Fairy-like on earth advancing,
All transforming, all entrancing,
Playing on their way and dancing,
        Soil-untarnished yet,

Silver stars from sky are dropping,
Little fairies skipping, hopping,
On the roofs and turrets popping,
        Crowns with diamonds set.

Greeting nature’s silver wedding,
Argent splendor they are shedding,
And a bridal veil outspreading,
        Like a silver net;

Till town-alleys, foul and tainted,
Turn cathedral-aisles ensainted,
Carved with gorgeous, ermine-painted,
        Ornamental fret.

How all changed by elfin power!
Every house a magic tower,
Every tree with lilac-flower
        Lures like a coquette.

Following in their magic traces,
Hidden joy each heart embraces,
Sparkling eyes and brightened faces
        Everywhere are met.

How I love you, white-robed city,
Maiden-pure, and maiden-pretty!
But my love is—what a pity!—
        Tempered with regret.

Truer lover you would find me,
If you were not to remind me
Of a cold land left behind me
        That I’d fain forget.

This poem is in the public domain.

‘Twas the new moon! 
Since then I waited—
And lo! to-night!
[I have my reward!]

 

 

 

                                              —Translation by William George Aston

I wonder about the trees. 
Why do we wish to bear 
Forever the noise of these 
More than another noise 
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day 
Till we lose all measure of pace, 
And fixity in our joys, 
And acquire a listening air. 
They are that that talks of going      
But never gets away; 
And that talks no less for knowing, 
As it grows wiser and older, 
That now it means to stay. 
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder 
Sometimes when I watch trees sway, 
From the window or the door. 
I shall set forth for somewhere, 
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice 
And tossing so as to scare 
The white clouds over them on. 
I shall have less to say, 
But I shall be gone.

This poem is in the public domain.

My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite
historical revision, despite
our parent’s efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

From Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990–2010 (Graywolf Press, 2010) Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth Alexander. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press.

They shut the road through the woods
      Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
      And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
      Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
      And the thin anemones.
      Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
      And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
      Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
      Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
      Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
      And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
      Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
      As though they perfectly knew
      The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.

This poem is in the public domain.

Fall, falling, fallen. That's the way the season 
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples 
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves 
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition 
With the final remaining cardinals) and then 
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last 
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground. 
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees 
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever 
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun 
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance, 
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud 
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything 
Changes and moves in the split second between summer's 
Sprawling past and winter's hard revision, one moment 
Pulling out of the station according to schedule, 
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It 
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away 
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet, 
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving 
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us, 
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets. 
And every year there is a brief, startling moment 
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and 
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless 
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air: 
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies; 
It is the changing light of fall falling on us. 

From Wild Gratitude by Edward Hirsch Copyright © 1986 by Edward Hirsch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

I saw you as I passed last night,
    Framed in a sky of gold;
And through the sun’s fast paling light
    You seemed a queen of old,
Whose smile was light to all the world
    Against the crowding dark.
And in my soul a song there purled—
    Re-echoed by the lark.

I saw you as I passed last night,
    Your tresses burnished gold,
While in your eyes a happy bright
    Gleam of your friendship told.
And I went singing on my way;
    On, on into the dark.
But in my heart still shone the day,
    And still—still sang the lark.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The translucent claws of newborn mice

this pearl cast of color,

the barely perceptible

like a ghosted threshold of being:

here     not here.

The single breath we hold

on the thinnest verge of sight:

not there   there.

A curve nearly naked 

an arc of almost, 

a wisp of becoming

a wand—

tiny enough to change me.

Copyright © 2020 by Kimberly Blaeser. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 8, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

1. Because pockets are not a natural right.
2. Because the great majority of women do not want pockets. If they did they would have them.
3. Because whenever women have had pockets they have not used them.
4. Because women are required to carry enough things as it is, without the additional burden of pockets.
5. Because it would make dissension between husband and wife as to whose pockets were to be filled.
6. Because it would destroy man’s chivalry toward woman, if he did not have to carry all her things in his pockets.
7. Because men are men, and women are women. We must not fly in the face of nature.
8. Because pockets have been used by men to carry tobacco, pipes, whiskey flasks, chewing gum and compromising letters. We see no reason to suppose that women would use them more wisely.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
"If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately."

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. "Help,"
said the flight agent. "Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this."

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
"Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, "No, we're fine, you'll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let's call him."

