On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.
They build their houses with sand, and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl-fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.
The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby’s cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Fairy-like on earth advancing,
All transforming, all entrancing,
Playing on their way and dancing,
Silver stars from sky are dropping,
Little fairies skipping, hopping,
On the roofs and turrets popping,
Crowns with diamonds set.
Greeting nature’s silver wedding,
Argent splendor they are shedding,
And a bridal veil outspreading,
Like a silver net;
Till town-alleys, foul and tainted,
Turn cathedral-aisles ensainted,
Carved with gorgeous, ermine-painted,
How all changed by elfin power!
Every house a magic tower,
Every tree with lilac-flower
Lures like a coquette.
Following in their magic traces,
Hidden joy each heart embraces,
Sparkling eyes and brightened faces
Everywhere are met.
How I love you, white-robed city,
Maiden-pure, and maiden-pretty!
But my love is—what a pity!—
Tempered with regret.
Truer lover you would find me,
If you were not to remind me
Of a cold land left behind me
That I’d fain forget.
This poem is in the public domain.
Sometimes I just sit like this at the window and watch
the darkness come. If I’m smart, I’ll put on Bach.
I’m thinking now of how far it always seems there is to go.
Maybe it is too easy that I speak so often
of late last light on a December day,
of that stubborn grass that somehow still remains green
behind the broken chain link fence on the corner.
But the need is so great for the way light looks
as it takes its leave of us. We say
what we can to each other of these things,
we who are such thieves, stealing first
one breath and then the next. Bach, keep going
just this slowly, show me the way to believe
that what matters in this world has already happened
and will go on happening forever.
The way light falls on the last
of the stricken leaves of the copper beech
at the end of the block is something to behold.
Copyright © 2022 by Jim Moore. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Summer nights we put pennies on the track.
Even the station was quiet enough for crickets.
Mountains surrounded us, middling high and purple.
No matter were we stood they protected us
with perspective. People call them gentle mountains
but you can die in there; they’re thick
with creeper and laurel. Like voodoo,
I drew pictures with a sparkler. A curved line
arced across the night. Rooted in its slope,
one laurel tree big as the mountain holding it.
You can hear the train in the rails.
They’re round, not flat, as you’d expect,
and slick. We’d walk the sound, one step, two, slip,
on purpose, in the ballast, hopscotch
and waltz on the ties, watching the big, round eye
enter the curve and grow like God out of the purple,
the tracks turning mean, molten silver blazing
dead at us. We’d hula. Tango. And the first
white plume would shoot up screaming long, lonely,
vain as Mamma shooing starlings from her latticed pies.
Sing Mickey Mouse, the second scream rising long, again,
up and up. Stick our right hip out, the third
wailing. Give it a hot-cha hot-cha wiggle, the fourth
surrounding us. Wrists to foreheads, bid each other fond
adieus, count three,turn our backs and flash it a moon,
materializing, fantastic, run over with light,
the train shrieking to pieces, scared, meaning it,
short, short, short, short, pushing a noise
bigger than the valley. It sent us flying,
flattened, light as ideas, back on the platform,
the Y6B Mallet compound rolling through
southbound, steamborne, out of Roanoke.
It wasn’t to make the train jump the track
but to hold the breath-edged piece of copper
grown hot with dying, thin with birth,
wiped smooth of origin and homilies.
To hold such power. As big as the eye
of the train, as big as the moon burning
like the sun. All the perspective curved,
curved and gone.
From Out of Canaan. Copyright © 1991 by Mary Stewart Hammond. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Peonies, heavy and pink as ’80s bridesmaid dresses
and scented just the same. Sweet pea,
because I like clashing smells and the car
I drove in college was named that: a pea-green
Datsun with a tendency to backfire.
Sugar snap peas, which I might as well
call memory bites for how they taste like
being fourteen and still mourning the horse farm
I had been uprooted from at ten.
Also: sage, mint, and thyme—the clocks
of summer—and watermelon and blue lobelia.
Lavender for the bees and because I hate
all fake lavender smells. Tomatoes to cut
and place on toasted bread for BLTs, with or without
the b and the l. I’d like, too, to plant
the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace,
and for it to bloom even when it’s hot,
and also lilies, so I have something left
to look at when the rabbits come.
They always come. They are
always hungry. And I think I am done
protecting one sweet thing from another.
Copyright © 2018 Katherine Riegel. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
What remains of my childhood
are the fragmentary visions
of large patios
like an oceanic green mist over the afternoon.
Then, crickets would forge in the wind
their deep music of centuries
and the purple fragrances of Grandmother
always would receive without questions
our return home.
The hammock shivering in the breeze
like the trembling voice of light at dusk,
the unforeseeable future
that would never exist without Mother,
the Tall tales that filled
with their most engaging lunar weight our days
—all those unchangeable things—
were the morning constellations
that we would recognize daily without sadness.
In the tropical days we had no intuition of the winter
nor of autumn, that often returns with pain
in the shadows of this new territory
—like the cold moving through our shivering hands—
that I have learned to accept
in the same way you welcome
the uncertainty of a false and cordial smile.
Those were the days of the solstice
when the wind pushed the smoke from the clay ovens
through the zinc kitchens
and the ancient stone stoves
of the secrets of our barefooted and wise Indian ancestors.
The beautiful, unformed rocks in our hands
that served as detailed toys
seemed to give us the illusion
of fantastic events
that invaded our joyful chants
with infinite color.
It was a life without seasonal pains,
a life without unredeemable time
a life without the somber dark shadows
that have intently translated my life
that slowly move today through my soul.
Todos volvemos al lugar donde nacimos
De mi infancia solo quedan
las visiones fragmentarias
de los patios tendidos
como un naval terciopelo sobre la tarde.
