The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you're older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.
From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Knopf and Vintage Books. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.
In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,
you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him
about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.
They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend
the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?
I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair
of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.
My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,
isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend
Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.
Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns
to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like
this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother
more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is
already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.
While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation
clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid
in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,
& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me
what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily
talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets
slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.
Remind me, he says
to our family.
Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore, Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly; Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome. She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank, She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window. Which of the young men does she like the best? Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her. Where are you off to, lady? for I see you, You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room. Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather, The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them. The beards of the young men glisten'd with wet, it ran from their long hair, Little streams pass'd over their bodies. An unseen hand also pass'd over their bodies, It descended trembling from their temples and ribs. The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them, They do not know who puffs and declines with the pendant and bending arch, They do not think whom they souse with spray.
This poem is in the public domain.
For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956
Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village. downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the phonograph the rhythm the rhythm—and your memory in my head three years after— And read Adonais' last triumphant stanzas aloud—wept, realizing how we suffer— And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember, prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An- swers—and my own imagination of a withered leaf—at dawn— Dreaming back thru life, Your time—and mine accelerating toward Apoca- lypse, the final moment—the flower burning in the Day—and what comes after, looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed— like a poem in the dark—escaped back to Oblivion— No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream, trapped in its disappearance, sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship- ping each other, worshipping the God included in it all—longing or inevitability?—while it lasts, a Vision—anything more? It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder, Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul- dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant—and the sky above—an old blue place. or down the Avenue to the south, to—as I walk toward the Lower East Side —where you walked 50 years ago, little girl—from Russia, eating the first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?—toward Newark— toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards— Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school, and learning to be mad, in a dream—what is this life? Toward the Key in the window—and the great Key lays its head of light on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the sidewalk—in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward the Yiddish Theater—and the place of poverty you knew, and I know, but without caring now—Strange to have moved thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again, with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on the street, fire escapes old as you —Tho you're not old now, that's left here with me— Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe—and I guess that dies with us—enough to cancel all that comes--What came is gone forever every time— That's good! That leaves it open for no regret—no fear radiators, lacklove, torture even toothache in the end— Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul—and the lamb, the soul, in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change's fierce hunger--hair and teeth—and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin, braintricked Implacability. Ai! ai! we do worse! We are in a fix! And you're out, Death let you out, Death had the Mercy, you're done with your century, done with God, done with the path thru it—Done with yourself at last—Pure —Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all—before the world— There, rest. No more suffering for you. I know where you've gone, it's good. No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more fear of Louis, and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts, loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands— No more of sister Elanor,—she gone before you—we kept it secret you killed her--or she killed herself to bear with you—an arthritic heart —But Death's killed you both—No matter— Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and weeks—forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human- ity, Chaplin dance in youth, or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin's at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar —by standing room with Elanor & Max—watching also the Capital ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds, with the YPSL's hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920 all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave—lucky to have husbands later— You made it—I came too—Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer—or kill —later perhaps—soon he will think—) And it's the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now --tho not you I didn't foresee what you felt--what more hideous gape of bad mouth came first--to you--and were you prepared? To go where? In that Dark--that--in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the Void? Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream? Adonoi at last, with you? Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon—Deaths- head with Halo? can you believe it? Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence, than none ever was? Nothing beyond what we have—what you had—that so pitiful—yet Tri- umph, to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower—fed to the ground—but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe, shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth wrapped, sore—freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless. No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the knife—lost Cut down by an idiot Snowman's icy—even in the Spring—strange ghost thought some—Death—Sharp icicle in his hand—crowned with old roses—a dog for his eyes—cock of a sweatshop—heart of electric irons. All the accumulations of life, that wear us out—clocks, bodies, consciousness, shoes, breasts—begotten sons—your Communism—'Paranoia' into hospitals. You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later. You of stroke. Asleep? within a year, the two of you, sisters in death. Is Elanor happy? Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over midnight Accountings, not sure. His life passes—as he sees—and what does he doubt now? Still dream of making money, or that might have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im- mortality, Naomi? I'll see him soon. Now I've got to cut through to talk to you as I didn't when you had a mouth. Forever. And we're bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson's horses —headed to the End. They know the way—These Steeds—run faster than we think—it's our own life they cross—and take with them. Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar- ried dreamed, mortal changed—Ass and face done with murder. In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept. Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless, Father in death. Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I'm hymnless, I'm Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not light or darkness, Dayless Eternity— Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some of my Time, now given to Nothing—to praise Thee—But Death This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won- derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping —page beyond Psalm—Last change of mine and Naomi—to God's perfect Darkness--Death, stay thy phantoms! II Over and over—refrain—of the Hospitals—still haven't written your history—leave it abstract—a few images run thru the mind—like the saxophone chorus of houses and years— remembrance of electrical shocks. By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your nervousness—you were fat—your next move— By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you— once and for all—when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my opinion of the cosmos, I was lost— By my later burden—vow to illuminate mankind—this is release of particulars—(mad as you)—(sanity a trick of agreement)— But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and spied a mystical assassin from Newark, So phoned the Doctor—'OK go way for a rest'—so I put on my coat and walked you downstreet—On the way a grammarschool boy screamed, unaccountably—'Where you goin Lady to Death'? I shuddered— and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma— And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of the gang? You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on—to New York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound—
From Collected Poems 1947-1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with permission.
