Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart;
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
   But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
 Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

This poem is in the public domain.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

From Homage to Clio by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1960 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

From Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, published by Harper & Brothers Publishers. Copyright © 1956 by Norma Millay Ellis.

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

This poem is in the public domain.

Be near me now,
My tormenter, my love, be near me—
At this hour when night comes down,
When, having drunk from the gash of sunset, darkness comes
With the balm of musk in its hands, its diamond lancets,
When it comes with cries of lamentation,
                                             with laughter with songs;
Its blue-gray anklets of pain clinking with every step.
At this hour when hearts, deep in their hiding places,
Have begun to hope once more, when they start their vigil
For hands still enfolded in sleeves;
When wine being poured makes the sound
                                             of inconsolable children
                      who, though you try with all your heart,
                                             cannot be soothed.
When whatever you want to do cannot be done,
When nothing is of any use;
—At this hour when night comes down,
When night comes, dragging its long face,
                                             dressed in mourning,
Be with me,
My tormenter, my love, be near me.

From The True Subject by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard. © 1987 Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love—put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

This poem is in the public domain.

Anna, thy charms my bosom fire,  
  And waste my soul with care;  
But ah! how bootless to admire,  
  When fated to despair!  
  
Yet in thy presence, lovely Fair,
  To hope may be forgiven;  
For sure 'twere impious to despair  
  So much in sight of heaven. 

This poem is in the public domain.

I lie here thinking of you:—

the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
heavily
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
of the whole world—

you far off there under
the wine-red selvage of the west!

From A Books of Poems: Al Que Quiere! (The Four Seas Company, 1917).

I do not love thee!—no! I do not love thee!
And yet when thou art absent I am sad;
   And envy even the bright blue sky above thee,
Whose quiet stars may see thee and be glad.

 
I do not love thee!—yet, I know not why,
Whate’er thou dost seems still well done, to me:
   And often in my solitude I sigh
That those I do love are not more like thee!
 

I do not love thee!—yet, when thou art gone,
I hate the sound (though those who speak be dear)
   Which breaks the lingering echo of the tone
Thy voice of music leaves upon my ear.
 

I do not love thee!—yet thy speaking eyes,
With their deep, bright, and most expressive blue,
   Between me and the midnight heaven arise,
Oftener than any eyes I ever knew.
 

I know I do not love thee! yet, alas!
Others will scarcely trust my candid heart;
   And oft I catch them smiling as they pass,
Because they see me gazing where thou art.

This poem is in the public domain.

I pray thee, leave, love me no more,   
  Call home the heart you gave me!   
I but in vain that saint adore   
  That can but will not save me.   
These poor half-kisses kill me quite— 
  Was ever man thus servèd?   
Amidst an ocean of delight   
  For pleasure to be starvèd?   
  
Show me no more those snowy breasts   
  With azure riverets branchèd,
Where, whilst mine eye with plenty feasts,   
  Yet is my thirst not stanchèd;   
O Tantalus, thy pains ne'er tell!   
  By me thou art prevented:   
'Tis nothing to be plagued in Hell, 
  But thus in Heaven tormented.   
  
Clip me no more in those dear arms,   
  Nor thy life's comfort call me,   
O these are but too powerful charms,   
  And do but more enthral me!
But see how patient I am grown   
  In all this coil about thee:   
Come, nice thing, let my heart alone,   
  I cannot live without thee!

This poem is in the public domain.

Never seek to tell thy love,
  Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind doth move
  Silently, invisibly.

I told my love, I told my love,
  I told her all my heart,
Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears.
  Ah! she did depart!

Soon after she was gone from me,
  A traveller came by,
Silently, invisibly:
  He took her with a sigh.

This poem is in the public domain.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

From The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

On a railroad car in your America,
I made the acquaintance of a man
who sang a life-song with these lyrics:
"Do whatever you can/ to avoid
becoming a roofing man."
I think maybe you'd deem his tenor
elitist, or you'd hear him as falling
off working-class key. He sang
not from his heart but his pulsing
imagination, where every roof is
sloped like a spire and Sequoia tall.
Who would wish for themselves, another,
such a treacherous climb? In your America,
a clay-colored colt stomps, its hooves
cursing the barn's chronic lean.
In your America, blood pulses
within the fields, slow-poaching a mill saw's
buried flesh. In my America, my father
awakens again thankful that my face
is not the face returning his glare
from above eleven o'clock news
murder headlines. In his imagination,
the odds are just as convincing
that I would be posted on a corner
pushing powder instead of poems—
no reflection of him as a father nor me
as a son. We were merely born
in a city where the rues beyond our doors
were the streets that shanghaied souls.
To you, my America appears
distant, if even real at all. While you are
barely visible to me. Yet we continue
stealing glances at each other
from across the tattered hallways
of this overgrown house we call
a nation—every minute
a new wall erected, a bedroom added
beneath its leaking canopy of dreams.
We hear the dripping, we feel drafts
wrap cold fingers about our necks,
but neither you or I trust each other
to hold the ladder or to ascend.


