Slight as thou art, thou art enough to hide,
Like all created things, secrets from me,
And stand a barrier to eternity.
And I, how can I praise thee well and wide

From where I dwell—upon the hither side?
Thou little veil for so great mystery,
When shall I penetrate all things and thee,
And then look back? For this I must abide,

Till thou shalt grow and fold and be unfurled
Literally between me and the world.
Then shall I drink from in beneath a spring,

And from a poet’s side shall read his book.
O daisy mine, what will it be to look
From God’s side even of such a simple thing?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 25, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.


I should like to creep
Through the long brown grasses
        That are your lashes;
I should like to poise
        On the very brink
Of the leaf-brown pools
        That are your shadowed eyes;
I should like to cleave
        Without sound,
Their glimmering waters,
        Their unrippled waters,
I should like to sink down
        And down
            And down . . . .
                And deeply drown.


Would I be more than a bubble breaking?
        Or an ever-widening circle
        Ceasing at the marge?
Would my white bones
        Be the only white bones
Wavering back and forth, back and forth
        In their depths?

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

My window opens out into the trees
And in that small space 
Of branches and of sky 
I see the seasons pass 
Behold the tender green 
Give way to darker heavier leaves. 
The glory of the autumn comes 
When steeped in mellow sunlight 
The fragile, golden leaves
Against a clear blue sky 
Linger in the magic of the afternoon 
And then reluctantly break off
And filter down to pave
A street with gold. 
Then bare, gray branches 
Lift themselves against the 
Cold December sky 
Sometimes weaving a web 
Across the rose and dusk of late sunset 
Sometimes against a frail new moon
And one bright star riding
A sky of that dark, living blue 
Which comes before the heaviness
Of night descends, or the stars
Have powdered the heavens. 
Winds beat against these trees; 
The cold, but gentle rain of spring 
Touches them lightly
The summer torrents strive 
To lash them into a fury 
And seek to break them—
But they stand. 
My life is fevered
And a restlessness at times
An agony—again a vague 
And baffling discontent 
Possesses me. 
I am thankful for my bit of sky
And trees, and for the shifting 
Pageant of the seasons. 
Such beauty lays upon the heart 
A quiet. 
Such eternal change and permanence
Take meaning from all turmoil
And leave serenity 
Which knows no pain. 

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.


The sky was blue, so blue that day
    And each daisy white, so white,
O, I knew that no more could rains fall grey
    And night again be night.

                    . . . . .                    

I knew, I knew.   Well, if night is night,
    And the grey skies greyly cry,
I have in a book for the candle light,
    A daisy dead and dry.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

In Muskoka

Lichens of green and grey on every side;
And green and grey the rocks beneath our feet;
Above our heads the canvas stretching wide;
And over all, enchantment rare and sweet.

Fair Rosseau slumbers in an atmosphere
That kisses her to passionless soft dreams.
O! joy of living we have found thee here,
And life lacks nothing, so complete it seems.

The velvet air, stirred by some elfin wings,
Comes swinging up the waters and then stills
Its voice so low that floating by it sings
Like distant harps among the distant hills.

Across the lake the rugged islands lie.
Fir-crowned and grim; and further in the view
Some shadows seeming swung ’twixt cloud and sky,
Are countless shores, a symphony of blue.

Some northern sorceress, when day is done,
Hovers where cliffs uplift their gaunt grey steeps,
Bewitching to vermilion Rosseau’s sun,
That in a liquid mass of rubies sleeps.

The scent of burning leaves, the camp-fire’s blaze,
The great logs cracking in the brilliant flame,
The groups grotesque, on which the firelight plays,
Are pictures which Muskoka twilights frame.

And Night, star-crested, wanders up the mere
With opiates for idleness to quaff,
And while she ministers, far off I hear
The owl’s uncanny cry, the wild loon’s laugh.

From Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (The Musson Book Co., Limited, 1917) by Emily Pauline Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.


A stream of tender gladness,
Of filmy sun, and opal tinted skies;
Of warm midsummer air that lightly lies
In mystic rings,
Where softly swings
The music of a thousand wings
That almost tones to sadness.

Midway ’twixt earth and heaven,
A bubble in the pearly air, I seem
To float upon the sapphire floor, a dream
Of clouds of snow,
Above, below,
Drift with my drifting, dim and slow,
As twilight drifts to even.

The little fern-leaf, bending
Upon the brink, its green reflection greets,
And kisses soft the shadow that it meets
With touch so fine,
The border line
The keenest vision can’t define;
So perfect is the blending.

The far, fir trees that cover
The brownish hills with needles green and gold,
The arching elms o’erhead, vinegrown and old,
Repictured are
Beneath me far,
Where not a ripple moves to mar
Shades underneath, or over.

