So far the nights feel lonelier than the days. In light, the living keep me company, and memories of voices through the years. Each summer threads a green familiar maze. Emerging sun-struck, you can barely spy the slow kaleidoscope of clouds and hours. Those flannel nightshirts chilly sleepers wear as summer wanes: I'm giving them away. Pass it on: you keep at the same time. A bough has broken from the Duchess tree. Rain swelled the apples. Too much lightness weighs heavy: the heft of the idea of home tempered with the detachment of a dream, or tidal pulls, like ocean, like moonrise.
Copyright © 2012 by Rachel Hadas. Used with permission of the author.
Eight deer on the slope in the summer morning mist. The night sky blue. Me like a mare let out to pasture. The Tao does not console me. I was given the Way in the milk of childhood. Breathing it waking and sleeping. But now there is no amazing smell of sperm on my thighs, no spreading it on my stomach to show pleasure. I will never give up longing. I will let my hair stay long. The rain proclaims these trees, the trees tell of the sun. Let birds, let birds. Let leaf be passion. Let jaw, let teeth, let tongue be between us. Let joy. Let entering. Let rage and calm join. Let quail come. Let winter impress you. Let spring. Allow the ocean to wake in you. Let the mare in the field in the summer morning mist make you whinny. Make you come to the fence and whinny. Let birds.
From All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems by Linda Gregg. Copyright © 2009 by Linda Gregg. Used by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.
"BE YOUR OWN MASTER!" says the Vedanta Society sign. Why not?…In the park Some clouds roll over me like Greenland on a map. If I wanted to I could imagine I was flying over The Greenland coast and gazing down at the white fjords. Instead I'm lying on the grass, listening to city sounds. They come to me in three-dimensional form, Like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Baby carriages squeak Near the middle. Cars humming through Central Park, Somewhere near the back of the loaf. What sound would be the end-piece, the round brown sliver? The unzipping of airline bags. Or a glove thwacked By a rookie pitcher who falls apart In the eighth inning. The manager takes the ball silently, Like a man who has eaten a full loaf of bread And has a stomach pain. Don't glamorize silence. There is nothing profound about quiet, it is usually Only the universe holding its stomach. Delmore Schwartz must have been a great talker. They say he put most of his talent into his life But I don't know, I think his prose is pretty great; He made a better storywriter than a poet. I could write a thousand-page biography Propounding that stance, and interview all the old rummy Critics who are powerful now; They would let their hair down about Delmore, And the final crackup. The reason I'm thinking of Delmore Schwartz is that He wrote a poem about city parks. And it wasn't that successful, It went on for about twelve pages, but I admired him For writing a poem with so little point, And so much prosy description. I think he was trying to Eulogize normal middle-class happiness on a Sunday afternoon, And how he felt out of it. But that wouldn't have Taken twelve pages…He was probably being ironic About the people's happiness, and secretly thought They weren't happy. He wrote it about the same time Robert Moses was carving out his parks empire By forcing the Long Island millionaires to give up their privacy So that the middle class could get to the beach. Of course it was also supposed to benefit The poor slum-dwellers, but how many of them Ever made it to Sunken Meadows? Or Jones Beach? What's strange about parks—innocent greenery— Is that no one ever suspected them to ruin New York. Yet what finally gutted the city were the parkways Moses built, slashed through all five boroughs Quiet lower-middle-class neighborhoods bulldozed For cars to get to the picnic grounds faster, Or the Hamptons— A life of paperwork capped by a summer home. But I can't blame them: I'd like a summer home myself! I don't really believe New York is dying, no more than The universe is dying. I have no stake in seeing This poem end pessimistically. I'd like to leave people with a good feeling. Robert Moses, Delmore Schwartz. Two ambitious Jews, like myself. They tried to be their own masters… It's hard to imagine New York going under On a slow summer day like today Without even a loud noise to mark it Like the Empire State Building keeling over And everyone running to the scene of default. The helicopters will be standing by, Ready to take us to Greenland. A special airlift for poetic men of letters, A jumbo Boeing crammed to the teeth, And you can't get in if your name isn't Listed in Poets and Writers Directory. "So long, New York School of Poets!" I'll stay behind, tending the weeds And sleeping in deserted Central Park. Soon I'll be hearing about the Godthaab School: Their seemingly infinite talent for "chatty brilliance," Buddhism, and marathon readings. I'll shake my head and sigh: What are Anne and Michael doing now? How was this year's big Halloween party, Or do they even celebrate Halloween in Greenland? Maybe they're into solstice holidays, like Midsummer Night.
