Always before your voice my soul 
half-beautiful and wholly droll 
is as some smooth and awkward foal, 
whereof young moons begin 
the newness of his skin, 

so of my stupid sincere youth 
the exquisite failure uncouth 
discovers a trembling and smooth 
Unstrength,against the strong 
silences of your song; 

or as a single lamb whose sheen 
of full unsheared fleece is mean 
beside its lovelier friends,between 
your thoughts more white than wool 
My thought is sorrowful: 

but my heart smote in trembling thirds 
of anguish quivers to your words, 
As to a flight of thirty birds 
shakes with a thickening fright 
the sudden fooled light.

it is the autumn of a year: 
When through the thin air stooped with fear, 
across the harvest whitely peer 
empty of surprise 
death's faultless eyes 

(whose hand my folded soul shall know 
while on faint hills do frailly go 
The peaceful terrors of the snow, 
and before your dead face 
which sleeps,a dream shall pass) 

and these my days their sounds and flowers 
Fall in a pride of petaled hours, 
like flowers at the feet of mowers 
whose bodies strong with love 
through meadows hugely move. 

yet what am i that such and such 
mysteries very simply touch 
me,whose  heart-wholeness overmuch 
Expects of your hair pale, 
a terror musical? 

while in an earthless hour my fond 
soul seriously yearns beyond 
this fern of sunset frond on frond 
opening in a rare 
Slowness of  gloried air... 

The flute of morning stilled in noon— 
noon the implacable bassoon— 
now Twilight seeks the thrill of moon, 
washed with a wild and thin 
despair of violin

This poem is in the public domain.

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.

into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April

i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight

i smilingly
glide.     I
into the big vermilion departure

(Do you think?)the
i do,world
is probably made
of roses & hello:

(of solongs and,ashes)

This poem is in the public domain.


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.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention 
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate 
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.


my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

this motionless forgetful where
turned at his glance to shining here;
that if (so timid air is firm)
under his eyes would stir and squirm

newly as from unburied which
floats the first who, his april touch
drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots

and should some why completely weep
my father’s fingers brought her sleep:
vainly no smallest voice might cry
for he could feel the mountains grow.

Lifting the valleys of the sea
my father moved through griefs of joy;
praising a forehead called the moon
singing desire into begin

joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer’s keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand,
so strictly (over utmost him
so hugely) stood my father’s dream

his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;
no cripple wouldn’t creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile.

Scorning the Pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain

septembering arms of year extend
less humbly wealth to foe and friend
than he to foolish and to wise 
offered immeasurable is

proudly and (by octobering flame
beckoned) as earth will downward climb,
so naked for immortal work
his shoulders marched against the dark

his sorrow was as true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head;
if every friend became his foe
he’d laugh and build a world with snow.

My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)

then let men kill which cannot share,
let blood and flesh be mud and mire,
scheming imagine, passion willed,
freedom a drug that’s bought and sold

giving to steal and cruel kind,
a heart to fear, to doubt a mind,
to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of am

though dull were all we taste as bright,
bitter all utterly things sweet,
maggoty minus and dumb death
all we inherit, all bequeath

and nothing quite so least as truth
—i say though hate were why men breathe—
because my Father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

Copyright © 1940, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust 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.

there are so many tictoc
clocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic

Spring is not regulated and does
not get out of order nor do
its hands a little jerking move
over numbers slowly

			we do not
wind it up it has no weights
springs wheels inside of
its slender self no indeed dear
nothing of the kind.

(So,when kiss Spring comes
we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss
lips because tic clocks toc don't make
a toctic difference
to kisskiss you and to 
kiss me)

From erotic poems by E. E. Cummings. Copyright © 2010 by E. E. Cummings. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..

But then there comes that moment rare
When, for no cause that I can find,
The little voices of the air
Sound above all the sea and wind.

