old.
And still my sweetest songs of life are floating
in dreams to thee, like whisperings at eventide,
across a clouded sea.
We two are sitting in the bark, and listen to the
wavelets’ play, the shore is melting in the
dark, day’s echoes silently decay.
Oh life, with all thy hopes so fair, wilt thou
too float away, like visions rising in the
air that greet the parting day!
She stands amidst the roses, and tears dart from her
eyes that like the fragrant roses her soul
must fade and die.
He stares at the twilight ocean on the shore of a
foreign land, a faded rose is trembling
within his soft white hand.
The rushes whisper softly, the sounds of silence wake,
large flowers like sad remembrance float
on the dark green lake.
Were life but like the waters, so bright and calm
and deep, and love like floating flowers
that on the surface meet.
The naked trees of autumn grope shivering through
twilight’s gloom, athwart the whispering branches
its dying embers loom.
I dream of life’s defoliation, as I watch with
silent dread, leaf after leaf departing, like
hopes long withered and dead.
In haunting hours of twilight dreams restless the
turbulent sea, and heaves her white wanton
bosom in endless mystery.
Dream on, dream on, titanic queen, beloved sea, at
thy wanton breast, I would find rest
in endless mystery.
From Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems (1904) by Sadakichi Hartmann. This poem is in the public domain.
after Gwendolyn Brooks
My wild grief didn’t know where to end.
Everywhere I looked: a field alive and unburied.
Whole swaths of green swallowed the light.
All around me, the field was growing. I grew out
My hair in every direction. Let the sun freckle my face.
Even in the greenest depths, I crouched
Towards the light. That summer, everything grew
So alive and so alone. A world hushed in green.
Wildest grief grew inside out.
I crawled to the field’s edge, bruises blooming
In every crevice of my palms.
I didn’t know I’d reached a shoreline till I felt it
There: A salt wind lifted
The hair from my neck.
At the edge of every green lies an ocean.
When I saw that blue, I knew then:
This world will end.
Grief is not the only geography I know.
Every wound closes. Repair comes with sweetness,
Come spring. Every empire will fall:
I must believe this. I felt it
Somewhere in the field: my ancestors
Murmuring Go home, go home—soon, soon.
No country wants me back anymore and I’m okay.
If grief is love with nowhere to go, then
Oh, I’ve loved so immensely.
That summer, everything I touched
Was green. All bruises will fade
From green and blue to skin.
Let me grow through this green
And not drown in it.
Let me be lawless and beloved,
Ungovernable and unafraid.
Let me be brave enough to live here.
Let me be precise in my actions.
Let me feel hurt.
I know I can heal.
Let me try again—again and again.
Copyright © 2022 by Laurel Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.