About this poem:
"I took Amtrak from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta for my brother's wedding. I'd never travelled that far south by train. I saw a familiar but antiquated ruralness—another iteration of America. On the return, I grabbed a seat next to a group of Alabamians on their way to Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. It seemed that, in the moment, there were so many different “Americas” colliding in the coach. While conversing about work over a dining car breakfast, one of the men, Mike Laus, offered a line about roofing someone had passed on to him. It struck me, and provided an entry point for musing on how little we see of, or believe in, each other's Americas."

Kyle Dargan

Copyright © 2013 by Kyle Dargan. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 18, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

It is a willow when summer is over,
a willow by the river
from which no leaf has fallen nor
bitten by the sun
turned orange or crimson.
The leaves cling and grow paler,
swing and grow paler
over the swirling waters of the river
as if loath to let go,
they are so cool, so drunk with
the swirl of the wind and of the river—
oblivious to winter,
the last to let go and fall
into the water and on the ground.

This poem is in the public domain.

The Documents are weeping, fading,
fearing the worst.

They are the messages
that keep coming.
They are promises, dreams, hymns,
i.o.u.’s. Proclamations.
Declarations.

They are word-flags.
Language
security blankets.

You could wrap yourself
in their giant pages.

They want to tell us who we are
or who we should want to be.

They are sails made of speech.

You could navigate
the vessel of your inner life
with their words propelling you along to the horizon.

The Documents tell their stories
over and over, even when you’re asleep,
even when the dark government temple
where they are entombed has shut
down for the night. The Documents never
tire, never shut down. They never expire.

They keep up their endless arguments,
hoping to be heard. Take heart, they insist.
Resist your worst impulses. Fight on,
even against invincible power. Listen
to what we have to tell you, they say, ancient,
faint, yet stronger than a wall ten miles thick.

Copyright ©2014 by Terence Winch. Used with permission of the author.

What torture lurks within a single thought
When grown too constant; and however kind,
However welcome still, the weary mind
Aches with its presence. Dull remembrance taught
Remembers on unceasingly; unsought
The old delight is with us but to find
That all recurring joy is pain refined,
Become a habit, and we struggle, caught.
You lie upon my heart as on a nest,
Folded in peace, for you can never know
How crushed I am with having you at rest
Heavy upon my life. I love you so
You bind my freedom from its rightful quest.
In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.

This poem is in the public domain. 

The mounting list of things I needed but
could not get. I tried to put on a sweater

but I was too small. The ceiling was too big.
The water wouldn’t stay where I swallowed it.

I stepped into a bath that was hotter
than expected, which quickly became

colder than expected. I brought a cherry
to my lips, bitter as a piece of grass.

The air was so thin that after several steps
everything pixilated like a cartoon bomb.

Then I saw mother’s nails
drumming the countertop.

Then I saw her tightening the knot.

Copyright © 2016 by Patricia Colleen Murphy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Where are you from?
      There.

Where are you headed?
      There.

What are you doing?
      Grieving.
            —Rabia Al-Adawiyya

Little brother, we are all grieving
& galaxy & goodbye. Once, I climbed inside
the old clock tower of my hometown
& found a dead bird, bathed in broken light,
like a little christ.

Little christ of our hearts, I know
planets light-years away
are under our tongues. We’ve tasted them.
We’ve climbed the staircases saying, There, there.

Little brother, we are all praying. Every morning,
I read out loud but not loud enough
to alarm anyone. Once, my love said, Please
open the door. I can hear you talk. Open the door.

Little christ of our hearts, tell anyone
you've been talking to god & see
what happens. Every day,
I open the door. I do it by looking
at my daughter on a swing—
eyes closed & crinkled, teeth bare.
I say, Good morning good morning you
little beating thing.

Little brother, we are all humming.
More & more, as I read, I sound
like my father with his book of prayers,
turning pages in his bed—a hymn
for each day of the week, a gift
from his mother, who taught me
the ten of diamonds is a win, left me
her loose prayer clothes. Bismillah.

Little christ of our hearts, forgive me,
for I loved eating the birds with lemon,
& the sound of their tiny bones. But I couldn’t
stomach the eyes of the fried fish.

Little brother, we are always hungry.
Here, this watermelon. Here, some salt
for the tomatoes. Here, this song
for the dead birds in time boxes,
& the living. That day in the clock tower,
I saw the city too, below—

                    the merchants who call, the blue awnings,
                    the corn carts, the clotheslines, the heat,
                    the gears that turn, & the remembering.

Copyright © 2018 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

              for Dad

I’m writing you
         10 years later
    & 2,000 miles
                 Away from 
    Our silence
My mouth a cave
That had collapsed 
      I’m writing
  While you 
You wear the
                Hospital gown & 
          count failures
  Such as the body’s 
Inability to rise
             I see your fingers 
Fumbling in the
       Pillbox     as if
             Earthquakes are in
    Your hands
                I think it’s time
    For us to  abandon
Our cruelties
             For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t 
We’re barely
                Human.

Copyright © 2018 by Christopher Soto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.