translated from the Japanese by William George Aston

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.

From A History of Japanese Literature (William Heinemann, 1899) by W. G. Aston. This poem is in the public domain.

My soul and I, upon the peak
    Of Sanneen grim and grey,
Sat musing in the twilight of
    A sombre summer day.

“Great Saturn and the Moon are gone
    Together o’er the sea;
But will great Saturn e’er return
    Should he elope with thee?

Ah well, who knows? when thou art gone
    I, too, shall sink within the brine,—
I, too, shall sail above this peak
    And signal yonder groves of pine.

Behold the melancholy sky
    Of this forgotten land;
On this side are the valleys bleak.
    On this, the desert sand.”

“I hear the moaning of the wind,”
    My sad companion said;
“The snow is gathering in me
    And the night is overhead.

Long have we dwelt together, friend,
    In our sweet ennui;
But were I now to take my leave,
    Alas, what would I be?”

“O, think not of departing.
    Ah, too young I am to die;
I’ll find the magic wings; and there
    Still hangs a friendly sky.

Let us above these pines, and clouds,
    And scents awhile yet dwell;—
Where wouldst thou go, if thou wert now
    To sigh a last farewell?”

Thou seest the busy elements
    Dissolving one by one
The souls that are acquitted.
    For the all-absorbing sun.

Let’s sing the song of darkness then;
    Thy prison is the Whole;—
What canst thou do, where wilt thou go,
    What wilt thou be, my Soul?

Thou wouldst not be the air that weighs
    Upon the rising dust;
Thou wouldst not be the fog that chokes
    The air in savage lust.

Thou wouldst not be the clouds that block
    The smoke’s way to a star;
Nor linger in the guilty tears
    Of clouds before the bar.

Thou wouldst not be the rain that taunts
    The all-devouring sea,
Itself destroying many a nest
    In bush and rock and tree.

Thou wouldst not be the thunder’s tongue
    Spell-binding all the spheres;
Nor wouldst thou be the lightning blade
    That stabs and disappears.

Thou wouldst not be the dew that falls
    Alike on thorn and flower;
Nor even the morning zephyr
    That blows o’er den and bower.

Thou wouldst not be the virgin snow
    Set free from yonder clouds,
Only to melt beneath the feet
    Of surging human crowds.”

“No! none of these,” my Soul replied;
    “I’ll shiver ever thrall;
O let me rise, for I would be
    The sky above them all.”

From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

                                                        Viewed from space, the world’s
                                                                              France appears,
                                                         but no Frenchmen.
                                                                                         Then Germany,
                                                         without one German.
                                                         the richest man on earth
                                                         pays three hundred thousand
                                                         for a ten-minute flight by rocket
                                                         at three thousand miles per hour
                                                         to see everything below
                                                         from sixty-two miles straight up.
                                                         He’s making business plans
                                                         for space, beginning with Mars
                                                         and the moon. 
                                                                                       There’s ample
                                                         precedent to show how profit
                                                                            After we mapped
                                                         the earth as we imagined it,
                                                         we matched what we imagined
                                                         with the world as it would look
                                                         when photographed from space.
                                                         We did the same with rivers,
                                                         lakes and seas.
                                                                                        We kept
                                                         the original names unchanged
                                                         for everything we saw
                                                         as far as we could fly. 
                                                         From seashores to the stratosphere
                                                         the world was seen as property
                                                         that men could bargain for and buy.
                                                         We see it now the same
                                                         while profiteers debate how best 
                                                         to advertise and sell the sky.

Copyright © 2022 by Samuel Hazo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.


Said golden leaves upon the ground 
    To new born leaves upon the tree : 
“Soon homeward autumn winds will blow 
    And carry us away to sea, 
Just as it shook the night before 
    The branches all and set us free ; 
No longer do we envy bird or dew, 
Nor do we want again to be like you.” 


The sweet and tender leaves replied : 
    “Still we rejoice that we are here ; 
We rise from the eternal source 
    Of life to crown the dying year ; 
The wind that freed you we can see. 
    The sea you love we always hear. 
You are the booty of the storm and we,
We are the fruits of Death upon Life’s tree.”

From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

An old man planted and dug and tended,
    Toiling in joy from dew to dew;
The sun was kind, and the rain befriended;
    Fine grew his orchard and fair to view.
Then he said: 'I will quiet my thrifty fears,
For here is fruit for my failing years.'

But even then the storm-clouds gathered,
    Swallowing up the azure sky;
The sweeping winds into white foam lathered
    The placid breast of the bay, hard by;
Then the spirits that raged in the darkened air
Swept o'er his orchard and left it bare.

