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.

                                     r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r
                           who
  a)s w(e loo)k
  upnowgath
                       PPEGORHRASS
                                                       eringint(o-
  aThe):l
               eA
                    !p:
S                                                                        a
                                      (r
  rIvInG                              .gRrEaPsPhOs)
                                                                         to
  rea(be)rran(com)gi(e)ngly
  ,grasshopper;

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.

          III

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

Copyright 1923, 1925, 1951, 1953, © 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976 by George J. Firmage. From The Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage. Reprinted by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

This veil
Of lavender and dawn
Floats off
Invisible, 
And this of purple noon
Unwinds in wisdom,
Twitters, undulates,
Dips, darts, 
And this of night
Circles around me singing
To the very edge and presence of the young moon—
And it brushes the tip
Like lips
Three times.

This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Others for 1919; An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920). 

The elephant, the huge old beast,
     is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
     they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
     slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
     and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
     of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
     together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
     grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
     hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
     so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
     for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
     their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
     till they touch in flood.

From The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, edited by V. De Sola Pinto & F. W. Roberts. Copyright © 1964, 1971 by Angela Ravagli and C. M. Weekly, Executors of the Estate of Frieda Lawrence Ravagli. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

Then Almitra spoke again and said, And what of Marriage, master?
      And he answered saying:
      You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
      You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
      Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
      But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
      And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

     Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
      Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
      Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
      Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
      Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of your be alone,
      Even as the strings of the lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

     Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
      For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
      And stand together yet not too near together:
      For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
      And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
     And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
     When love beckons to you, follow him,
     Though his ways are hard and steep.
     And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
     Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
     And when he speaks to you believe in him,
     Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

     For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
     Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
     So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
     Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself
     He threshes you to make your naked.
     He sifts you to free you from your husks.
     He grinds you to whiteness.
     He kneads you until you are pliant;
     And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

     All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

     But if in your heart you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
     Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
     Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
     Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
     Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
     For love is sufficient unto love.

     When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
     And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

     Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
     But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
     To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
     To know the pain of too much tenderness.
     To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
     And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
     To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
     To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
     To return home at eventide with gratitude;
     And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Let me wait, my dear,
One more day,
Let me linger near,
Let me stay.
Do not bar the gate of draw the blind
Or lock the door that yields,
Dear, be kind!

I have only you beneath the skies
To rest my eyes
From the cruel green of the fields
And the cold, white seas
And the weary hills
And the naked trees.
I have known the hundred ills
Of the hated wars.
Do not close the bars,
Or draw the blind.
I have only you beneath the stars:
Dear, be kind!

This poem is in the public domain.

"Everyone carries around in the back of
his mind the wreck of a thing he calls
his education." —Stephen Leacock

SOLID GEOMETRY Here's a nice thought we can save: The luckiest thing about sex Is: you happen to be so concave In the very same place I'm convex. BOTANY Your thighs always blossomed like orchids, You had rose hips when we danced, But the question that always baffled me was: How can I get into those plants? ECONOMICS Diversification's a virtue, And as one of its multiple facets, when we're merging, it really won't hurt you To share your disposable assets. GEOGRAPHY Russian you would be deplorable, But your Lapland is simply Andorrable So my Hungary fantasy understands Why I can't keep my hands off your Netherlands. LIT. SURVEY Alexander composed like the Pope, Swift was of course never tardy, And my Longfellow's Wildest hope Is to find you right next to my Hardy. PHYSICS If E is how eager I am for you, And m is your marvelous body, And c means the caring I plan for you, Then E = Magna Cum Laude. MUSIC APPRECIATION You're my favorite tune, my symphony, So please do me this favor: Don't ever change, not even a hemi- Demi-semiquaver. ART APPRECIATION King Arthur, betrayed by Sir Lancelot, Blamed the poets who'd praised him, and spake: "That knight's nights are in the Queen's pantsalot, So from now on your art's for Art's sake." ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM I couldn’t do Goyas or Grecos, And my Rembrandts had zero panache, But after I junked all my brushes, My canvases made quite a splash. PHILOSOPHY 1. Blaise Pascal Pascal, reflecting tearfully On our wars for the Holy Pigeon, Said, "Alas, we do evil most cheerfully When we do it for religion." 2. René Descartes The unruly dactyls and anapests Were thumping their wild dithyrambic When Descartes with a scowl very sternly stressed: "I think, therefore iambic!" 3. Thomas Hobbes Better at thinking than loving, He deserved his wife's retort: On their wedding night, she told him, "Tom, That was nasty, brutish – and short!"

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Appleman. Reprinted from Poetry magazine. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

May I master love, undo its luster
do in the thing that makes us lust? 
 
May I speed through the body’s sinew 
to marrow? Or is toiling a part of 
 
the gaining of trust? May I pare and narrow 
your body down, and open it to my 
 
cupidity’s arrow? May I find my 
response to body’s unanswered call, 
 
(if the want leaves you wanting, at all)?