I O Ye young and thoughtless youth, Come seek the living God, The scriptures are a sacred truth, Ye must believe the word. Eccle. xii. 1. II Tis God alone can make you wise, His wisdom's from above, He fills the soul with sweet supplies By his redeeming love. Prov. iv. 7. III Remember youth the time is short, Improve the present day And pray that God may guide your thoughts, and teach your lips to pray. Psalm xxx. 9. IV To pray unto the most high God, and beg restraining grace, Then by the power of his word You'l see the Saviour's face. V Little children they may die, Turn to their native dust, Their souls shall leap beyond the skies, And live among the just. VI Like little worms they turn and crawl, and gasp for every breath, The blessed Jesus sends his call, and takes them to his rest. VII Thus the youth are born to die, The time is hastening on, The Blessed Jesus rends the sky, and makes his power known. Psalm ciii. 15. VIII Then ye shall hear the angels sing The trumpet give a sound, Glory, glory to our King, The Saviour's coming down. Matth. xxvi. 64. IX Start ye saints from dusty beds, and hear a Saviour call, Twas Jesus Christ that died and bled, and thus preserv'd thy soul. X This the portion of the just, Who lov'd to serve the Lord, Their bodies starting from the dust, Shall rest upon their God. XI They shall join that holy word, That angels constant sing, Glory, glory to the Lord, Hallelujahs to our King. XII Thus the Saviour will appear, With guards of heavenly host, Those blessed Saints, shall then declare, Tis Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Rev. i. 7, 8. XIII Then shall ye hear the trumpet sound, The graves give up their dead, Those blessed saints shall quick awake, and leave their dusty beds. Matth. xxvii. 51, 52. XIV Then shall you hear the trumpet sound, and rend the native sky, Those bodies starting from the ground, In the twinkling of an eye. I Cor. xv. 51, 52, 53, 54. XV There to sing the praise of God, and join the angelic train, And by the power of his word, Unite together again. XVI Where angels stand for to admit Their souls at the first word, Cast sceptres down at Jesus feet Crying holy holy Lord. XVII Now glory be unto our God all praise be justly given, Ye humble souls that love the Lord Come seek the joys of Heaven.
This poem is in the public domain.