The old man stood in the rain, uncaring,
    Viewing the place the storm had swept;
And then with a cry from his soul despairing,
    He bowed him down to the earth and wept.
But a voice cried aloud from the driving rain;
"Arise, old man, and plant again!"

This poem is in the public domain. 

Some people presume to be hopeful
when there is no evidence for hope,
to be happy when there is no cause.
Let me say now, I’m with them.

In deep darkness on a cold twig
in a dangerous world, one first
little fluff lets out a peep, a warble,
a song—and in a little while, behold:

the first glimmer comes, then a glow
filters through the misty trees,
then the bold sun rises, then
everyone starts bustling about.

And that first crazy optimist, can we
forgive her for thinking, dawn by dawn,
“Hey, I made that happen!
And oh, life is so fine.”

Copyright © 2022 by Kim Stafford. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

A frog leaps out across the lawn,
And crouches there—all heavy and alone,
And like a blossom, pale and over-blown,
Once more the moon turns dim against the dawn.

Crawling across the straggling panoply
Of little roses, only half in bloom,
It strides within that beamed and lofty room
Where an ebon stallion looms upon the hay.

The stillness moves, and seems to grow immense,
A shuddering dog starts, dragging at its chain,
Thin, dusty rats slink down within the grain,
And in the vale the first far bells commence.

Here in the dawn, with mournful doomèd eyes
A cow uprises, moving out to bear
A soft-lipped calf with swarthy birth-swirled hair,
And wide wet mouth, and droll uncertainties.

The grey fowls fight for places in the sun,
The mushrooms flare, and pass like painted fans:
All the world is patient in its plans—
The seasons move forever, one on one.

Small birds lie sprawling vaguely in the heat,
And wanly pluck at shadows on their breasts,
And where the heavy grape-vine leans and rests,
White butterflies lift up their furry feet.

The wheat grows querulous with unseen cats;
A fox strides out in anger through the corn,
Bidding each acre wake and rise to mourn
Beneath its sharps and through its throaty flats.

And so it is, and will be year on year,
Time in and out of date, and still on time
A billion grapes plunge bleeding into wine
And bursting, fall like music on the ear.

The snail that marks the girth of night with slime,
The lonely adder hissing in the fern,
The lizard with its ochre eyes aburn—
Each is before, and each behind its time.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.


The colors of the rainbow are fading in the silent
      and distant West, and the heartache of
      twilight trembles within my aching breast.

   For the light of my love has faded like sunbeams
         in the West, and the color of twilight will
         tremble forever in my breast.


I think of thy kindness often, when lonesome I feel
      and cold, I have not forgotten our childhood,
      nor your loving words of old.

   And still my sweetest songs of life are floating
         in dreams to thee, like whisperings at eventide,
         across a clouded sea.


We two are sitting in the bark, and listen to the
      wavelets play, the shore is melting in the
      dark, days echoes silently decay.

   Oh life, with all thy hopes so fair, wilt thou
         too float away, like visions rising in the
         air that greet the parting day!


She stands amidst the roses, and tears dart from her
      eyes that like the fragrant roses her soul
      must fade and die.

   He stares at the twilight ocean on the shore of a
         foreign land, a faded rose is trembling
         within his soft white hand.


The rushes whisper softly, the sounds of silence wake,
      large flowers like sad remembrance float
      on the dark green lake.

   Were life but like the waters, so bright and calm
         and deep, and love like floating flowers
         that on the surface meet.


The naked trees of autumn grope shivering through
      twilights gloom, athwart the whispering branches
      its dying embers loom.

   I dream of lifes defoliation, as I watch with
         silent dread, leaf after leaf departing, like
         hopes long withered and dead.


In haunting hours of twilight dreams restless the
      turbulent sea, and heaves her white wanton
      bosom in endless mystery.

   Dream on, dream on, titanic queen, beloved sea, at
         thy wanton breast, I would find rest
         in endless mystery.

From Drifting Flowers of the Sea and Other Poems (1904) by Sadakichi Hartmann. This poem is in the public domain.


White petals afloat
     On a winding woodland stream—
What else is life’s dream!


Butterflies a-wing—
     Are you flowers returning
To your branch in Spring?


At new moon we met!
     Two weeks I’ve waited in vain.
To-night!—Don’t forget.


Oh, red maple leaves,
     There seem more of you these eves
Than ever grew on trees.


From Tanka and Haikai: Japanese Rhythms (1916) by Sadakichi Hartmann. These poems are in the public domain.