Copyright @ 2014 by Hannah Sanghee Park. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 22, 2014.

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle—
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain'd its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea—
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

This poem is in the public domain.

                                       (adore, verb from Latin, adorare,
                                       from ad- ‘to’ + orare- ‘speak, call pray’)

You lie asleep beside me,
one hand on the pillow and cupped
at your mouth, as if to tell a secret.

As if you might say in your sleep
what you could never find 
words for awake.

Or as if you called
across a din of other voices,
or the howl of empty space. Calling

because there are no bells 
to strike the hours where we live. And I must know
when to kneel and when to rise.
What to praise and what to curse.
I must know how to bless
and how to receive blessing. 

One hand on your pillow and cupped
at your mouth,
as if you spoke a word
you’d kept to yourself all day, waiting 
for your most unguarded moment
to say, a thought meant for me, meant to be
shared between us this way,
sealed this way, a secret
no voice can carry without destroying,
a word without carriage, except conveyed
in the peace of your body and face,

a word born out of your deepest rest, a word
which only my own deepest breathing
and happiest rest beside you,
face to face, free of thinking, can sustain.

Maybe you had to be asleep
to say what you knew to be true.
Or what you had to say
you might not could bear to hear,
and so you must say so softly
I must close my eyes, I must turn
inward, to where you’ve made a room
and a bed inside me, to receive it. 

You say:
We cannot look upon Love’s face without dying.
So we face each other to see Love’s look.
And thus third-person souls
suddenly stand at gaze
and the lover and the beloved,
second- and first-persons,
You and I, eye
to eye, are born. 
But such refraction, multiplying gazes, strews
Love’s eye upon the objects of the world,
as upon the objects of our room. 

My brush, hairpin, mirror, book,
your loving look finds each of these things
lovable, I can see. Things
by any other measure poor, your look crowns
to make them your heart’s royalty.
Face, blush, breath, eyes, evanescent,
pledged to death, nowhere stored,
Love’s look gathers within its fondling
to adore.

This strewing and gathering
of Love’s face, of Love’s gaze, and only this,
begun in death’s audience, is the founding
action, call it the fundamental
paradise…did I say paradise?
I meant paradox…the fundamental paradox
of the breaths we breathe,
the thoughts we witness,
the kisses we exchange,
and every poem you write.

From The Undressing: Poems by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2018 by Li-Young Lee. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine—tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face has come and come—
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there—
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth—
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I had been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.

“Floating Poem, Unnumbered” from “Twenty-One Love Poems,” from The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974–1977 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1978 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

 
At the touch of you,	
As if you were an archer with your swift hand at the bow,	
The arrows of delight shot through my body.	
 
You were spring,	
And I the edge of a cliff,
And a shining waterfall rushed over me. 

 This poem is in the public domain.

Words are hoops
Through which to leap upon meanings,
Which are horses’ backs,
Bare, moving.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

There is no denying
That it matters little,
When through a narrow door
We enter a room together,
Which goes after, which before.
 
Perhaps you are not dying:
Perhaps—there is no knowing—
I shall slip by and turn and laugh with you
Because it mattered so little,
The order of our going.
 

This poem is in the public domain.

There is a solitude in seeing you, 
Followed by your company when you are gone.
You are like heaven’s veils of lightning. 
I cannot see till afterward
How beautiful you are. 
There is a blindness in seeing you, 
Followed by the sight of you when you are gone.

This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Others for 1919; An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920). 

History sits on a chair
in a room without windows.
Mornings it searches for a door,
afternoons it naps.
At the stroke of midnight,
it stretches its body and sighs.
It keeps time and loses time,
knows its place and doesn’t know its place.
Sometimes it considers the chair a step,
sometimes it believes the chair is not there.
To corners it never looks the same.
Under a full moon it holds its own.
History sits on a chair
in a room above our houses.

Copyright @ 2014 by Howard Altmann. Used with permission of the author.

I want to say that
forgiveness keeps on

dividing, that hope
gives issue to hope,

and more, but of course I
am saying what is

said when in this dark
hallway one encounters

you, and paws and
assaults you—love

affairs, fast lies—and you
say it back and we

blunder deeper, as would
any pair of loosed

marionettes, any couple
of cadavers cut lately

from the scaffold,
in the secluded hallways

of whatever is
holding us up now.

From The Incognito Lounge and Other Poems, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Copyright © 1994 by Denis Johnson. Reprinted by permission of the author.


You can only hunker down so long & then the wind dies
   or rushes on to some other place to do its damage
   & all that time you've been huddled there together
        holding your breath, hoping against
		 
        wildest hope that up aboveground
          nothing you love has been
              blown away
				 
          hoping with a deep longing
            the wind has cleared
                the air &
				  
                 the new
                  light
                 shining
                   is 
                  there 
                   to 
                  stay

From Escaping Tornado Season by Julie Williams. Copyright © 2004 by Julie Williams. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. No part of this book may be used or repoduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

When buffeted and beaten by life’s storms,
When by the bitter cares of life oppressed,
I want no surer haven than your arms,
I want no sweeter heaven than your breast.