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye, "Gate A-4" from Honeybee. Copyright © 2008 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with permission.

translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

    When I’m walking, everything
on earth gets up
and stops me and whispers to me,
and what they tell me is their story.

    And the people walking
on the road leave me their stories,
I pick them up where they fell
in cocoons of silken thread.

    Stories run through my body
or sit purring in my lap.
So many they take my breath away,
buzzing, boiling, humming.
Uncalled they come to me,
and told, they still won’t leave me.

    The ones that come down through the trees
weave and unweave themselves,
and knit me up and wind me round
until the sea drives them away.

    But the sea that’s always telling stories,
the wearier I am the more it tells me...

    The people who cut trees,
the people who break stones,
want stories before they go to sleep.

    Women looking for children
who got lost and don’t come home,
women who think they’re alive
and don’t know they’re dead,
every night they ask for stories,
and I return tale for tale.

    In the middle of the road, I stand
between rivers that won’t let me go,
and the circle keeps closing
and I’m caught in the wheel.

    The riverside people tell me
of the drowned woman sunk in grasses
and her gaze tells her story,
and I graft the tales into my open hands.

    To the thumb come stories of animals,
to the index fingers, stories of my dead.
There are so many tales of children
they swarm on my palms like ants.

    When my arms held
the one I had, the stories
all ran as a blood-gift
in my arms, all through the night.
Now, turned to the East,
I’m giving them away because I forget them.

    Old folks want them to be lies.
Children want them to be true.
All of them want to hear my own story,
which, on my living tongue, is dead.

    I’m seeking someone who remembers it
leaf by leaf, thread by thread.
I lend her my breath, I give her my legs,
so that hearing it may waken it for me.

 


La Contadora 

    Cuando camino se levantan
todas las cosas de la tierra
y me paran y cuchichean
y es su historia lo que cuentan.

    Y las gentes que caminan
en la ruta me la dejan
y la recojo caída
en capullos que son de huella.

    Historias corren mi cuerpo
o en mi regazo ronronean.
Tantas son que no dan respiro,
zumban, hierven y abejean.
Sin llamada se me vienen
y contadas tampoco dejan…

    Las que bajan por los árboles
se trenzan y se destrenzan,
y me tejen y me envuelvan
hasta que el mar los ahuyenta.

    Pero el mar que cuenta siempre
más rendida, más me deja...

    Los que están mascando bosque
y los que rompen la piedra,
al dormirse quieren historias.

    Mujeres que buscan hijos
perdidos que no regresan,
y las que se creen vivas
y no saben que están muertas,
cada noche piden historias,
y yo me rindo cuenta que cuenta.

    A medio camino quedo
entre ríos que no me sueltan,
el corro se va cerrando
y me atrapa en la rueda.

   Los ribereños me cuentan
la ahogada sumida en hierbas,
y su mirada cuenta su historia,
y yo las tronco en mis palmas abiertas.

    Al pulgar llegan las de animales,
al índice las de mis muertos.
Las de niños, de ser tantas
en las palmas me hormiguean.

    Cuando tomaba así mis brazos
el que yo tuve, todas ellas
en regalo de sangre corrieron
mis brazos una noche entera.
Ahora yo, vuelta al Oriente,
se las voy dando porque no recuerdo.

    Los viejos las quieren mentidas,
los niños las quieren ciertas.
Todos quieren oír la historia mía
que en mi lengua viva está muerta.

    Busco alguna que la recuerde
hoja por hoja, herbra por hebra.
Le presto mi aliento, le doy mi marcha
por si el oírla me la despierta.

From Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral: Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin. Copyright © 2003 Ursula K. Le Guin. Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

A touch of cold in the Autumn night
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded; 
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

This poem is in the public domain.

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft
as rabbits.
I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
two
cases
knitted
with threads of
twilight
and goatskin.
Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish made
of wool,
two long sharks
sea-blue, shot
through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this way
by
these
heavenly
socks.
They were
so handsome
for the first time
my feet seemed to me
unacceptable
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
unworthy
of that woven
fire,
of those glowing
socks.

Nevertheless
I resisted
the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere
as schoolboys
keep
fireflies,
as learned men
collect
sacred texts,
I resisted
the mad impulse
to put them
into a golden
cage
and each day give them
birdseed
and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
socks
and then my shoes.

The moral
of my ode is this:
beauty is twice
beauty
and what is good is doubly
good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool
in winter.

"Ode to My Socks" from Neruda & Vallejo: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda and translated by Robert Bly (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993). Used with permission of Robert Bly.