"The Last Slow Days of Summer" from At the End of the Day: Selected Poems and an Introductory Essay, copyright © 2009 by Phillip Lopate. Used by permission of Marsh Hawk Press.
Is nothing real but when I was fifteen, Going on sixteen, like a corny song? I see myself so clearly then, and painfully— Knees bleeding through my usher's uniform Behind the candy counter in the theater After a morning's surfing; paddling frantically To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me, Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor's Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt. Is that all I have to write about? You write about the life that's vividest. And if that is your own, that is your subject. And if the years before and after sixteen Are colorless as salt and taste like sand— Return to those remembered chilly mornings, The light spreading like a great skin on the water, And the blue water scalloped with wind-ridges, And—what was it exactly?—that slow waiting When, to invigorate yourself, you peed Inside your bathing suit and felt the warmth Crawl all around your hips and thighs, And the first set rolled in and the water level Rose in expectancy, and the sun struck The water surface like a brassy palm, Flat and gonglike, and the wave face formed. Yes. But that was a summer so removed In time, so specially peculiar to my life, Why would I want to write about it again? There was a day or two when, paddling out, An older boy who had just graduated And grown a great blonde moustache, like a walrus, Skimmed past me like a smooth machine on the water, And said my name. I was so much younger, To be identified by one like him— The easy deference of a kind of god Who also went to church where I did—made me Reconsider my worth. I had been noticed. He soon was a small figure crossing waves, The shawling crest surrounding him with spray, Whiter than gull feathers. He had said my name Without scorn, just with a bit of surprise To notice me among those trying the big waves Of the morning break. His name is carved now On the black wall in Washington, the frozen wave That grievers cross to find a name or names. I knew him as I say I knew him, then, Which wasn't very well. My father preached His funeral. He came home in a bag That may have mixed in pieces of his squad. Yes, I can write about a lot of things Besides the summer that I turned sixteen. But that's my ground swell. I must start Where things began to happen and I knew it.
From Questions for Ecclesiastes published by Story Line Press, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Mark Jarman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.
Reprinted from On the Wing, published by the University of Iowa Press.
The growing idleness of summer grass With its frail kites of furious butterflies Requests the lemonade of simple praise In scansion gentler than my hammock swings And rituals no more upsetting than a Black maid shaking linen as she sings The plain notes of some Protestant hosanna— Since I lie idling from the thought in things— Or so they should, until I hear the cries Of two small children hunting yellow wings, Who break my Sabbath with the thought of sin. Brother and sister, with a common pin, Frowning like serious lepidopterists. The little surgeon pierces the thin eyes. Crouched on plump haunches, as a mantis prays She shrieks to eviscerate its abdomen. The lesson is the same. The maid removes Both prodigies from their interest in science. The girl, in lemon frock, begins to scream As the maimed, teetering thing attempts its flight. She is herself a thing of summery light, Frail as a flower in this blue August air, Not marked for some late grief that cannot speak. The mind swings inward on itself in fear Swayed towards nausea from each normal sign. Heredity of cruelty everywhere, And everywhere the frocks of summer torn, The long look back to see where choice is born, As summer grass sways to the scythe's design.
