there are so many tictoc
clocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic

Spring is not regulated and does
not get out of order nor do
its hands a little jerking move
over numbers slowly

			we do not
wind it up it has no weights
springs wheels inside of
its slender self no indeed dear
nothing of the kind.

(So,when kiss Spring comes
we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss
lips because tic clocks toc don't make
a toctic difference
to kisskiss you and to 
kiss me)

From erotic poems by E. E. Cummings. Copyright © 2010 by E. E. Cummings. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..

the moon might rise and it might not
and if it brings a ghost light we will read beneath it

and if it returns to earth
we will listen for its phrases

and if I’m alone at the bedside table
I will have a ghost book to refer to

and when I lie back I’ll see its imprint
beneath my blood-red lids:

not lettered ink
but the clean page

not sugar
but the empty bowl

not flowers
but the dirt

 

*

 

blame the egg blame the fractured stones
at the bottom of the mind

blame his darkblue glare and craggy mug
the bulky king of trudge and stein

how I love a masculine in my parlor
his grizzly shout and weight one hundred drums

in this everywhere of blunt and soft sinking
I am the heavy hollow snared

the days are spring the days are summer
the days are nothing and not dead yet

 

*

 

worry the river over its banks
the train into flames

worry the black rain into the city
the troops into times square

worry the windows cracked acidblack
and the children feverblistered

worry never another summer
never again to live here gentle
with the other inhabitants

then leave too quickly
leave the pills and band-aids
the bathroom scale the Christmas lights the dog

go walking on our legs
dense and bare and useless

worry our throats and lungs
into taking the air

leave books on the shelves
leave keys dustpan

telephones don’t work where you were
in the chaos

 

*

 

and I couldn’t bear it
the children nearing the place
where the waves wet the shore

vaporous force
rising imperceptibly behind

we were talking about circumstance
horizon-gates swinging open
beneath the cherry blooms

wave rising in the background
impalpable and final
a girl in a white dress       barefoot

wasn’t I right to ask her to move in from the shore

 

*

 

this is the last usable hour

bird lured
through the window

a little sweet fruit

I could die here
and the hearsedriver
would take me out of this city

I’d say my name to him
as we crossed the Triboro

I’d say it softly         the way he likes it

it would be the last time
I’d introduce myself that way

Copyright © 2011 by Deborah Landau. Reprinted from The Last Usable Hour with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

2. 2047 Grace Street

But the world is more often refuge
than evidence, comfort and covert
for the flinching will, rather than the sharp
particulate instants through which God's being burns
into ours. I say God and mean more 
than the bright abyss that opens in that word.
I say world and mean less
than the abstract oblivion of atoms
out of which every intact thing emerges,
into which every intact thing finally goes.
I do not know how to come closer to God
except by standing where a world is ending
for one man. It is still dark,
and for an hour I have listened
to the breathing of the woman I love beyond
my ability to love. Praise to the pain
scalding us toward each other, the grief
beyond which, please God, she will live
and thrive. And praise to the light that is not
yet, the dawn in which one bird believes,
crying not as if there had been no night
but as if there were no night in which it had not been.

Excerpted from Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman. Published in November 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by Christian Wiman. All rights reserved.


from Nox ["gentes, gens gentis, feminine noun...]

 

From Nox, published by New Directions. Copyright © 2010 by Anne Carson. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


thought begins as small floral bowls  :  they hold greens—broccoli stalks,


                                                       chopped kale—against Chinese blue


                                                       very dark, with a greenish tint :




the way a silence falls to each side


of the knife's stroke, the colors rhyme


softly and I think, I'll miss this when I die.    This is how I enter appearances


Copyright © 2010 by Brian Teare. Used with permission of the author.

A CARAFE, THAT IS A BLIND GLASS.

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.

GLAZED GLITTER.

Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover.

The change in that is that red weakens an hour. The change has come. There is no search. But there is, there is that hope and that interpretation and sometime, surely any is unwelcome, sometime there is breath and there will be a sinecure and charming very charming is that clean and cleansing. Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing.

There is no gratitude in mercy and in medicine. There can be breakages in Japanese. That is no programme. That is no color chosen. It was chosen yesterday, that showed spitting and perhaps washing and polishing. It certainly showed no obligation and perhaps if borrowing is not natural there is some use in giving.

A SUBSTANCE IN A CUSHION.

The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable.

Callous is something that hardening leaves behind what will be soft if there is a genuine interest in there being present as many girls as men. Does this change. It shows that dirt is clean when there is a volume.

A cushion has that cover. Supposing you do not like to change, supposing it is very clean that there is no change in appearance, supposing that there is regularity and a costume is that any the worse than an oyster and an exchange. Come to season that is there any extreme use in feather and cotton. Is there not much more joy in a table and more chairs and very likely roundness and a place to put them.

A circle of fine card board and a chance to see a tassel.

