Your hair is long and wonderful;
It is dark, with golden
Lights in the length of it.
Long, lovely, liquid, glorious
Is your hair, and lustrous,
Scented with summertime.
Beware when you are combing it,
In the nights and mornings,
Shaking its splendor out.
I bid you comb it carefully,
For my soul is caught there,
Wound in the web of it.
This poem is in the public domain.
Boys begin to gather around the man like seagulls.
He ignores them entirely, but they follow him
from one end of the beach to the other.
Their footprints burn holes in the sand.
It’s quite a sight, a strange parade:
a man with a pair of wings strapped to his arms
followed by a flock of rowdy boys.
Some squawk and flap their bony limbs.
Others try to leap now and then, stumbling
as the sand tugs at their feet. One boy pretends to fly
in a circle around the man, cawing in his face.
We don’t know his name or why he walks
along our beach, talking to the wind.
To say nothing of those wings. A woman yells
to her son, Ask him if he’ll make me a pair.
Maybe I’ll finally leave your father.
He answers our cackles with a sudden stop,
turns, and runs toward the water.
The children jump into the waves after him.
Over the sound of their thrashes and giggles,
we hear a boy say, We don’t want wings.
We want to be fish now.
From Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Saeed Jones. Used with permission of The Permissions Company on behalf of Coffee House Press.
It wasn’t long before I rose
into the silk of my night-robes
and swilled the stars
and the beetles
back into sweetness—even my fingernails
carry my likeness, and I smudge
the marrow of myself
into light. I whisper street-
car, ardor, midnight
into the ears of the soldier
so he will forget everything
but the eyes of the night nurse
whose hair shines beneath
the prow of her white cap.
In the end, it is me
he shipwrecks. O arrow.
My arms knot as I pluck
the lone string tauter.
O crossbow. I kneel. He oozes,
and the grasses and red wasp
knock him back from my sight.
The night braids my hair.
I do not dream. I do not glow.
Copyright © 2015 by Tarfia Faizullah. Used with permission of the author.
She is the gypsy Whose young have rooted In the very flesh of her scalp. Her eyes are drill-holes where Your senses spin, and you are stone Even as you stand before her. She opens her lips to speak, And have you believe. She has more tongues to deceive Than you can deafen your ears to. If you could look away, the voices From the heads of her vipers Would be hard to argue. If you could look away, The pedestals of your feet might move. If you could look away, The song from the cathedral of her mouth Would fall to the floor like a lie.
From Waxworks by Frieda Hughes. Copyright © 2003 by Frieda Hughes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.
One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful flowers, one unlike all the others! She pulled, stooped to pull harder— when, sprung out of the earth on his glittering terrible carriage, he claimed his due. It is finished. No one heard her. No one! She had strayed from the herd. (Remember: go straight to school. This is important, stop fooling around! Don't answer to strangers. Stick with your playmates. Keep your eyes down.) This is how easily the pit opens. This is how one foot sinks into the ground.
“Persephone, Falling,” from Mother Love by Rita Dove. Copyright © 1995 by Rita Dove. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
My dear Telemachus, The Trojan War is over now; I don't recall who won it. The Greeks, no doubt, for only they would leave so many dead so far from their own homeland. But still, my homeward way has proved too long. While we were wasting time there, old Poseidon, it almost seems, stretched and extended space. I don't know where I am or what this place can be. It would appear some filthy island, with bushes, buildings, and great grunting pigs. A garden choked with weeds; some queen or other. Grass and huge stones . . . Telemachus, my son! To a wanderer the faces of all islands resemble one another. And the mind trips, numbering waves; eyes, sore from sea horizons, run; and the flesh of water stuffs the ears. I can't remember how the war came out; even how old you are--I can't remember. Grow up, then, my Telemachus, grow strong. Only the gods know if we'll see each other again. You've long since ceased to be that babe before whom I reined in the plowing bullocks. Had it not been for Palamedes' trick we two would still be living in one household. But maybe he was right; away from me you are quite safe from all Oedipal passions, and your dreams, my Telemachus, are blameless.
From A Part of Speech by Joseph Brodsky. Translation copyright © 1980 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.
All can see, in the shining places,
Vestiges of her classic graces;
Where her footsteps, fleet and stark,
Have beautifully embossed the dark.
We know indeed, that the stately and golden
Antlers, hunters and heroes olden,
Wood-nymph, satyr, and sylvan faun.—
Goddess and stag, are gone!—all gone!
But still,—as strange as it may appear,—
Sometimes when the nights are bright and clear,
The long-breathed hounds are heard to bay
Over the hills and far away!
And lovers who walk at Love’s high Noon,
See something flash in the light of the moon,
As a shining stag swept through the sky,
And the chase of the goddess were up, on high.
But be this as it may, in sooth,
It is only in the pursuit of Truth,
That the Soul shall overtake and possess
The most exalted Happiness.
This poem is in the public domain. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2014.