[A Picture from the Life]
Deep in a vale, a stranger now to arms,
Too poor to shine in courts, too proud to beg,
He, who once warred on Saratoga’s plains,
Sits musing o’er his scars, and wooden leg.
Remembering still the toil of former days,
To other hands he sees his earnings paid;—
They share the due reward—he feeds on praise.
Lost in the abyss of want, misfortune’s shade.
Far, far from domes where splendid tapers glare,
‘Tis his from dear bought peace no wealth to win,
Removed alike from courtly cringing ‘squires,
The great-man’s Levee, and the proud man’s grin.
Sold are those arms which once on Britons blaz’d,
When, flushed with conquest, to the charge they came;
That power repell’d, and Freedom’s fabrick rais’d,
She leaves her soldier—famine and a name!
This poem is in the public domain.
The chickens are circling and blotting out the day. The sun is bright, but the chickens are in the way. Yes, the sky is dark with chickens, dense with them. They turn and then they turn again. These are the chickens you let loose one at a time and small— various breeds. Now they have come home to roost—all the same kind at the same speed.
From The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press. Copyright © 2005 by Kay Ryan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.
They were on the chairs and tables,
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners,
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens
for as far as I could see...
when I woke today, I noticed
there were eggs on top of me.
From Something BIG Has Been Here, published by Greenwillow, 1990. Used with permission.
Fire in the heart, fire in the sky, the sun just
a smallish smudge resting on the horizon
out beyond the reef that breaks the waves,
fiery sun that waits for no one. I was little more
than a child when my father explained
that the mongrel is stronger than the thoroughbred,
that I was splendidly blended, genetically engineered
for survival. I somehow forgot this, misplaced this,
time eroding my memory as it erodes everything.
But go ask someone else to write a poem about Time.
Out over the bay, the sun is rising, and I am running
out of time. Each and every year, on my birthday,
I wake to watch the sunrise. I am superstitious.
And today, as in years past, it is not my father
but my father’s father who comes to shout at me:
Whether you like it or not, you are a child of fire. You
descend from the Dragon, descend from the Phoenix.
Your blood is older than England, older than Castille.
Year after year, he says the same thing, this old man
dead long before I was born. So, I wake each year
on the day of my birth to watch the fire enter the sky
while being chastised by my dead grandfather.
Despite being a creature of fire, I stay near the water.
Why even try to avoid what can extinguish me?
There are times I can feel the fire flickering inside my frame.
The gulls are quarreling, the palm trees shimmering—
the world keeps spinning on its axis. Some say I have
nine lives. Others think me a machine. Neither is true.
The truth is rarely so conventional. Fire in my heart, fire
in my veins, I write this down for you and watch
as it goes up in flames. There are no paragraphs
wide enough to contain this fire, no stanzas
durable enough to house it. Blood of the Dragon,
blood of the Phoenix, I turn my head slowly
toward the East. I bow and call for another year.
I stand there and demand one more year.
Copyright © 2016 by C. Dale Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 22, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
My dear Telemachus, The Trojan War is over now; I don't recall who won it. The Greeks, no doubt, for only they would leave so many dead so far from their own homeland. But still, my homeward way has proved too long. While we were wasting time there, old Poseidon, it almost seems, stretched and extended space. I don't know where I am or what this place can be. It would appear some filthy island, with bushes, buildings, and great grunting pigs. A garden choked with weeds; some queen or other. Grass and huge stones . . . Telemachus, my son! To a wanderer the faces of all islands resemble one another. And the mind trips, numbering waves; eyes, sore from sea horizons, run; and the flesh of water stuffs the ears. I can't remember how the war came out; even how old you are--I can't remember. Grow up, then, my Telemachus, grow strong. Only the gods know if we'll see each other again. You've long since ceased to be that babe before whom I reined in the plowing bullocks. Had it not been for Palamedes' trick we two would still be living in one household. But maybe he was right; away from me you are quite safe from all Oedipal passions, and your dreams, my Telemachus, are blameless.
From A Part of Speech by Joseph Brodsky. Translation copyright © 1980 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.
Boys begin to gather around the man like seagulls.
He ignores them entirely, but they follow him
from one end of the beach to the other.
Their footprints burn holes in the sand.
It’s quite a sight, a strange parade:
a man with a pair of wings strapped to his arms
followed by a flock of rowdy boys.
Some squawk and flap their bony limbs.
Others try to leap now and then, stumbling
as the sand tugs at their feet. One boy pretends to fly
in a circle around the man, cawing in his face.
We don’t know his name or why he walks
along our beach, talking to the wind.
To say nothing of those wings. A woman yells
to her son, Ask him if he’ll make me a pair.
Maybe I’ll finally leave your father.
He answers our cackles with a sudden stop,
turns, and runs toward the water.
The children jump into the waves after him.
Over the sound of their thrashes and giggles,
we hear a boy say, We don’t want wings.
We want to be fish now.
From Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Saeed Jones. Used with permission of The Permissions Company on behalf of Coffee House Press.
When the grass was closely mown, Walking on the lawn alone, In the turf a hole I found, And hid a soldier underground. Spring and daisies came apace; Grasses hide my hiding place; Grasses run like a green sea O'er the lawn up to my knee. Under grass alone he lies, Looking up with leaden eyes, Scarlet coat and pointed gun, To the stars and to the sun. When the grass is ripe like grain, When the scythe is stoned again, When the lawn is shaven clear, Then my hole shall reappear. I shall find him, never fear, I shall find my grenadier; But for all that's gone and come, I shall find my soldier dumb. He has lived, a little thing, In the grassy woods of spring; Done, if he could tell me true, Just as I should like to do. He has seen the starry hours And the springing of the flowers; And the fairy things that pass In the forests of the grass. In the silence he has heard Talking bee and ladybird, And the butterfly has flown O'er him as he lay alone. Not a word will he disclose, Not a word of all he knows. I must lay him on the shelf, And make up the tale myself.
This poem is in the public domain.
Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades' dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.
Begin with the clash between Agamemnon--
The Greek warlord--and godlike Achilles.
Which of the immortals set these two
At each other's throats?
Zeus' son and Leto's, offended
By the warlord. Agamemnon had dishonored
Chryses, Apollo's priest, so the god
Struck the Greek camp with plague,
And the soldiers were dying of it.
From The Iliad, lines 1-17, by Homer, translated by Stanley Lombardo and published by Hackett Publishing. © 1997 by Stanley Lombardo. Used with permission of Hackett Publishing Co., Inc., Indianapolis, IN and Cambridge, MA. All rights reserved.
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring
a farmer was ploughing
the whole pageantry
of the year was
the edge of the sea
sweating in the sun
the wings' wax
off the coast
a splash quite unnoticed
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.
To the dragon any loss is total. His rest is disrupted if a single jewel encrusted goblet has been stolen. The circle of himself in the nest of his gold has been broken. No loss is token.