What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it. The question does not come before there is a quotation. In any kind of place there is a top to covering and it is a pleasure at any rate there is some venturing in refusing to believe nonsense. It shows what use there is in a whole piece if one uses it and it is extreme and very likely the little things could be dearer but in any case there is a bargain and if there is the best thing to do is to take it away and wear it and then be reckless be reckless and resolved on returning gratitude.

Light blue and the same red with purple makes a change. It shows that there is no mistake. Any pink shows that and very likely it is reasonable. Very likely there should not be a finer fancy present. Some increase means a calamity and this is the best preparation for three and more being together. A little calm is so ordinary and in any case there is sweetness and some of that.

A seal and matches and a swan and ivy and a suit.

A closet, a closet does not connect under the bed. The band if it is white and black, the band has a green string. A sight a whole sight and a little groan grinding makes a trimming such a sweet singing trimming and a red thing not a round thing but a white thing, a red thing and a white thing.

The disgrace is not in carelessness nor even in sewing it comes out out of the way.

What is the sash like. The sash is not like anything mustard it is not like a same thing that has stripes, it is not even more hurt than that, it has a little top.

A BOX.

Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analysed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.

A PIECE OF COFFEE.

More of double.

A place in no new table.

A single image is not splendor. Dirty is yellow. A sign of more in not mentioned. A piece of coffee is not a detainer. The resemblance to yellow is dirtier and distincter. The clean mixture is whiter and not coal color, never more coal color than altogether.

The sight of a reason, the same sight slighter, the sight of a simpler negative answer, the same sore sounder, the intention to wishing, the same splendor, the same furniture.

The time to show a message is when too late and later there is no hanging in a blight.

A not torn rose-wood color. If it is not dangerous then a pleasure and more than any other if it is cheap is not cheaper. The amusing side is that the sooner there are no fewer the more certain is the necessity dwindled. Supposing that the case contained rose-wood and a color. Supposing that there was no reason for a distress and more likely for a number, supposing that there was no astonishment, is it not necessary to mingle astonishment.

The settling of stationing cleaning is one way not to shatter scatter and scattering. The one way to use custom is to use soap and silk for cleaning. The one way to see cotton is to have a design concentrating the illusion and the illustration. The perfect way is to accustom the thing to have a lining and the shape of a ribbon and to be solid, quite solid in standing and to use heaviness in morning. It is light enough in that. It has that shape nicely. Very nicely may not be exaggerating. Very strongly may be sincerely fainting. May be strangely flattering. May not be strange in everything. May not be strange to.

DIRT AND NOT COPPER.

Dirt and not copper makes a color darker. It makes the shape so heavy and makes no melody harder.

It makes mercy and relaxation and even a strength to spread a table fuller. There are more places not empty. They see cover.

NOTHING ELEGANT.

A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.

MILDRED'S UMBRELLA.

A cause and no curve, a cause and loud enough, a cause and extra a loud clash and an extra wagon, a sign of extra, a sac a small sac and an established color and cunning, a slender grey and no ribbon, this means a loss a great loss a restitution.

A METHOD OF A CLOAK.

A single climb to a line, a straight exchange to a cane, a desperate adventure and courage and a clock, all this which is a system, which has feeling, which has resignation and success, all makes an attractive black silver.

A RED STAMP.

If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.

From Tender Buttons (1914) by Gertrude Stein. This poem is in the public domain.

There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers.

There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light.

The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer

than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings,

stiller than the stare of a hooded falcon.

But no falcons in this green made by the passage of parents.

No, not parents, parrots flying through slow sleep

casting green rays to light the long dream.

If skin, dew would have drenched it, but dust

hung in space like the stoppage of

time itself, which, after dancing with parrots,

had said, Thank you. I'll rest now.

It's not too late to say the parrot light was thick

enough to part with a hand, and the feathers softening

the path, fallen after so much touching of cheeks,

were red, hibiscus red split by veins of flight

now at the end of flying.

Despite the halt of time, the feathers trusted red

and believed indolence would fill the long dream,

until the book shut and time began again to hurt.

From The Last Skin by Barbara Ras. Copyright © 2010 by Barbara Ras. Used by permission of Penguin.

Blond fireflies amid the summer hedges,
how splendid your sunray
darting through the darkness! You’ve reminded me
of something that has never vanished
from my childhood: infinite
hope through the fields. I see myself
as a child again, feel the unknown 
rhythm of times past: 
I a dream I am lying on a girl
stuck in my heart:
a musical bas-relief
for vast infinity: I compare her
to the moon, to the stars,
to the splendorous night
and everything attaches me to that love
I lose myself in:
of this I actually know nothing
except a confusing clamor.


Un amore

Lucciole bionde per le siepi d’estate,
com’è splendido il vostro raggio
che per le tenebra appare! Voi mi ricordate
qualcosa che non si annulla
della mia fanciullezza: infinita
speranza pei prati. Mi rivedo
fanciullo, sento l’ignota
cadenza di tempi andati:
sono in sogno sopra una fanciulla
che mi s’è fitta in cuore:
un bassorilievo musicale
per estese infinità: la paragono
alla luna, alle stelle,
allo splendore della notte
e tutto mi affiso in quell’amore
e mi vi disperdo:
di qui non so nulla

Copyright © 2013 by John Taylor. Used by permission of the translator. All rights reserved.