Entonces, los grillos cuajaban sobre el aire
su profunda música de siglos
y las fragancias empurpuradas de la abuela
meciéndose en la noche
siempre recibían sin preguntas nuestra vuelta al hogar.
La hamaca temblando con la brisa,
como la voz trémula del sol en el ocaso;
el futuro imprevisible
que jamás existiría sin la madre;
cargadas de su peso lunar más devorador;
—todas esas cosas inalterables—
eran las constelaciones diurnas que reconocíamos sin tristeza.
Entonces no se intuía el invierno,
ni el otoño que retoña con dolor
entre las sombras de este territorio
—como el frío entre las manos doblegadas—
que hoy he aprendido
de la misma forma en que se acepta
la incertidumbre de una falsa sonrisa.
Eran los días en que el solsticio
acarreaba humaredas polvorientas
por las ventanas de las cocinas de zinc
donde el fogón de barro milenario
el secreto de nuestros ancestros sabios y descalzos.
Las rocas deformes en nuestras manos
la ilusión de eventos fabulosos
que invadían nuestras gargantas de aromas desmedidos.
Era una vida sin dolores estacionales
Vida sin tiempos irredimibles:
Vida sin las puras formas sombrías
que se resbalan hoy lentamente por mi pecho.
From Central America in My Heart / Centroamérica en el corazón. Copyright © 2007, Bilingual Press / Editorial Bilingüe, Arizona State University.
translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
I’ve spent a whole afternoon looking at photographs.
I’ve accumulated so many in my life—
but there are two in particular that interest me.
Both are sepia by now, I don’t know where
they were taken, and I’m not in either of them.
The first is a classic composition
of nine people. My mother’s family.
My grandparents, two uncles, four aunts,
and a woman I don’t know or have forgotten.
The women sit on the ground,
the men stand behind them
except for my Aunt Aura, who holds onto
my grandfather with one hand and with the other
caresses my uncle’s shoulder.
Even in this photo of her when she was young—caramel skin,
dark eyes, dark hair, even more beautiful through the sepia,
and wearing a two-piece bathing suit:
the same as a bikini in the 1940s—
one could guess at her boldness.
They’re all in bathing suits and most
try their best smiles.
I don’t know who took this picture,
and studying their faces, I try to see
what they were thinking, what they hoped for from their lives.
My grandmother, despite her twelve children
(or perhaps because of them), smiles
from right to left, like a giant sunflower.
My grandfather seems to contemplate the infinite, as handsome
as a gray ox; and my Aunt Emilia in her braids
seems to sense the sadness of life.
I’m sure I wasn’t born yet.
But even if I were already an adult,
could I have helped them with what I know now
about their lives? Could I have predicted their successes,
their failures—could I have prophesied their deaths?
Their slender, healthy bodies.
the men with the look of swordsmen—
I feel nostalgia when I look at this photograph.
So much energy in their stance!
When did they stop boxing with life?
In which round did they concede defeat?
When did the sound of the bell make them sense the immutable?
There’s no way to take them out of the snapshot,
to know what they were thinking just then.
This is my past, these are my roots,
but as I look at it again on this rainy afternoon,
why can’t I arrange everything into a coherent scene?
He estado toda una tarde estudiando las fotos.
He acumulado tantas en mi vida—
pero hay dos particularmente que me interesan.
Ambas son ahora color sepia, y no sé dónde
fueron tomadas y yo no estoy en ninguna de ellas.
La primera foto es una composición clásica
de nueve personas. Esta es la familia de mi madre.
Mis abuelos, dos tíos, cuatro tías
y una mujer que desconozco o he olvidado.
Las mujeres están sentadas en el suelo,
los hombres de pies detrás de ellas
excepto por mi tía Aura, quien con una mano
agarra a mi abuelo y con la otra
acaricia el hombro de mi tío.
Ya en esta foto de juventud—piel color caramelo,
ojos y cabellos oscuros, más hermosos sobre el sepia—
(vestida con traje de baño de dos piezas:
el equivalente de un bikini en los años cuarenta)
uno podría deducir su naturaleza intrépida.
Todos están en trajes de baño y la mayoría
trata de sonreír de la mejor manera.
Yo no sé quién tomó esta foto,
y escrutando estos rostros, trato de averiguar
qué pensaban ellos, qué esperaban de sus existencias.
Mi abuela, a pesar de sus doce hijos
(o tal vez a causa de ello), sonríe
de derecha a izquierda, como un girasol gigante.
Mi abuelo parece escrutar al infinito, hermoso
como un buey gris; y mi tía Emilia, con sus trenzas,
parece intuir la tristeza de la vida.
Estoy seguro que para esa época yo no había nacido.
Pero aún si ya hubiera sido adulto,
¿podría ayudarlos con el conocimiento que ahora tengo
de sus vidas? ¿Podría haberlos prevenido de sus éxitos,
de sus fracasos—podría haber profetizado sus muertes?
De cuerpos esbeltos y sanos,
los hombres con sus figuras de esgrimistas—
siento nostalgia al mirar esta foto.
¡Cuánta energía irradia de sus poses!
¿En qué momento dejaron de boxear con la vida?
¿En qué asalto se dieron por vencidos;
en cuál campanada intuyeron lo inmutable?
No hay nada qué pueda hacer para sacarlos de esta foto,
ni para saber qué pensaban ellos en ese instante.
Éste es mi pasado, éstas mis raíces,
pero al revisarlo en esta tarde lluviosa
¿por qué no logro organizarlo en una escena coherente?
From My Night with / Mi noche con Federíco García Lorca by Jaime Manrique. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2003 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.