1 To think of time—of all that retrospection! To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward! Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue? Have you dreaded these earth-beetles? Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you? Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing? If the future is nothing, they are just as surely nothing. To think that the sun rose in the east! that men and women were flexible, real, alive! that everything was alive! To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part! To think that we are now here, and bear our part! 2 Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without an accouchement! Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without a corpse! The dull nights go over, and the dull days also, The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over, The physician, after long putting off, gives the silent and terrible look for an answer, The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters are sent for, Medicines stand unused on the shelf—(the camphor-smell has long pervaded the rooms,) The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying, The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying, The breath ceases, and the pulse of the heart ceases, The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living look upon it, It is palpable as the living are palpable. The living look upon the corpse with their eye-sight, But without eye-sight lingers a different living, and looks curiously on the corpse. 3 To think the thought of Death, merged in the thought of materials! To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow fall, and fruits ripen, and act upon others as upon us now—yet not act upon us! To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking great interest in them—and we taking no interest in them! To think how eager we are in building our houses! To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent! (I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or seventy or eighty years at most, I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.) Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth—they never cease—they are the burial lines, He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall surely be buried. 4 A reminiscence of the vulgar fate, A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen, Each after his kind: Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf—posh and ice in the river, half-frozen mud in the streets, a gray, discouraged sky overhead, the short, last daylight of Twelfth-month, A hearse and stages—other vehicles give place—the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers. Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell, the gate is pass'd, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, the hearse uncloses, The coffin is pass'd out, lower'd and settled, the whip is laid on the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel'd in, The mound above is flatted with the spades—silence, A minute—no one moves or speaks—it is done, He is decently put away—is there anything more? He was a good fellow, free-mouth'd, quick-temper'd, not bad-looking, able to take his own part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate hearty, drank hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited toward the last, sicken'd, was help'd by a contribution, died, aged forty-one years—and that was his funeral. Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap, wet-weather clothes, whip carefully chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler, somebody loafing on you, you loafing on somebody, headway, man before and man behind, good day's work, bad day's work, pet stock, mean stock, first out, last out, turning-in at night; To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers—and he there takes no interest in them! 5 The markets, the government, the working-man's wages—to think what account they are through our nights and days! To think that other working-men will make just as great account of them—yet we make little or no account! The vulgar and the refined—what you call sin, and what you call goodness—to think how wide a difference! To think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie beyond the difference. To think how much pleasure there is! Have you pleasure from looking at the sky? have you pleasure from poems? Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or planning a nomination and election? or with your wife and family? Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly housework? or the beautiful maternal cares? —These also flow onward to others—you and I flow onward, But in due time, you and I shall take less interest in them. Your farm, profits, crops,—to think how engross'd you are! To think there will still be farms, profits, crops—yet for you, of what avail? 6 What will be, will be well—for what is, is well, To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well. The sky continues beautiful, The pleasure of men with women shall never be sated, nor the pleasure of women with men, nor the pleasure from poems, The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building of houses—these are not phantasms—they have weight, form, location; Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them phantasms, The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion, The earth is not an echo—man and his life, and all the things of his life, are well-consider'd. You are not thrown to the winds—you gather certainly and safely around yourself; Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever! 7 It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and father—it is to identify you; It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided; Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form'd in you, You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes. The threads that were spun are gather'd, the weft crosses the warp, the pattern is systematic. The preparations have every one been justified, The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments—the baton has given the signal. The guest that was coming—he waited long, for reasons—he is now housed, He is one of those who are beautiful and happy—he is one of those that to look upon and be with is enough. The law of the past cannot be eluded, The law of the present and future cannot be eluded, The law of the living cannot be eluded—it is eternal, The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded, The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded, The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons—not one iota thereof can be eluded. 8 Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth, Northerner goes carried, and Southerner goes carried, and they on the Atlantic side, and they on the Pacific, and they between, and all through the Mississippi country, and all over the earth. The great masters and kosmos are well as they go—the heroes and good-doers are well, The known leaders and inventors, and the rich owners and pious and distinguish'd, may be well, But there is more account than that—there is strict account of all. The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing, The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing, The common people of Europe are not nothing—the American aborigines are not nothing, The infected in the immigrant hospital are not nothing—the murderer or mean person is not nothing, The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as they go, The lowest prostitute is not nothing—the mocker of religion is not nothing as he goes. 9 Of and in all these things, I have dream'd that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of us changed, I have dream'd that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present and past law, And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and past law, For I have dream'd that the law they are under now is enough. If otherwise, all came but to ashes of dung, If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betray'd! Then indeed suspicion of death. Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death, I should die now, Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation? 10 Pleasantly and well-suited I walk, Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good, The whole universe indicates that it is good, The past and the present indicate that it is good. How beautiful and perfect are the animals! How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it! What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect, The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable fluids are perfect; Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely they yet pass on. 11 I swear I think now that everything without exception has an eternal Soul! The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have! the animals! I swear I think there is nothing but immortality! That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and the cohering is for it; And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life and materials are altogether for it!
This poem is in the public domain.
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,
As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –
Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
The Soul has Bandaged moments –
When too appalled to stir –
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her –
Salute her, with long fingers –
Caress her freezing hair –
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover – hovered – o’er –
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme – so – fair –
The soul has moments of escape –
When bursting all the doors –
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings opon the Hours,
As do the Bee – delirious borne –
Long Dungeoned from his Rose –
Touch Liberty – then know no more,
But Noon, and Paradise –
The Soul’s retaken moments –
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the song,
The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue –
The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © renewed 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1914, 1918, 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1942 by Martha Dickinson Bianchi. Copyright © 1952, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1965 by Mary L. Hampson.
