Little born baby-bird, lapped in your nest,
Wrapped in your nest,
Strapped in your nest,
Your straight little cradle-board rocks you to rest;
Its hands are your nest;
Its bands are your nest;
It swings from the down-bending branch of the oak;
You watch the camp flame, and the curling grey smoke;
But, oh, for your pretty black eyes sleep is best,—
Little brown baby of mind, go to rest.
Little brown baby-bird swinging to sleep,
Winging to sleep,
Singing to sleep,
Your wonder-black eyes that so wide open keep,
Shielding their sleep,
Unyielding to sleep,
The heron is homing, the plover is still,
The night-owl calls from his haunt on the hill,
Afar the fox barks, afar the stars peep,—
Little brown baby of mine, go to sleep.
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.
I have buried my share and hardly anyone knows.
A house must hold ghosts, writing
Names across funereal woods and windows
Good for viewing the lingering past.
This night of telescopes fixes the cold
October sky—a Saturn so delicate as if
Sketched by moths holding to nearby stones
For their lives. The sutures of the moon drift
Into sharpness and a hand points to the inevitable screen
Another haunt in this dim garden where voices ride
Across pines and the invisible fountain locked
In the same little song. Here is the Sea of Crisis
And I would recognize its expanse anywhere
Having visited often, even beneath my lids when I disappear
At night to visit with a father who no longer knows me
Or the dead who always do, and glow like the rain or a rose
Finished with the business of becoming. I can’t say the worst
Because I’ll keep living it. Machine of the mind. Belt
Of the hunter. I can spot his patient blade from either coast—
The one where I drown the one where I love the one
Where I keep rowing through the blaze and the black.
Copyright © 2019 by Emma Trelles. Originally published in Zócalo Public Square, October 2019. Used with the permission of the poet.
A lover whom duty called over the wave,
With himself communed: "Will my love be true
If left to herself? Had I better not sue
Some friend to watch over her, good and grave?
But my friend might fail in my need," he said,
"And I return to find love dead.
Since friendships fade like the flow'rs of June,
I will leave her in charge of the stable moon."
Then he said to the moon: "O dear old moon,
Who for years and years from thy throne above
Hast nurtured and guarded young lovers and love,
My heart has but come to its waiting June,
And the promise time of the budding vine;
Oh, guard thee well this love of mine."
And he harked him then while all was still,
And the pale moon answered and said, 'I will.'
And he sailed in his ship o'er many seas,
And he wandered wide o'er strange far strands:
in isles of the south and in Orient lands,
Where pestilence lurks in the breath of the breeze.
But his star was high, so he braved the main,
And sailed him blithely home again;
And with joy he bended his footsteps soon
To learn of his love from the matron moon.
She sat as of yore, in her olden place,
Serene as death, in her silver chair.
A white rose gleamed in her whiter hair,
And the tint of a blush was on her face.
At sight of the youth she sadly bowed
And hid her face 'neath a gracious cloud.
She faltered faint on the night's dim marge,
But "How," spoke the youth, "have you kept your charge?"
The moon was sad at a trust ill-kept;
The blush went out in her blanching cheek,
And her voice was timid and low and weak,
As she made her plea and sighed and wept.
'Oh, another prayed and another plead,
And I couldn't resist," she answering said;
"But love still grows in the hearts of men:
Go forth, dear youth, and love again."
But he turned him away from her proffered grace.
"Thou art false, O moon, as the hearts of men,
I will not, will not love again."
And he turned sheer 'round with a soul-sick face
To the sea, and cried: "Sea, curse the moon,
Who makes her vows and forgets so soon."
And the awful sea with anger stirred,
And his breast heaved hard as he lay and heard.
And ever the moon wept down in rain,
And ever her sighs rose high in wind;
But the earth and sea were deaf and blind,
And she wept and sighed her griefs in vain.
And ever at night, when the storm is fierce,
The cries of a wraith through the thunders pierce;
And the waves strain their awful hands on high
To tear the false moon from the sky.
This poem is in the public domain.