The sea and wind do then obey
And sighing, sighing double notes
Of double basses, content to play
A droning chord for the little throats—

The little throats that sing and rise
Up into the light with lovely ease
And a kind of magical, sweet surprise
To hear and know themselves for these—

For these little voices: the bee, the fly,
The leaf that taps, the pod that breaks,
The breeze on the grass-tops bending by,
The shrill quick sound that the insect makes.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.


By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Vast and gray, the sky
is a simulacrum
to all but him whose days
are vast and gray, and—
In the tall, dried grasses
a goat stirs
with nozzle searching the ground.
—my head is in the air
but who am I…?
And amazed my heart leaps
at the thought of love
vast and gray
yearning silently over me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

This poem is in the public domain.

Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
                        like a buttercup
                                                upon its branching stem-
save that it's green and wooden-
                        I come, my sweet,
                                                to sing to you.
We lived long together
                        a life filled,
                                                if you will,
with flowers.  So that
                        I was cheered
                                                when I came first to know
that there were flowers also
                        in hell.
I'm filled with the fading memory of those flowers
                        that we both loved,
                                                even to this poor
colorless thing-
                        I saw it
                                                when I was a child-
little prized among the living
                        but the dead see,
                                                asking among themselves:
What do I remember
                        that was shaped
                                                as this thing is shaped?
while our eyes fill
                        with tears.
                                                Of love, abiding love
it will be telling
                        though too weak a wash of crimson
                                                colors it
to make it wholly credible.
                        There is something
                                                something urgent
I have to say to you
                        and you alone
                                                but it must wait
while I drink in
                        the joy of your approach,
                                                perhaps for the last time.
And so
                        with fear in my heart
                                                I drag it out
and keep on talking
                        for I dare not stop.
                                                Listen while I talk on
against time.
                        It will not be
                                                for long.
I have forgot
                        and yet I see clearly enough
central to the sky
                        which ranges round it.
                                                An odor
springs from it!
                        A sweetest odor!
                                                Honeysuckle!  And now
there comes the buzzing of a bee!
                        and a whole flood
                                                of sister memories!
Only give me time,
                        time to recall them
                                                before I shall speak out.
Give me time,
When I was a boy
                        I kept a book
                                                to which, from time
to time,
                        I added pressed flowers
                                                until, after a time,
I had a good collection.
                        The asphodel,
among them.
                        I bring you,
a memory of those flowers.
                        They were sweet
                                                when I pressed them
and retained
                        something of their sweetness
                                                a long time.
It is a curious odor,
                        a moral odor,
                                                that brings me
near to you.
                        The color
                                                was the first to go.
There had come to me
                        a challenge,
                                                your dear self,
mortal as I was,
                        the lily's throat
                                                to the hummingbird!
Endless wealth,
                        I thought,
                                                held out its arms to me.
A thousand tropics
                        in an apple blossom.
                                                The generous earth itself
gave us lief.
                        The whole world
                                                became my garden!
But the sea
                        which no one tends
                                                is also a garden
when the sun strikes it
                        and the waves
                                                are wakened.
I have seen it
                        and so have you
                                                when it puts all flowers
to shame.
                        Too, there are the starfish
                                                stiffened by the sun
and other sea wrack
                        and weeds.  We knew that
                                                along with the rest of it
for we were born by the sea,
                        knew its rose hedges
                                                to the very water's brink.
There the pink mallow grows
                        and in their season
and there, later,
                        we went to gather
                                                the wild plum.
I cannot say
                        that I have gone to hell
                                                for your love
but often
                        found myself there
                                                in your pursuit.
I do not like it
                        and wanted to be
                                                in heaven.  Hear me out.
Do not turn away.
I have learned much in my life
                        from books
                                                and out of them
about love.
                                                is not the end of it.
There is a hierarchy
                        which can be attained,
                                                I think,
in its service.
                        Its guerdon
                                                is a fairy flower;
a cat of twenty lives.
                        If no one came to try it
                                                the world