Under the separated leaves of shade
Of the gingko, that old tree
That has existed essentially unchanged
Longer than any other living tree, 
I walk behind a woman. Her hair's coarse gold
Is spun from the sunlight that it rides upon.
Women were paid to knit from sweet champagne
Her second skin: it winds and unwinds, winds
Up her long legs, delectable haunches,
As she sways, in sunlight, up the gazing aisle.
The shade of the tree that is called maidenhair,
That is not positively known
To exist in a wild state, spots her fair or almost fair
Hair twisted in a French twist; tall or almost tall,
She walks through the air the rain has washed, a clear thing
Moving easily on its high heels, seeming to men
Miraculous . . . Since I can call her, as Swann couldn't,
A woman who is my type, I follow with the warmth
Of familiarity, of novelty, this new
Example of the type,
Reminded of how Lorenz's just-hatched goslings
Shook off the last remnants of the egg
And, looking at Lorenz, realized that Lorenz
Was their mother. Quacking, his little family
Followed him everywhere; and when they met a goose, 
Their mother, they ran to him afraid. 

Imprinted upon me
Is the shape I run to, the sweet strange
Breath-taking contours that breathe to me: "I am yours,
Be mine!"
              Following this new
Body, somehow familiar, this young shape, somehow old,
For a moment I'm younger, the century is younger.
The living Strauss, his moustache just getting gray,
Is shouting to the players: "Louder!
Louder! I can still hear Madame Schumann-Heink—"
Or else, white, bald, the old man's joyfully
Telling conductors they must play Elektra
Like A Midsummer Night's Dream—like fairy music;
Proust, dying, is swallowing his iced beer
And changing in proof the death of Bergotte
According to his own experience; Garbo, 
A commissar in Paris, is listening attentively
To the voice telling how McGillicuddy met McGillivray, 
And McGillivray said to McGillicuddy—no, McGillicuddy
Said to McGillivray—that is, McGillivray . . . Garbo
Says seriously: "I vish dey'd never met."

As I walk behind this woman I remember
That before I flew here—waked in the forest
At dawn, by the piece called Birds Beginning Day
That, each day, birds play to begin the day—
I wished as men wish: "May this day be different!"
The birds were wishing, as birds wish—over and over, 
With a last firmness, intensity, reality—
"May this day be the same!"
                                        Ah, turn to me
And look into my eyes, say: "I am yours, 
Be mine!"
              My wish will have come true. And yet
When your eyes meet my eyes, they'll bring into 
The weightlessness of my pure wish the weight
Of a human being: someone to help or hurt,
Someone to be good to me, to be good to, 
Someone to cry when I am angry
That she doesn't like Elektra, someone to start out on Proust with.
A wish, come true, is life. I have my life.
When you turn just slide your eyes across my eyes
And show in a look flickering across your face
As lightly as a leaf's shade, a bird's wing, 
That there is no one in the world quite like me, 
That if only . . . If only . . . 
                                      That will be enough.

But I've pretended long enough: I walk faster
And come close, touch with the tip of my finger
The nape of her neck, just where the gold
Hair stops, and the champagne-colored dress begins. 
My finger touches her as the gingko's shadow
Touches her. 
                  Because, after all, it is my wife
In a new dress from Bergdorf's, walking toward the park.
She cries out, we kiss each other, and walk arm in arm
Through the sunlight that's much too good for New York, 
The sunlight of our own house in the forest.
Still, though, the poor things need it . . . We've no need
To start out on Proust, to ask each other about Strauss. 
We first helped each other, hurt each other, years ago.
After so many changes made and joys repeated, 
Our first bewildered, transcending recognition 
Is pure acceptance. We can't tell our life
From our wish. Really I began the day
Not with a man's wish: "May this day be different,"
But with the birds' wish: "May this day
Be the same day, the day of my life."

From The Complete Poems. Copyright © 1969 by Mrs. Randall Jarrell. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

This poem is in the public domain.

How strange will be my death, of which I've been thinking since childhood:
A sedentary old man leaving a small-town library
leans to one side and eventually collapses on the lawn.

I've every reason to believe that I'll experience what the others have experienced
while I climb the stairs carrying my supper in a plastic bag,
not even turning to look at the one who in that moment descends curly-haired and
     wearing a party dress.

It could be an ordinary death on a train:
a man who carefully studies the fields and hills in snow,
shuts his eyes folds his hands in his lap, and no longer sees what only a moment ago
     he admired.

I'm trying to remember other possibilities and so, here I am once again,
disguised as myself in a small, merry company,
where, after emptying my glass, I fall on the floor laughing, and pulling after me the
     tablecloth with the vase full of roses.

My death, of course, would have a spiritual meaning
in some mountain sanatorium for the insane
where croaking we complain to each other in beds with freshly changed sheets.

