According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

From Collected Poems: 1939-1962, Volume II by William Carlos Williams, published by New Directions Publishing Corp. © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

From Homage to Clio by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1960 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

The poet sits and dreams and dreams; 
He scans his verse; he probes his themes. 

Then turns to stretch or stir about, 
Lest, like his thoughts, his strength give out. 

Then off to bed, for he must rise
And cord some wood, or tamp some ties, 

Or break a field of fertile soil, 
Or do some other manual toil. 

He dare not live by wage of pen, 
Most poorly paid of poor paid men, 

With shoes o’er-run, and threadbare clothes,—
And editors among the foes

Who mock his song, deny him bread, 
Then sing his praise when he is dead. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Thomas Walsh and Salomón de la Selva.

Poets! Towers of God
Made to resist the fury of the storms
Like cliffs beside the ocean
Or clouded, savage peaks!
Masters of lightning!
Breakwaters of eternity!

Hope, magic-voiced, foretells the day
When on the rock of harmony
The Siren traitorous shall die and pass away,
And there shall only be
The full, frank-billowed music of the sea.

Be hopeful still,
Though bestial elements yet turn
From Song with rancorous ill-will
And blinded races one another spurn!
Perversity debased
Among the high her rebel cry has raised.
The cannibal still lusts after the raw,
Knife-toothed and gory-faced.

Towers, your laughing banners now unfold.
Against all hatreds and all envious lies
Upraise the protest of the breeze, half-told,
And the proud quietness of sea and skies…

----

Torres de Dios! Poetas!
Pararrayos celestes,
que resistís las duras tempestades,
como crestas escuetas,
como picos agrestes,
rompeolas de las eternidades!

   La mágica Esperanza anuncia el día
en que sobre la roca de armonía
expirará la pérfida sirena.
Esperad, esperemos todavía!

   Esperad todavía.
El bestial elemento se solaza
en el odio a la sacra poesía,
y se arroja baldón de raza a raza.
La insurrección de abajo
tiende a los Excelentes.
En caníbal codicia su tasajo
con roja encía y afilados dientes.

   Torres, poned al pabellón sonrisa.
Poned ante ese mal y ese recelo,
una soberbia insinuación de brisa
y una tranquilidad de mar y cielo…

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

            for Lucie Brock-Broido

I find it
in the cupboard
above the stove

it sits behind
the gluey
jug of syrup

it hides behind
the yogurt container
of congealed lard

the apple welded
to the saucer
resists my pull

the apple sticks with honey,
its slightly puckered skin
still intact

—a healthy shrunken head—
the sliced top tied
with a red satin ribbon

I untie,
lift to look
and see pennies

strong hands
jerk me off the chair
“¡Dejaste salir a los espíritus malos!”

pero, mami,
there are no such things
as bad spirits,
are there?

From gathering words / recogiendo palabras. Copyright © 2008, Bilingual Press / Editorial Bilingüe, Arizona State University.

You can’t begin just anywhere. It’s a wreck.

                                                                             Shrapnel and the eye

Of a house, a row of houses. There’s a rat scrambling

From light with fleshy trash in its mouth. A baby strapped

to its mother’s back, cut loose.
                                                                       Soldiers crawl the city,

the river, the town, the village,

                                the bedroom, our kitchen. They eat everything.
Or burn it.

They kill what they cannot take. They rape. What they cannot kill
                                                                                        they take.

Rumors fall like rain.

                                   Like bombs.

Like mother and father tears

swallowed for restless peace.

Like sunset slanting toward a moonless midnight.

Like a train blown free of its destination.                      Like a seed

fallen where

there is no chance of trees          or anyplace       for birds to live.


No, start here.                    Deer peer from the edge of the woods.


                                                         We used to see woodpeckers

The size of the sun, and were greeted

by chickadees with their good morning songs.

We’d started to cook outside, slippery with dew and laughter,

                                    ah those smoky sweet sunrises.

We tried to pretend war wasn’t going to happen.

Though they began building their houses all around us

                                         and demanding more.

They started teaching our children their god’s story,

A story in which we’d always be slaves.

No. Not here.

You can’t begin here.

This is memory shredded because it is impossible to hold with words,

even poetry.

These memories were left here with the trees:

The torn pocket of your daughter’s hand-sewn dress,

the sash, the lace.

The baby’s delicately beaded moccasin still connected to the foot,

A young man’s note of promise to his beloved—
 

No! This is not the best place to begin.


Everyone was asleep, despite the distant bombs.

                                        Terror had become the familiar stranger.

Our beloved twin girls curled up in their nightgowns,

                                                                 next to their father and me.

If we begin here, none of us will make it to the end

Of the poem.

Someone has to make it out alive, sang a grandfather

to his grandson, his granddaughter,

as he blew his most powerful song into the hearts of the children.

There it would be hidden from the soldiers,

Who would take them miles, rivers, mountains

                                     from the navel cord place of the origin story.

He knew one day, far day, the grandchildren would return,

generations later over slick highways, constructed over old trails

Through walls of laws meant to hamper or destroy, over stones

bearing libraries of the winds.

He sang us back

to our home place from which we were stolen

in these smoky green hills.

Yes, begin here.

From An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2019 by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Your voice is the color of a robin’s breast,
     And there’s a sweet sob in it like rain—still rain in the night.
Among the leaves of the trumpet-tree, close to his nest,
     The pea-dove sings, and each note thrills me with strange delight
Like the words, wet with music, that well from your trembling throat.
          I’m afraid of your eyes, they’re so bold,
          Searching me through, reading my thoughts, shining like gold.
But sometimes they are gentle and soft like the dew on the lips of the eucharis
Before the sun comes warm with his lover’s kiss,
    You are sea-foam, pure with the star’s loveliness,
Not mortal, a flower, a fairy, too fair for the beauty-shorn earth,
All wonderful things, all beautiful things, gave of their wealth to your birth:
      O I love you so much, not recking of passion, that I feel it is wrong,
            But men will love you, flower, fairy, non-mortal spirit burdened with flesh,
Forever, life-long.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

From Collected Poems: 1939-1962, Volume II by William Carlos Williams, published by New Directions Publishing Corp. © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.