When over my life’s way there falls the blight
Of sunless days, and nights of starless skies;
Enough for me, the calm and steadfast light
That softly shines within your loving eyes.

The world, for me, and all the world can hold
Is circled by your arms; for me there lies,
Within the lights and shadows of your eyes,
The only beauty that is never old.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 7, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

       (for Me-K)

It was the language that left us first.
The Great Migration of words. When people
spoke they punched each other in the mouth.
There was no vocabulary for love. Women
became masculine and could no longer give
birth to warmth or a simple caress with their
lips. Tongues were overweight from profanity
and the taste of nastiness. It settled over cities
like fog smothering everything in sight. My
ears begged for camouflage and the chance
to go to war. Everywhere was the decay of
how we sound. Someone said it reminded
them of the time Sonny Rollins disappeared.
People spread stories of how the air would
never be the same or forgive. It was the end
of civilization and nowhere could one hear
the first notes of A Love Supreme. It was as
if John Coltrane had never been born.

Copyright © 2010 by E. Ethelbert Miller. Used with permission of the author.

There is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I pick things out of the wind and air … I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers … I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery for eating and grunting … a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates … I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … yawping a galoot’s hunger … hairy under the armpits … here are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond and blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … ready to snarl and kill … ready to sing and give milk … waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

This poem is in the public domain.


My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread, like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from the box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger's emperor;
He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.

From Selected Poems by Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 2003 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

And the priestess spoke again and said: Speak to us of Reason and Passion.
     And he answered, saying:
     Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgement wage war against your passion and your appetite. 
     Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.
     But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?

     Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.
     If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
     For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
     Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
     And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

     I would have your consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
     Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.

     Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars, sharing the peace and serenity of distant fields, and meadows—then let your heart say in silence, “God rests in reason.”
     And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky,—then let your heart say in awe, “God moves in passion.”
     And since you are a breath in God’s sphere, and a leaf in God’s forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Chaos is the new calm
violence the new balm   
to be spread on lips
unused to a kiss.             

Left is the new right
as I brace for a fight
with a man who stands
on his remaining hand.

Fetid harbor harbor me      
until someone is free          
to drive me away          
from what happened today.
        
Don't strand me standing here.
If you leave, leave beer. 

From Chaos Is the New Calm by Wyn Cooper. Copyright © 2010 by Wyn Cooper. Used by permission of BOA Editions Ltd.

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.   

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.   

Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
  Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.   

It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.

This poem is in the public domain.

Your name is a—bird in my hand,
a piece of ice on my tongue.
The lips’ quick opening.
Your name—five letters.
A ball caught in flight,
a silver bell in my mouth.
A stone thrown into a silent lake
is—the sound of your name.
The light click of hooves at night
—your name.
Your name at my temple
—shrill click of a cocked gun.
Your name—impossible—
kiss on my eyes,
the chill of closed eyelids.
Your name—a kiss of snow.
Blue gulp of icy spring water.
With your name—sleep deepens.

From The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris. Copyright © 2010 by Ecco / HarperCollins. Used by permission of the publisher.

Be in me as the eternal moods
            of the bleak wind, and not
As transient things are –
            gaiety of flowers.
Have me in the strong loneliness
            of sunless cliffs
And of grey waters.
            Let the gods speak softly of us
In days hereafter,
            The shadowy flowers of Orcus
Remember Thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

Dear Boy: Be the muscle,
make music to the bone—risk

that mercurial measure
of contact. There are those

who touch a body and leave it
graceful:      be that kind

of wonder in the dark.      And if I ever
catch you confusing

a pulse for a path      or a bridge
to beat loneliness, your blood

will be the object of discussion—:
I will ask to see it back,

if only to know the shared sinew,
if only to relight your blessing,

if only to rekindle the song
carried in your hands.

From The Night Angler. Copyright © 2018 by Geffrey Davis. Used with the permission of BOA Editions. 

My friend says she is like an empty drawer 

being pulled out of the earth. 
I am the long neck of the giraffe coming down 

to see what she doesn't have. 

What holds us chained to the same cold river, 
where we are surprised by the circles 

we make in the ice? When we talk about the past

it is like pushing stones back into the earth. 
Sometimes she digs her nails into her leather bag 

to find out where my heart is. The white sleeves

of her shirt are bright with waves when I visit. 
When we lie, we live a little longer—

which is unbelievable. If you love 

someone, the water moves up from the well. 

Copyright© 2005 by Jason Shinder. First published in The American Poetry Review, November/December 2005. From Stupid Hope (Graywolf, 2009). Appears with permission of the Literary Estate of Jason Shinder.