It could happen that I'll die in some way very different from the one I anticipate:
in the company of my wife and daughter, surrounded by books,
while outside a neighbor is trying to start a car that the night has surprised with snow.

From The Horse Has Six Legs: An Anthology of Serbian Poetry edited and translated by Charles Simic. Copyright © 2010 by Aleksandar Ristovic. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.

As when the hunt by holt and field
   Drives on with horn and strife,
Hunger of hopeless things pursues
   Our spirits throughout life.

The sea's roar fills us aching full
   Of objectless desire—
The sea's roar, and the white moon-shine,
   And the reddening of the fire.

Who talks to me of reason now?
   It would be more delight
To have died in Cleopatra's arms
   Than be alive to-night.

This poem is in the public domain.

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library. © 1995 by Stephen Mitchell. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

                 *

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

                  *

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Copyright © by the Estate of Archibald MacLeish and reprinted by permission of the Estate.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;	
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells	
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's	
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;	
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:	        
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;	
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,	
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.	
 
Í say móre: the just man justices;	
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;	        
Acts in God's eye what in God’s eye he is—	
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,	
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his	
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

This poem is in the public domain.

There were four apples on the bough,
Half gold half red, that one might know
The blood was ripe inside the core;
The colour of the leaves was more
Like stems of yellow corn that grow
Through all the gold June meadow’s floor.

The warm smell of the fruit was good
To feed on, and the split green wood,
With all its bearded lips and stains
Of mosses in the cloven veins,
Most pleasant, if one lay or stood
In sunshine or in happy rains.

There were four apples on the tree,
Red stained through gold, that all might see
The sun went warm from core to rind;
The green leaves made the summer blind
In that soft place they kept for me
With golden apples shut behind.

The leaves caught gold across the sun,
And where the bluest air begun,
Thirsted for song to help the heat;
As I to feel my lady’s feet
Draw close before the day were done;
Both lips grew dry with dreams of it.

In the mute August afternoon
They trembled to some undertune
Of music in the silver air;
Great pleasure was it to be there
Till green turned duskier and the moon
Coloured the corn-sheaves like gold hair.

That August time it was delight
To watch the red moons wane to white
’Twixt grey seamed stems of apple-trees;
A sense of heavy harmonies
Grew on the growth of patient night,
More sweet than shapen music is.

But some three hours before the moon
The air, still eager from the noon,
Flagged after heat, not wholly dead;
Against the stem I leant my head;
The colour soothed me like a tune,
Green leaves all round the gold and red.

I lay there till the warm smell grew
More sharp, when flecks of yellow dew
Between the round ripe leaves had blurred
The rind with stain and wet; I heard
A wind that blew and breathed and blew,
Too weak to alter its one word.

The wet leaves next the gentle fruit
Felt smoother, and the brown tree-root
Felt the mould warmer: I too felt
(As water feels the slow gold melt
Right through it when the day burns mute)
The peace of time wherein love dwelt.

There were four apples on the tree,
Gold stained on red that all might see
The sweet blood filled them to the core:
The colour of her hair is more
Like stems of fair faint gold, that be
Mown from the harvest’s middle floor.

This poem is in the public domain.

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars.

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting,
where the bear's teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

By Federico García Lorca, translated and edited by Robert Bly, and published by Beacon Press in Selected Poems: Lorca and Jiménez. © 1973 by Robert Bly. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

December Moon


Oak moon, reed moon—

our friend called;
she was telling the pain
what to think.

I said Look. If you
relax you'll get better.

Better? who wants better,
said a moonbeam
under the wire,

the soul is light’s
hypotenuse; the lily’s
logic is frozen fire

December Moon


Suppose you are the secret
of the shore—a strong wave
lying on its side—

you’d come to earth again

(as if joy’s understudy
would appear) & you
could live one more bold

day without meaning to,
afresh, on winter's piney floor;

you say, I’ve been
to the door & wept;
it says, what door

"December Moon," from Practical Water, © 2010 by Brenda Hillman. Used by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
            Out of SPACE— out of TIME.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the tears that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters— lone and dead,—
Their still waters— still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,—
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,—
By the mountains— near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—
By the grey woods,— by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp—
By the dismal tarns and pools


     Where dwell the Ghouls,—
By each spot the most unholy—
In each nook most melancholy—
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past—
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by—
White—robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth— and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion
'Tis a peaceful, soothing region—
For the spirit that walks in shadow
'Tis— oh, 'tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not— dare not openly view it!
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.

This poem is in the public domain.

There are five possibilities. One: Adam fell.
Two: he was pushed. Three: he jumped. Four:
he only looked over the edge, and one look silenced him.
Five: nothing worth mentioning happened to Adam.

The first, that he fell, is too simple. The fourth,
fear, we have tried and found useless. The fifth,
nothing happened, is dull. The choice is between:
he jumped or was pushed. And the difference between these

is only an issue of whether the demons
work from the inside out or from the outside
in: the one
theological question.

From Selected Poems by Robert Bringhurst. Copyright © 2012 by Robert Bringhurst. Reprinted with permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.