Mine is the undertone;
The beauty, strength, and power of the land
Will never stir or bend at my command;
But all the shade
Is marred or made,
If I but dip my paddle blade;
And it is mine alone.

O! pathless world of seeming!
O! pathless life of mine whose deep ideal
Is more my own than ever was the real.
For others Fame
And Love’s red flame,
And yellow gold: I only claim
The shadows and the dreaming.

From Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (The Musson Book Co., Limited, 1917) by Emily Pauline Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

Idles the night wind through the dreaming firs,
That waking murmur low,
As some lost melody returning stirs
The love of long ago;
And through the far, cool distance, zephyr fanned.
The moon is sinking into shadow-land.

The troubled night-bird, calling plaintively,
Wanders on restless wing;
The cedars, chanting vespers to the sea,
Await its answering,
That comes in wash of waves along the strand,
The while the moon slips into shadow-land.

O! soft responsive voices of the night
I join your minstrelsy.
And call across the fading silver light
As something calls to me;
I may not all your meaning understand,
But I have touched your soul in shadow-land.

From Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (The Musson Book Co., Limited, 1917) by Emily Pauline Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

Like tiny drops of crystal rain,
       In every life the moments fall,
To wear away with silent beat,
       The shell of selfishness o’er all.

And every act, not one too small,
       That leaps from out the heart’s pure glow,
Like ray of gold sends forth a light,
       While moments into seasons flow.

Athwart the dome, Eternity,
       To Iris grown resplendent, fly
Bright gleams from every noble deed,
       Till colors with each other vie.

’Tis glimpses of this grand rainbow,
       Where moments with good deeds unite,
That gladden many weary hearts,
       Inspiring them to seek more Light.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated from the Spanish by William Cullen Bryant

          My bird has flown away,
Far out of sight has flown, I know not where.
          Look in your lawn, I pray,
          Ye maidens, kind and fair,
And see if my beloved bird be there.

          His eyes are full of light;
The eagle of the rock has such an eye;
          And plumes, exceeding bright,
          Round his smooth temples lie,
And sweet his voice and tender as a sigh.

          Look where the grass is gay
With summer blossoms, haply there he cowers;
          And search, from spray to spray,
          The leafy laurel-bowers,
For well he loves the laurels and the flowers.

          Find him, but do not dwell,
With eyes too fond, on the fair form you see,
          Nor love his song too well;
          Send him, at once, to me,
Or leave him to the air and liberty.

          For only from my hand
He takes the seed into his golden beak,
          And all unwiped shall stand
          The tears that wet my cheek,
Till I have found the wanderer I seek.

          My sight is darkened o’er,
Whene’er I miss his eyes, which are my day,
          And when I hear no more
          The music of his lay,
My heart in utter sadness faints away.



El pájaro perdido 


   ¡Huyó con vuelo incierto,
Y de mis ojos ha desparecido! . . .
¡Mirad si a vuestro huerto
Mi pájaro querido,
Niñas hermosas, por acaso ha huido!

   Sus ojos relucientes
Son como los del águila orgullosa;
Plumas resplandecientes
En la cabeza airosa
Lleva, y su voz es tierna y armoniosa.

   Mirad si cuidadoso
Junto a las flores se escondió en la grama:
Ese laurel frondoso
Mirad rama por rama,
Que él los laureles y las flores ama.

   Si le halláis por ventura,
No os enamore su amoroso acento;
No os prende su hermosura:
Volvédmele al momento,
O dejadle, si no, libre en el viento.

   Porque su pico de oro
Sólo en mi mano toma la semilla,
Y no enjugaré el lloro
Que veis en mi mejilla
Hasta encontrar mi prófuga avecilla.

   Mi vista se oscurece
Si sus ojos no ve, que son mi día;
Mi ánima desfallece
Con la melancolía
De no escucharle ya su melodía.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 15, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Few things that grow here poison us.
Most of the animals are small.
Those big enough to kill us do it in a way
Easy to understand, easy to defend against.
The air, here, is just what the blood needs.
We don’t use helmets or special suits.

The Star, here, doesn’t burn you if you
Stay outside as much as you should.
The worst of our winters is bearable.
Water, both salt and sweet, is everywhere.
The things that live in it are easily gathered.
Mostly, you can eat them raw with safety and pleasure.

Yesterday my wife and I brought back
Shells, driftwood, stones, and other curiosities
Found on the beach of the immense
Fresh-water Sea we live by.
She was all excited by a slender white stone which:
“Exactly fits the hand!”

I couldn’t share her wonder;
Here, almost everything does.

From Ring of Bone: Collected Poems (New & Expanded Edition), edited by Donald Allen © 2012 by the Estate of Lew Welch.

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.

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.