"A Lesson for This Sunday" from Collected Poems: 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
1 When the moon appears and a few wind-stricken barns stand out in the low-domed hills and shine with a light that is veiled and dust-filled and that floats upon the fields, my mother, with her hair in a bun, her face in shadow, and the smoke from her cigarette coiling close to the faint yellow sheen of her dress, stands near the house and watches the seepage of late light down through the sedges, the last gray islands of cloud taken from view, and the wind ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat on the black bay. 2 Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send small carpets of lampglow into the haze and the bay will begin its loud heaving and the pines, frayed finials climbing the hill, will seem to graze the dim cinders of heaven. And my mother will stare into the starlanes, the endless tunnels of nothing, and as she gazes, under the hour's spell, she will think how we yield each night to the soundless storms of decay that tear at the folding flesh, and she will not know why she is here or what she is prisoner of if not the conditions of love that brought her to this. 3 My mother will go indoors and the fields, the bare stones will drift in peace, small creatures -- the mouse and the swift -- will sleep at opposite ends of the house. Only the cricket will be up, repeating its one shrill note to the rotten boards of the porch, to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark, to the sea that keeps to itself. Why should my mother awake? The earth is not yet a garden about to be turned. The stars are not yet bells that ring at night for the lost. It is much too late.
From Mark Strand: Selected Poems, by Mark Strand, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1979 by Mark Strand. Used with permission.
She sang beyond the genius of the sea. The water never formed to mind or voice, Like a body wholly body, fluttering Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry, That was not ours although we understood, Inhuman, of the veritable ocean. The sea was not a mask. No more was she. The song and water were not medleyed sound Even if what she sang was what she heard. Since what she sang was uttered word by word. It may be that in all her phrases stirred The grinding water and the gasping wind; But it was she and not the sea we heard. For she was the maker of the song she sang. The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea Was merely a place by which she walked to sing. Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew It was the spirit that we sought and knew That we should ask this often as she sang. If it was only the dark voice of the sea That rose, or even colored by many waves; If it was only the outer voice of sky And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled, However clear, it would have been deep air, The heaving speech of air, a summer sound Repeated in a summer without end And sound alone. But it was more than that, More even than her voice, and ours, among The meaningless plungings of water and the wind, Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres Of sky and sea. It was her voice that made The sky acutest at its vanishing. She measured to the hour its solitude. She was the single artificer of the world In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea, Whatever self it had, became the self That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we, As we beheld her striding there alone, Knew that there never was a world for her Except the one she sang and, singing, made. Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know, Why, when the singing ended and we turned Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights, The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there, As night descended, tilting in the air, Mastered the night and portioned out the sea, Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles, Arranging, deepening, enchanting night. Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon, The maker's rage to order words of the sea, Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred, And of ourselves and of our origins, In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.
From Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Your voice, with clear location of June days, Called me outside the window. You were there, Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare Of uncontested summer all things raise Plainly their seeming into seamless air. Then your love looked as simple and entire As that picked pear you tossed me, and your face As legible as pearskin’s fleck and trace, Which promise always wine, by mottled fire More fatal fleshed than ever human grace. And your gay gift—Oh when I saw it fall Into my hands, through all that naïve light, It seemed as blessed with truth and new delight As must have been the first great gift of all.
I see the boys of summer in their ruin Lay the gold tithings barren, Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils; There in their heat the winter floods Of frozen loves they fetch their girls, And drown the cargoed apples in their tides. These boys of light are curdlers in their folly, Sour the boiling honey; The jacks of frost they finger in the hives; There in the sun the frigid threads Of doubt and dark they feed their nerves; The signal moon is zero in their voids. I see the summer children in their mothers Split up the brawned womb's weathers, Divide the night and day with fairy thumbs; There in the deep with quartered shades Of sun and moon they paint their dams As sunlight paints the shelling of their heads. I see that from these boys shall men of nothing Stature by seedy shifting, Or lame the air with leaping from its heats; There from their hearts the dogdayed pulse Of love and light bursts in their throats. O see the pulse of summer in the ice.