Slowly, without sun, the day sinks
toward the close of December.
It is minus sixty degrees.

Over the sleeping houses a dense
fog rises—smoke from banked fires,
and the snowy breath of an abyss
through which the cold town
is perceptibly falling.

As if Death were a voice made visible, 
with the power of illumination …

Now, in the white shadow
of those streets, ghostly newsboys
make their rounds, delivering 
to the homes of those
who have died of the frost
word of the resurrection of Silence.

Excerpted from The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems, copyright © 1993 by John Haines. Used with permission of Graywolf Press.

The children race now here by the ivied fence,
gather squealing now there by the lily border.
The evening calms the quickened air, immense
and warm; its veil is pierced with fire. The order
of space discloses as pair by pair porch lights
carve shadows. Cool phosphors flare when dark
permits yearning to signal where, with spark
and pause and spark, the fireflies are, the sites
they spiral when they aspire, with carefree ardor
busy, to embrace a star that draws them thence.

Like children we stand and stare, watching the field
that twinkles where gold wisps fare to the end
of dusk, as the sudden sphere, ivory shield
aloft, of moon stands clear of the world's far bend.

From Shadow Box by Fred Chappell. Copyright © 2010 by Fred Chappell. Used by permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.

Kind of empty in the way it sees everything, the earth gets to its feet and 
        salutes the sky. More of a success at it this time than most
        others it is. The feeling that the sky might be in the back of someone's
        mind. Then there is no telling how many there are. They grace
        everything--bush and tree--to take the roisterer's mind off his
        caroling--so it's like a smooth switch back. To what was aired in
        their previous conniption fit. There is so much to be seen everywhere
        that it's like not getting used to it, only there is so much it
        never feels new, never any different. You are standing looking at that
        building and you cannot take it all in, certain details are already hazy
        and the mind boggles. What will it all be like in five years' time
        when you try to remember? Will there have been boards in between the
        grass part and the edge of the street? As long as that couple is
        stopping to look in that window over there we cannot go. We feel like
        they have to tell us we can, but they never look our way and they are
        already gone, gone far into the future--the night of time. If we could
        look at a photograph of it and say there they are, they never really
        stopped but there they are. There is so much to be said, and on the
        surface of it very little gets said.
        
 There ought to be room for more things, for a spreading out, like.
        Being immersed in the details of rock and field and slope --letting them
        come to you for once, and then meeting them halfway would be so much
        easier--if they took an ingenuous pride in being in one's blood.
        Alas, we perceive them if at all as those things that were meant to be
        put aside-- costumes of the supporting actors or voice trilling at the
        end of a narrow enclosed street. You can do nothing with them. Not even
        offer to pay.
        
 It is possible that finally, like coming to the end of a long,
        barely perceptible rise, there is mutual cohesion and interaction. The
        whole scene is fixed in your mind, the music all present, as though you
        could see each note as well as hear it. I say this because there is an
        uneasiness in things just now. Waiting for something to be over before
        you are forced to notice it. The pollarded trees scarcely bucking the
        wind--and yet it's keen, it makes you fall over. Clabbered sky.
        Seasons that pass with a rush. After all it's their time
        too--nothing says they aren't to make something of it. As for Jenny
        Wren, she cares, hopping about on her little twig like she was tryin'
        to tell us somethin', but that's just it, she couldn't
        even if she wanted to--dumb bird. But the others--and they in some way
        must know too--it would never occur to them to want to, even if they
        could take the first step of the terrible journey toward feeling
        somebody should act, that ends in utter confusion and hopelessness, east
        of the sun and west of the moon. So their comment is: "No comment."
        Meanwhile the whole history of probabilities is coming to life, starting
        in the upper left-hand corner, like a sail.

From The Mooring of Starting Out: The First Five Books of Poetry, by John Ashbery, published by The Ecco Press. Copyright © 1956 by John Ashbery. Used with permission.

I was in a French movie
and had only nine hours to live
and I knew it
not because I planned to take my life
or swallowed a lethal but slow-working
potion meant for a juror
in a mob-related murder trial,
nor did I expect to be assassinated
like a chemical engineer mistaken
for someone important in Milan
or a Jew journalist kidnapped in Pakistan;
no, none of that; no grounds for 
suspicion, no murderous plots
centering on me with cryptic phone
messages and clues like a scarf or
lipstick left in the front seat of a car;
and yet I knew I would die
by the end of that day
and I knew it with a dreadful certainty,
and when I walked in the street
and looked in the eyes of the woman
walking toward me I knew that
she knew it, too,
and though I had never seen her before,
I knew she would spend the rest of that day
with me, those nine hours walking,
searching, going into a bookstore in Rome,
smoking a Gitane, and walking,
walking in London, taking the train
to Oxford from Paddington or Cambridge
from Liverpool Street and walking
along the river and across the bridges,
walking, talking, until my nine hours
were up and the black-and-white movie
ended with the single word FIN
in big white letters on a bare black screen.