—for Patrick Rosal
Before, ache never seemed long like a tunnel
under the city flaring off another tunnel
the subway rumbled against, or the dark
jutting out of daylight’s reach up on 187th
when I know some part is inhabited and
that habitation looks out at me. I know
every uninhabited place lodges a thing looking
out. I have grown into a life, become middle
aged, deepened into the hidden inside, like
the day into its other half, or a memory
of a woman’s silence after she didn’t
want to be kissed, and I wonder when rot
began, and I wonder what other ideas the cabbie
had when he turned into the truck’s path.
Sometimes silence is emptier than some oaths
I have made. Hours change habits and late seeps
into early and rain, in another part of this
country, suddenly, heavily falls, flattens seams,
frays and splits them like I did away from a lover once
in a city where both of us were foreign, and she
the only person who recognized me for a thousand miles,
the only one who knew where I was. And
then not. This ache is empty like that.
Copyright © 2015 by Curtis Bauer. “Self Portrait in Dark Interior” originally appeared in Southern Indiana Review. Used with permission of the author.
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright—
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done—
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead—
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"
"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
"0 Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said;
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head—
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat—
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more and more and more—
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed—
Now, if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said,
"Do you admire the view?
"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice.
I wish you were not quite so deaf—
I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick.
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
"0 Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none—
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
This poem is in the public domain.
I’ve got two hands and an urge
to yank out your teeth,
my lover said, dropping the dress
she made from my shirt
to the floor, to see the landscape
a mouth of holes might look like.
Maybe jagged potholes on a rainslick
street, she said, climbing over
the bed. Maybe, she winked, a prairie
dog town in West Texas after a flood.
Copyright © 2017 Curtis Bauer. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.
Days are too long,
Sunshine’s too hot,
Wind is too strong.
Clouds are too fluffy,
Grass is too green,
Ground is too dusty,
Sheets are too clean.
Stars are too twinkly,
Moon is too high,
Water’s too drippy,
Sand is too dry.
Rocks are too heavy,
Feathers too light,
Kids are too noisy,
Shoes are too tight.
Folks are too happy,
Singin’ their songs.
Why can’t they see it?
From Where the Sidewalk Ends, thirtieth-anniversary special edition by Shel Silverstein. Copyright © 2004 by Shel Silverstein. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers,
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. All rights reserved.
Look at the slight valley of the horse between haunch and shoulder,
recalling its rider and the low hills between. Form never forgets.
Though they are free to be real horses not obscured by work,
not pull anything, they must think hard to do nothing but remember
their lovers to run the low hills and dream and eat up green landscape.
He thinks of her and the way part of him still sinks down the cushions
when he's gone. A few remembering shapes linger till the foam or feathers
take a deep breath and remember what they were. If he comes back soon
he may not be quite missing, indentations rising as if still getting up.
When he leaves he feels her still on him, a loving cinch like the feel of hat,
the hat gone.
from All the Lavish in Common, University of Massachusetts Press, 2006
This fireman comes every afternoon
to the café on the corner
dressed for his shift in clean dark blues
This time it’s the second Wednesday of January
and he’s meeting his daughter again
who must be five or six
and who is always waiting for her father like this
in her charcoal gray plaid skirt
with green and red stripes
She probably comes here straight from school
her glasses a couple nickels thick
By now I know that she can sit (except
for her one leg swinging from the chair)
absolutely still while her father pulls
fighters’ wraps from his work bag
and begins half way down the girl’s forearm
winding the fabric in overlapping spirals
slowly toward her fist then he props
her wrist like a pro on his own hand
unraveling the black cloth weaving it
between her thumb and forefinger
around the palm taut but
not so much that it cuts off the blood then
up the hand and between the other fingers
to protect the knuckles the tough
humpback guppies just under the skin
He does this once with her left then again
to her right To be sure her pops knows he has done
a good job she nods Good job Good
Maybe you’re right I don’t know what love is
A father kisses the top of his daughter’s head
and knocks her glasses cockeyed
He sits back and downs the last of the backwash
in his coffee cup They got 10 minutes to kill
before they walk across the street down the block
and out of sight She wants to test
her dad’s handiwork by throwing
a couple jab-cross combos from her seat
There is nothing in the daughter’s face
that says she is afraid
There is nothing in the father’s face
to say he is not He checks his watch
then holds up his palms as if to show his daughter
that nothing is burning In Philadelphia
there are fires I’ve seen those in my lifetime too
Copyright © 2018 by Patrick Rosal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.