My soul, there is a country
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a wingéd sentry
All skilful in the wars;
There above the noise and danger,
Sweet Peace sits crown'd with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious Friend,
And—O my Soul awake!—
Did in pure love descend
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
This poem is in the public domain.
And what, in fact, is dignity? In those
Who have it pure, it is the soul’s repose,
The base of character—no mere reserve
That springs from pride, or want of mental nerve.
The dignity that wealth, or station, breeds,
Or in the breast on base emotion feeds,
Is easy weighed, and easy to be sized—A bastard virtue, much to be despised.
True dignity is like a summer tree.
Beneath whose shade both beast, and bird, and bee,
When by the heated skies oppressed, may come,
And feel, in its magnificence, at home;
Or rather like a mountain which forgets
Itself in its own greatness, and so lets
Vast armies fuss and fight upon its sides,
While high in clouds its peaceful summit hides,
And from the voiceless crest of glistening snow,
Pours trickling fatness on the fields below;
Repellant force, that daunts obtrusive wrong,
And woos the timid steps of right along;
And hence a garb which magistrates prepare,
When called to judge, and really seem to wear.
In framing character on whate’er plan,
‘Tis always needed to complete the man,
The job quite done, and Dignity without,
Is like an apple pie, the fruit left out.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
O Nature! I do not aspire
To be the highest in thy quire,—
To be a meteor in the sky,
Or comet that may range on high;
Only a zephyr that may blow
Among the reeds by the river low;
Give me thy most privy place
Where to run my airy race.
In some withdrawn, unpublic mead
Let me sigh upon a reed,
Or in the woods, with leafy din,
Whisper the still evening in:
Some still work give me to do,—
Only—be it near to you!
For I’d rather be thy child
And pupil, in the forest wild,
Than be the king of men elsewhere,
And most sovereign slave of care:
To have one moment of thy dawn,
Than share the city’s year forlorn.
This poem is in the public domain.
I believe that witness is a magnitude of vulnerability.
That when I say love what I mean is not a feeling
nor promise of a feeling. I believe in attention.
My love for you is a monolith of try.
The woman I love pays an inordinate amount
of attention to large and small objects. She is not
described by anything. Because I could not mean anything else,
she knows exactly what I mean.
Once upon a time a line saw itself
clear to its end. I have seen the shape
of happiness. (y=mx+b)
I am holding it. It is your hand.
Originally published in Gephyromania. Copyright © 2014 by TC Tolbert. Used with the permission of the poet.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
Copyright © 1980 by Galway Kinnell. From Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (Mariner Books, 1980). Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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!
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!
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!
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.
You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—
You are a hundred wild centuries
And fifteen, bringing with you
In every breath and in every step
Everyone who has come before you,
All the yous that you have been,
The mothers of your mother,
The fathers of your father.
If someone in your family tree was trouble,
A hundred were not:
The bad do not win—not finally,
No matter how loud they are.
We simply would not be here
If that were so.
You are made, fundamentally, from the good.
With this knowledge, you never march alone.
You are the breaking news of the century.
You are the good who has come forward
Through it all, even if so many days
Feel otherwise. But think:
When you as a child learned to speak,
It’s not that you didn’t know words—
It’s that, from the centuries, you knew so many,
And it’s hard to choose the words that will be your own.
From those centuries we human beings bring with us
The simple solutions and songs,
The river bridges and star charts and song harmonies
All in service to a simple idea:
That we can make a house called tomorrow.
What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day,
Is ourselves. And that’s all we need
To start. That’s everything we require to keep going.
Look back only for as long as you must,
Then go forward into the history you will make.
Be good, then better. Write books. Cure disease.
Make us proud. Make yourself proud.
And those who came before you? When you hear thunder,
Hear it as their applause.
Copyright © 2018 by Alberto Ríos. Used with the permission of the author.