From Yeshiva Boys by David Lehman. Copyright © 2010 by David Lehman. Used by permission of Scribner.

Directions 

Let some one hold the book, and ask one of the questions. The answers being all
numbered, the girl or boy who is questioned chooses a number, and the person 
who holds the book reads the answer to which that number belongs, aloud. 
For instance: 

Question. What is your character? 
Answer. I choose No. 3 

Questioner reads aloud: 

No. 3. Gentle tempered, sweet and kind, 
           To no angry word inclined. 

 

            What Will Be Your Destiny?
              FORTY-THREE ANSWERS

1. Just as you think you’ve gained great wealth,
    Something will make you lose your health.

2. Your hair will be white in a single night,
    From having an unexpected fright.

3. You will enjoy a sweet old age,
    So kind and pure, so long and sage.

4. You will fall down at eighty-four,
    And break a dozen ribs or more.

5. You will finish your dayswith God for your friend:
    Who would not be glad of so blissful an end?

6. You will be ever absorbed in books,
    And never give a thought to looks.

7. In peace and plenty you will lie,
    And in the arms of friendship die.

8. You will have cause for many tears,
    To cloud the beauty of your years.

9. Ah, is it so? when you are old,
   you will be very poor, I’m told.

10. In the night-time you will weep,
      And your painful vigils keep.

11. Nothing dreadful, nothing sad,
      Comes to you; for this I’m glad.

12. You always will have an excellent table,
      And full of horses will keep your stable.

13. The Sibyl says you’ll die in Rome,
      Which for a time will be your home.

14. Your plenty and peace
      Will never cease.

15. You will suddenly die in the crowded street,
      If the age of a hundred years you meet.

16. You will ride in your carriage-and-four,
      And be very kind to the suffering poor.

17. Never murmur, never care,
      You will be a millionaire.

18. Sick at heart, and sick at head,
      You will wish that you were dead.

19. As the might of God you see,
      Religious you will ever be.

20. To California you will go
      To get the shining gold, you know.

21. Brightest pleasures you will see,
      And happiness your portion be.

22. Love will gild your joyous life,
      Free from pain and care and strife.

23. Don’t despond, and do not care,
      You will be a nabob’s heir.

24. To California you will be sent,
      But will return as poor as you went.

25. A missionary you will be,
      Far o’er the billows of the sea.

26. It is your destiny to rule,
      And you will keep a village school.

27. Ball and parties you will find
      Alone are suited to your mind.

28. Through the vista of the years
      I see you mourning and in tears.

29. A country life at length you’ll lead,
      Rejoicing in your ambling steed.

30. Fair in the wild and prairied west,
      Your tired frame at length you’ll rest.

31. A public singer’s place you’ll take,
      And a sensation you will make.

32. You’ll only love your native home,
      From which you will not care to roam.

33. A great pianist, you will gain
      Bright laurels from the admiring train.

34. A kitchen garden you will keep,
      And sell fresh vegetables cheap.

35. To higher virtues you will rise,
      Until you’re ready for the skies.

36. To the city’s crowded street
      You’ll direct your willing feet.

37. In digging in a worn-out field
      You’ll see a box, securely sealed,
          Half buried in the ground;
      And therein jewels bright, and gold,
      And bank-notes, in large bundles rolled,
          Will joyfully be found.

38. A music teacher you will be,
      This is your tuneful destiny.

39. You will travel in your prime,
      And view the works of art sublime.

40. You will journey the whole world o’er,
      And gather relics from every shore.

41. The most of your time will be passed on the sea,
      But wherever you are, you will happy be.

42. On an island will you live,
      And nice pleasure-parties give.

43. You will spend your leisure hours,
      In a garden tending flowers.
 

This poem is in the public domain.

When you have left me
the sky drains of color

like the skin
of a tightening fist.

The sun commences
its gold prowl

batting at tinsel streamers
on the electric fan.

Crouching I hide
in the coolness I stole

from the brass rods
of your bed.

From Ignatz by Monica Youn. Copyright © 2010 by Monica Youn. Used by permission of Four Way Books.

The place of language is the place between me

and the world of presences I have lost

—complex country, not flat. Its elements free-

float, coherent for luck to come across;

its lines curve as in a mental orrery

implicit with stars in active orbit,

only their slowness or swiftness lost to sense.

The will dissolves here. It becomes the infinite

air of imagination that stirs immense

among losses and leaves me less desolate.

Breathing it I spot a sentence or a name,

a rescuer, charted for recovery,

to speak against the daily sinking flame

& the shrinking waters of the mortal sea.

Excerpted from Easy by Marie Ponsot. Copyright © 2009 by Marie Ponsot. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.

We drank hard water.
Spoke in plain language.

Said what we didn't

with a joke or a look.
One went missing—

let silence drill its hole.
A second fell ill.

We cloaked our mirrors.
Slashed a red X

on the door to our house.
Pass over us, I asked

the raven sky,
or burn in me

a second mouth.

