In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.
I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.
Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which
The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.
I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash
And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark
And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,
And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,
It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.
It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.
From New and Collected Poems, published by Harcourt Brace, 1988. Copyright © 1969 by Richard Wilbur. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Here is the shadow of truth, for only the shadow is true. And the line where the incoming swell from the sunset Pacific First leans and staggers to break will tell all you need to know About submarine geography, and your father's death rattle Provides all biographical data required for the Who's Who of the dead. I cannot recall what I started to tell you, but at least I can say how night-long I have lain under the stars and Heard mountains moan in their sleep. By daylight, They remember nothing, and go about their lawful occasions Of not going anywhere except in slow disintegration. At night They remember, however, that there is something they cannot remember. So moan. Theirs is the perfected pain of conscience that Of forgetting the crime, and I hope you have not suffered it. I have. I do not recall what had burdened my tongue, but urge you To think on the slug's white belly, how sick-slick and soft, On the hairiness of stars, silver, silver, while the silence Blows like wind by, and on the sea's virgin bosom unveiled To give suck to the wavering serpent of the moon; and, In the distance, in plaza, piazza, place, platz, and square, Boot heels, like history being born, on cobbles bang. Everything seems an echo of something else. And when, by the hair, the headsman held up the head Of Mary of Scots, the lips kept on moving, But without sound. The lips, They were trying to say something very important. But I had forgotten to mention an upland Of wind-tortured stone white in darkness, and tall, but when No wind, mist gathers, and once on the Sarré at midnight, I watched the sheep huddling. Their eyes Stared into nothingness. In that mist-diffused light their eyes Were stupid and round like the eyes of fat fish in muddy water, Or of a scholar who has lost faith in his calling. Their jaws did not move. Shreds Of dry grass, gray in the gray mist-light, hung From the side of a jaw, unmoving. You would think that nothing would ever again happen. That may be a way to love God.
From New and Selected Poems 1923-1985 by Robert Penn Warren, published by Random House. Copyright © 1985 by Robert Penn Warren. Used by permission of William Morris Agency, Inc., on behalf of the author.
self-portrait with cats, with purple, with stacks
of half-read books adorning my desk, with coffee,
with mug, with yesterday’s mug. self-portrait
with guilt, with fear, with thick-banded silver ring,
painted toes, and no make-up on my face. self-
portrait with twins, with giggles, with sister at
last, with epistrophy, with crepescule with nellie,
with my favorite things. self-portrait with hard
head, with soft light, with raised eyebrow. self-
portrait voo-doo, self-portrait hijinks, self-portrait
surprise. self-portrait with patience, with political
protest, with poetry, with papers to grade. self-
portrait as thaumaturgic lass, self-portrait as luna
larva, self-portrait as your mama. self-portrait
with self at sixteen. self-portrait with shit-kickers,
with hip-huggers, with crimson silk, with wild
mushroom risotto and a glass of malbec. self-
portrait with partial disclosure, self-portrait with
half-truths, self-portrait with demi-monde. self-
portrait with a night at the beach, with a view
overlooking the lake, with cancelled flight. self-
portrait with a real future, with a slight chance of
sours, with glasses, with cream, with fries, with
a way with words, with a propositional phrase.
Copyright © 2010 by Evie Shockley. Used with permission of the author.