would be the loser.
                        It has been
                                                for you and me
as one who watches a storm
                        come in over the water.
                                                We have stood
from year to year
                        before the spectacle of our lives
                                                with joined hands.
The storm unfolds.
                                                plays about the edges of the clouds.
The sky to the north
                        is placid,
                                                blue in the afterglow
as the storm piles up.
                        It is a flower
                                                that will soon reach
the apex of its bloom.
                        We danced,
                                                in our minds,
and read a book together.
                        You remember?
                                                It was a serious book.
And so books
                        entered our lives.
The sea!  The sea!
                                                when I think of the sea
there comes to mind
                        the Iliad
                                                and Helen's public fault
that bred it.
                        Were it not for that
                                                there would have been
 no poem but the world
                        if we had remembered,
                                                those crimson petals
spilled among the stones,
                        would have called it simply
The sexual orchid that bloomed then
                        sending so many
men to their graves
                        has left its memory
                                                to a race of fools
or heroes
                        if silence is a virtue.
                                                The sea alone
with its multiplicity
                        holds any hope.
                                                The storm
has proven abortive
                        but we remain
                                                after the thoughts it roused
                        re-cement our lives.
                                                It is the mind
the mind
                        that must be cured
                                                short of death's
                        and the will becomes again
                                                a garden.  The poem
is complex and the place made
                        in our lives
                                                for the poem.
Silence can be complex too,
                        but you do not get far
                                                with silence.
Begin again.
                        It is like Homer's
                                                catalogue of ships:
it fills up the time.
                        I speak in figures,
                                                well enough, the dresses
you wear are figures also,
                        we could not meet
                                                otherwise.  When I speak
of flowers
                        it is to recall
                                                that at one time
we were young.
                        All women are not Helen,
                                                I know that,
but have Helen in their hearts.
                        My sweet,
                                                you have it also, therefore
I love you
                        and could not love you otherwise.
                                                Imagine you saw
a field made up of women
                        all silver-white.
                                                What should you do
but love them?
                        The storm bursts
                                                or fades!  it is not
the end of the world.
                        Love is something else,
                                                or so I thought it,
a garden which expands,
                        though I knew you as a woman
                                                and never thought otherwise,
until the whole sea
                        has been taken up
                                                and all its gardens.
It was the love of love,
                        the love that swallows up all else,
                                                a grateful love,
a love of nature, of people,
                        of animals,
                                                a love engendering
gentleness and goodness
                        that moved me
                                                and that I saw in you.
I should have known,
                        though I did not,
                                                that the lily-of-the-valley
is a flower makes many ill
                        who whiff it.
                                                We had our children,
rivals in the general onslaught.
                        I put them aside
                                                though I cared for them.
as well as any man
                        could care for his children
                                                according to my lights.
You understand
                        I had to meet you
                                                after the event
and have still to meet you.
                                                to which you too shall bow
along with me-
                        a flower
                                                a weakest flower
shall be our trust
                        and not because
                                                we are too feeble
to do otherwise
                        but because
                                                at the height of my power
I risked what I had to do,
                        therefore to prove
                                                that we love each other
while my very bones sweated
                        that I could not cry to you
                                                in the act.
Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
                        I come, my sweet,
                                                to sing to you!
My heart rouses
                        thinking to bring you news
                                                of something
that concerns you
                        and concerns many men.  Look at
                                                what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
                        despised poems.
                                                It is difficult
to get the news from poems
                        yet men die miserably every day
                                                for lack
of what is found there.
                        Hear me out
                                                for I too am concerned
and every man
                        who wants to die at peace in his bed

Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

From Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920), edited by Alfred Kreymborg. This poem is in the public domain.

Revived bitterness
is unnecessary unless
    One is ignorant.

To-morrow will be
Yesterday unless you say the
    Days of the week back-

Ward. Last weeks’ circus
Overflow frames an old grudge. Thus:
    When you attempt to 

Force the doors and come
At the cause of the shouts, you thumb
    A brass nailed echo.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Under a splintered mast,
torn from ship and cast
              near her hull,

a stumbling shepherd found
embedded in the ground,
              a sea-gull

of lapis lazuli,
a scarab of the sea,
            with wings spread—

curling its coral feet,
parting its beak to greet
            men long dead.

This poem is in the public domain. 

“really, it is not the
   business of the gods to bake clay pots.” They did not
      do it in this instance. A few
         revolved upon the axes of their worth
  as if excessive popularity might be a pot;

they did not venture the
   profession of humility. The polished wedge
      that might have split the firmament
         was dumb. At last it threw itself away
  and falling down, conferred on some poor fool, a privilege.

“Taller by the length of
   a conversation of five hundred years than all
      the others,” there was one, whose tales
         of what could never have been actual—
  were better than the haggish, uncompanionable drawl

of certitude; his by-
   play was more terrible in its effectiveness
      than the fiercest frontal attack.
         The staff, the bag, the feigned inconsequence
  of manner, best bespeak that weapon, self-protectiveness.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Fragments of sin are a part of me.
New brooms shall sweep clean the heart of me.
      Shall they? Shall they?

When this light life shall have passed away,
God shall redeem me, a castaway.
      Shall He? Shall He?

“Appellate Jurisdiction” was first published in the May 1915 issue of Poetry magazine.

Visible, invisible,
A fluctuating charm,
An amber-colored amethyst
Inhabits it; your arm
Approaches, and
It opens and
It closes;
You have meant
To catch it,
And it shrivels;
You abandon
Your intent—
It opens, and it
Closes and you
Reach for it—
The blue
Surrounding it
Grows cloudy, and
It floats away
From you.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Trying to open locked doors with a sword, threading
   the points of needles, planting shade trees
   upside down; swallowed by the opaqueness of one whom the seas
love better than they love you, Ireland—

you have lived and lived on every kind of shortage.
   You have been compelled by hags to spin
   gold thread from straw and have heard men say:
"There is a feminine temperament in direct contrast to ours,

which makes her do these things. Circumscribed by a 
   heritage of blindness and native
   incompetence, she will become wise and will be forced to give in.
Compelled by experience, she will turn back;

water seeks its own level";
   and you have smiled. "Water in motion is far
   from level." You have seen it, when obstacles happened to bar
the path, rise automatically.

First published in Others (1917). This poem is in the public domain.

With an elephant to ride upon—"with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,"
   she shall outdistance calamity anywhere she goes.
Speed is not in her mind inseparable from carpets. Locomotion arose
   in the shape of an elephant; she clambered up and chose
to travel laboriously. So far as magic carpets are concerned, she knows
   that although the semblance of speed may attach to scarecrows
of aesthetic procedure, the substance of it is embodied in such of those
   tough-grained animals as have outstripped man’s whim to suppose
them ephemera, and I have earned that fruit of their ability to endure blows
   which dubs them prosaic necessities—not curios.

This poem is in the public domain.

He often expressed
A curious wish,
To be interchangeably
Man and fish;
To nibble the bait
Off the hook,
Said he,
And then slip away
Like a ghost
In the sea.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 9, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The banners unfurled by the warden
Up high in the air and sink down; the
Is black as a plume on a casque; my
Like a patch of high light on a flask, makes
A gibbering goblin that bars the way-
So noisy, familiar, and safe by day.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have to yourself,
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,
but you cannot stand in the middle of this;
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession, each with an emerald turkey-foot at the top,
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea;
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have worn that look—
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer investigate them
for their bones have not lasted:
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating a grave,
and row quickly away—the blades of the oars
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress among themselves in a phalanx—beautiful under networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;
the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls as heretofore—
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath them;
and the ocean, under the pulsation of lighthouses and noise of bellbuoys,
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which dropped things are bound to sink—
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor consciousness.

From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1981 by Marianne Craig Moore. Reprinted with permission of Marianne Craig Moore. All rights reserved.

       Not a mere blowing flame—
       A clinking ash, I feel—with shame,
          At malendeavor in your service.

But as Jehoshaphat said on that occasion in
              Old Testament history,

       "The battle is not mine,"
       And strategy laid down—in fine
          Surrender, may be conquest.

This poem is in the public domain.