From How To Catch a Falling Knife by Daniel Johnson. Copyright © 2010 by Daniel Johnson. Used by permission of Alice James. All rights reserved.

Above the blond prairies,
the sky is all color and water.
The future moves
from one part to another.

This is a note
in a tender sequence
that I call love,
trying to include you,
but it is not love.
It is music, or time.

To explain the pleasure I take
in loneliness, I speak of privacy,
but privacy is the house around it.
You could look inside,
as through a neighbor's window
at night, not as a spy
but curious and friendly.
You might think
it was a still life you saw.

Somewhere, the ocean
crashes back and forth
like so much broken glass,
but nothing breaks.
Against itself,
it is quite powerless.

Irises have rooted
all along the fence,
and the barbed berry-vines
gone haywire.

Unpruned and broken,
the abandoned orchard
reverts to the smaller,
harder fruits, wormy and tart.
In the stippled shade,
the fallen pears move
with the soft bodies of wasps,
and cows breathe in
the licorice silage.

It is silent
where the future is.
No longer needed there,
love is folded away in a drawer
like something newly washed.
In the window,
the color of the pears intensifies,
and the fern's sporadic dust
darkens the keys of the piano.

Clouds containing light
spill out my sadness.
They have no sadness of their own.

The timeless trash of the sea
means nothing to me—
its roaring descant,
its multiple concussions.
I love painting more than poetry.

From Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems by Chase Twichell. Copyright © 2010 by Chase Twichell. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

At home, the bells were a high light-yellow
with no silver or gray just buttercup or sugar-and-lemon.

Here bodies are lined in blue against the sea.
And where red is red there is only red.

I have to be blue to bathe in the sea.
Red, to live in the red room with red air

to rest my head, red cheek down, on the red table.

Above, it was so green: brown, yellow, white, green.
My longing for red furious, sexual.

There things were alive but nothing moved.
Now I live near the sea in a place which has no blue and is not the sea.

Gulls flock, leeward then tangent
and pigeons bully them off the ground.

Hardly alive, almost blind-a hot geometry casts off
every color of the world. Everything moves, nothing alive.

In the red room there is a sky which is painted over in red
but is not red and was, once, the sky.

This is how I live.

A red table in a red room filled with air.
A woman, edged in blue, bathing in the blue sea.

The surface like the pale, scaled skin of fish
far below or above or away—

 

From Eating in the Underworld by Rachel Zucker. Copyright © 2003 by Rachel Zucker. Reproduced by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
This hour, for example, would be like all the others
were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
I’d better not be too explicit. My night is careless
with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
Lovemaking mimics the act of departure, moonlight
drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
doing no more than preparing for life and thinking.
"Is this all there is?" Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
about the way we live. I’d rather have what my daddy calls
“skrimp.” He says “discrete” and means the street
just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:
that’s poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
of derangements; I’ll eat you to live: that’s poetry.
I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
Molly Bloom’s soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
sometimes I taste her caution. But let’s not talk about that.
Maybe Art’s only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
like somberness. Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
the flowers don’t quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there’s a chance you’ll fall in your sleep.

From Lighthead by Terrance Hayes. Copyright © 2010 by Terrance Hayes. Used by permission of Penguin. All rights reserved.

You stand in the brook, mud smearing
your forearms, a bloodied mosquito on your brow,
your yellow T-shirt dampened to your chest
as the current flees between your legs,
amber, verdigris, unraveling
today’s story, last night's travail . . .

You stare at the father beaver, eye to eye,
but he outstares you—you who trespass in his world,
who have, however unwilling, yanked out his fort,
stick by tooth-gnarled, mud-clabbered stick,
though you whistle vespers to the wood thrush
and trace flame-flicker in the grain of yellow birch.

Death outpaces us. Upended roots
of fallen trees still cling to moss-furred granite.
Lichen smolders on wood-rot, fungus trails in wisps.
I wanted a day with cracks, to let the godlight in.
The forest is always a nocturne, but it gleams,
the birch tree tosses its change from palm to palm,

and we who unmake are ourselves unmade
if we know, if only we know
how to give ourselves in this untendered light.

From Ghost in a Red Hat, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by Rosanna Warren. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

This poem is in the public domain.

no dove at all, coo-rooing through the dusk
and foraging for small seeds
My mother was the clouded-over night
a moon swims through, the dark against which stars
switch themselves on, so many already dead
by now (stars switch themselves off
and are my mother, she was never
so celestial, so clearly seen)

My mother was the murderous flight of crows
stilled, black plumage gleaming
among black branches, taken
for nocturnal leaves, the difference
between two darks:

a cacophony of needs
in the bare tree silhouette,
a flight of feathers, scattering
black. She was the night
streetlights oppose (perch
for the crows, their purchase on sight),
obscure bruise across the sky
making up names for rain

My mother always falling
was never snow, no kind
of bird, pigeon or crow

From Red Clay Weather, published by University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 2011 by Reginald Shepherd. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Desert flower, flowers from the garland
of our houses where families
bicker in the open air,

you browse on the stones of the day,
simple, while field and sky 
like sky and sea 
appear all around.