But seasons must be challenged or they totter Into a chiming quarter Where, punctual as death, we ring the stars; There, in his night, the black-tongued bells The sleepy man of winter pulls, Nor blows back moon-and-midnight as she blows. We are the dark derniers let us summon Death from a summer woman, A muscling life from lovers in their cramp From the fair dead who flush the sea The bright-eyed worm on Davy's lamp And from the planted womb the man of straw. We summer boys in this four-winded spinning, Green of the seaweeds' iron, Hold up the noisy sea and drop her birds, Pick the world's ball of wave and froth To choke the deserts with her tides, And comb the county gardens for a wreath. In spring we cross our foreheads with the holly, Heigh ho the blood and berry, And nail the merry squires to the trees; Here love's damp muscle dries and dies Here break a kiss in no love's quarry, O see the poles of promise in the boys.
I see you boys of summer in your ruin. Man in his maggot's barren. And boys are full and foreign to the pouch. I am the man your father was. We are the sons of flint and pitch. O see the poles are kissing as they cross.
from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1939 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.
Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs Always wrong to the light, so never seeing Deeper down in the well than where the water Gives me back in a shining surface picture Me myself in the summer heaven godlike Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs. Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb, I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture, Through the picture, a something white, uncertain, Something more of the depths—and then I lost it. Water came to rebuke the too clear water. One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom, Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness? Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.
This poem is in the public domain.
I know I am but summer to your heart, And not the full four seasons of the year; And you must welcome from another part Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear. No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing; And I have loved you all too long and well To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring. Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes, I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums, That you may hail anew the bird and rose When I come back to you, as summer comes. Else will you seek, at some not distant time, Even your summer in another clime.
This poem is in the public domain.
A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip— There is a glorious fellowship! Father and son and the open sky And the white clouds lazily drifting by, And the laughing stream as it runs along With the clicking reel like a martial song, And the father teaching the youngster gay How to land a fish in the sportsman's way. I fancy I hear them talking there In an open boat, and the speech is fair. And the boy is learning the ways of men From the finest man in his youthful ken. Kings, to the youngster, cannot compare With the gentle father who's with him there. And the greatest mind of the human race Not for one minute could take his place. Which is happier, man or boy? The soul of the father is steeped in joy, For he's finding out, to his heart's delight, That his son is fit for the future fight. He is learning the glorious depths of him, And the thoughts he thinks and his every whim; And he shall discover, when night comes on, How close he has grown to his little son. A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip— Builders of life's companionship! Oh, I envy them, as I see them there Under the sky in the open air, For out of the old, old long-ago Come the summer days that I used to know, When I learned life's truths from my father's lips As I shared the joy of his fishing-trips.
This poem is in the public domain.
Wanderer moon smiling a faintly ironical smile at this brilliant, dew-moistened summer morning,— a detached sleepily indifferent smile, a wanderer’s smile,— if I should buy a shirt your color and put on a necktie sky-blue where would they carry me?
This poem is in the public domain.
Shine on, O moon of summer. Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak, All silver under your rain to-night. An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion. A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month; to-night they are throwing you kisses. An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a cherry tree in his back yard. The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking white thoughts you rain down. Shine on, O moon, Shake out more and more silver changes.
From The Chicago Poems (Henry Holt and Company, 1916) by Carl Sandburg.
In the wild soft summer darkness How many and many a night we two together Sat in the park and watched the Hudson Wearing her lights like golden spangles Glinting on black satin. The rail along the curving pathway Was low in a happy place to let us cross, And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom Sheltered us, While your kisses and the flowers, Falling, falling, Tangled in my hair.... The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky. And now, far off In the fragrant darkness The tree is tremulous again with bloom For June comes back. To-night what girl Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair This year's blossoms, clinging to its coils?
This poem is in the public domain.
Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so. I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature's changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world's heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!
This poem is in the public domain.
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
This poem is in the public domain.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
This poem is in the public domain.