The changing light at San Francisco is none of your East Coast light none of your pearly light of Paris The light of San Francisco is a sea light an island light And the light of fog blanketing the hills drifting in at night through the Golden Gate to lie on the city at dawn And then the halcyon late mornings after the fog burns off and the sun paints white houses with the sea light of Greece with sharp clean shadows making the town look like it had just been painted But the wind comes up at four o’clock sweeping the hills And then the veil of light of early evening And then another scrim when the new night fog floats in And in that vale of light the city drifts anchorless upon the ocean
From How to Paint Sunlight by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Copyright © 2000 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
Though I was dwelling in a prison house,
My soul was wandering by the carefree stream
Through fields of green with gold eyed daisies strewn,
And daffodils and sunflower cavaliers.
And near me played a little browneyed child,
A winsome creature God alone conceived,
“Oh, little friend,” I begged. “Give me a flower
That I might bear it to my lonely cell.”
He plucked a dandelion, an ugly bloom,
But tenderly he placed it in my hand,
And in his eyes I saw the sign of love.
‘Twas then the dandelion became a rose.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Pulling out of the old scarred skin (old rough thing I don't need now I strip off slip out of leave behind) I slough off deadscales flick skinflakes to the ground Shedding toughness peeling layers down to vulnerable stuff And I'm blinking off old eyelids for a new way of seeing By the rock I rub against I'm going to be tender again
From Blues Baby: Early Poems by Harryette Mullen, published by Bucknell University Press. Copyright © 1981, 2002 by Harryette Mullen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
27ú lá Meitheamh, 2012
Because what’s the alternative?
Because of courage.
Because of loved ones lost.
Because no more.
Because it’s a small thing; shaking hands; it happens every day.
Because I heard of one man whose hands haven’t stopped shaking since a market day in Omagh.
Because it takes a second to say hate, but it takes longer, much longer, to be a great leader.
Much, much longer.
Because shared space without human touching doesn’t amount to much.
Because it’s easier to speak to your own than to hold the hand of someone whose side has been previously described, proscribed, denied.
Because it is tough.
Because it is tough.
Because it is meant to be tough, and this is the stuff of memory, the stuff of hope, the stuff of gesture, and meaning and leading.
Because it has taken so, so long.
Because it has taken land and money and languages and barrels and barrels of blood.
Because lives have been lost.
Because lives have been taken.
Because to be bereaved is to be troubled by grief.
Because more than two troubled peoples live here.
Because I know a woman whose hand hasn’t been shaken since she was a man.
Because shaking a hand is only a part of the start.
Because I know a woman whose touch calmed a man whose heart was breaking.
Because privilege is not to be taken lightly.
Because this just might be good.
Because who said that this would be easy?
Because some people love what you stand for, and for some, if you can, they can.
Because solidarity means a common hand.
Because a hand is only a hand; so hang onto it.
So join your much discussed hands.
We need this; for one small second.
“Shaking Hands” Originally published in Sorry for your Troubles (Canterbury Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.
A ring of gold and milk-white dove
Are goodly gifts for thee,
And a hempen rope for your own love
To hang upon a tree.
For you a House of Ivory
(Roses are white in the rose-bower)!
A narrow bed for me to lie
(White, O white, is the hemlock flower)!
Myrtle and jessamine for you
(O the red rose is fair to see)!
For me the cypress and the rue
(Fairest of all is rose-mary)!
For you three lovers of your hand
(Green grass where a man lies dead)!
For me three paces on the sand
(Plant lilies at my head)!
This poem is in the public domain.
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.
I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.
And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
you breathe differently down here.
I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.
This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
our names do not appear.
From Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1973 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright 1973 by Adrienne Rich.
I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.
I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everday jug,
like my mother's face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.
English translation, translator's introduction, and translator's notes copyright © 2001 by Annemarie S. Kidder. Published 2001. All rights reserved.