Rustic desert flower,

no evening streaming with lights.

No shepherds drenched by dew,

slender fire of the hedges.

No marsh-marigold, bilberry, swamp-violet
or Florentine iris, or gentian, no angelica,
no Parnassian grass or marsh-myrtle.

You’re Pieruti, Zuan
and tall Bepi with his walking-sticks of bone,
slim at the helm of his wagon,

pasture flower.

You become hay. Burn, burn,
sun of my town, little desert flower.

The years pass over you,
and so do I, with the shadow of the acacia tree,
with the sunflower, on this quiet day.

From In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology by Pier Paolo Pasolini, edited by Jack Hirschman. Copyright © 1941 by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Used by permission of City Lights Publishers.

 

I

 

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

 

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

 

II

 

Thou on whose stream, ‘mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

 

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!

 

III

 

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

 

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!

 

IV

 

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

 

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

 

V

 

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

 

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

This poem is in the public domain.

Is it the Garcia Lorca kind
faithful as a cricket's
tune about a boy fishing
in a pool of rainwater
for his lost voice
praying it'll sing back
so he can wear it
on his finger again
like a wedding ring?

Maybe it's the anti-parakeet
Nicanor Parra kind
remorseful as a memoir
that survived four wars
half a dozen sexually
transmitted depressions
insomnia-
inspired hallucinations
and a dedication to
its remaining readers
last count forty-five
asking them to burn each page
upon reading memories
it had tried to capture

unless it's the Paz kind
not Paz-be-with-you of olden
days difficult now
to digest Paz or any Zense
of peace without Belano or Bolaño
pearly-gate-crashing in an Impala
slingshooting saints out
of their poses harping
on angels reciting bad poetry
aloud anything to disturb
the last of the angry gods'
siesta atop a mountain of ashes
once rich without meaning.

From Drive-by Vigils by R. Zamora Linmark. Copyright © 2012 by R. Zamora Linmark. Reprinted with permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved.

We crawl through the tall grass and idle light,

our chests against the earth so we can hear the river


underground. Our backs carry rotting wood and books

that hold no stories of damnation or miracles.


One day as we listen for water, we find a beekeeper—

one eye pearled by a cataract, the other cut out by his own hand


so he might know both types of blindness. When we stand

in front of him, he says we are prisms breaking light into color—


our right shoulders red, our left hips a wavering indigo.

His apiaries are empty except for dead queens, and he sits


on his quiet boxes humming as he licks honey from the bodies

of drones. He tells me he smelled my southern skin for miles,


says the graveyard is full of dead prophets. To you, he presents

his arms, tattooed with songs slave catchers whistle


as they unleash the dogs. He lets you see the burns on his chest

from the time he set fire to boats and pushed them out to sea.


You ask why no one believes in madness anymore,

and he tells you stars need a darkness to see themselves by.


When you ask about resurrection, he says, How can you doubt?

and shows you a deer licking salt from a lynched man's palm.

From Our Lady of the Ruins: Poems by Traci Brimhall. Copyright © 2012 by Traci Brimhall. Reprinted with permission of W. W. Norton & Co. All rights reserved.

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Copyright © 2011 by Robert Pinsky. Reprinted from Selected Poems with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Rose, harsh rose,
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,

more precious
than a wet rose
single on a stem—
you are caught in the drift.

Stunted, with small leaf,
you are flung on the sand,
you are lifted
in the crisp sand
that drives in the wind.

Can the spice-rose
drip such acrid fragrance
hardened in a leaf?

This poem is in the public domain.

after Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog


With booms & chirrs seals
speak under the ice of an ocean
frozen over.
Stationary ocean. Electrified song.
Color: snow day with autumn
leaves inside it, 
glassene sheers of cantaloupe & kiwi on
lavender, gunmetal, jetwing—
				   When you rode the elephant through
the puncture, the first syllable of my name
parted the deep with your beautiful hand.
Sparrow shuddered in her dustbath, swath of pleasure
raked up
	    & out.
		    This is where I sat
in the avalanche.
	                 In winter,
where I was born,
you pulled a cord of silk in your beautiful hand.
I heard nothing
under the ice. Bye bye now, our people would say.
Bye bye later.
First, song,
	       a detonation—
then white everywhere.

Copyright © 2014 by Kathy Fagan. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 17, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

There are some qualities—some incorporate things,
   That have a double life, which thus is made
A type of that twin entity which springs
   From matter and light, evinced in solid and shade.
There is a two-fold Silence—sea and shore—
   Body and soul. One dwells in lonely places,
   Newly with grass o’ergrown; some solemn graces,
Some human memories and tearful lore,
Render him terrorless: his name’s “No More.”
He is the corporate Silence: dread him not!
   No power hath he of evil in himself;
But should some urgent fate (untimely lot!)
   Bring thee to meet his shadow (nameless elf,
That haunteth the lone regions where hath trod
No foot of man,) commend thyself to God!

This poem is in the public domain.

Day is a type when visible
objects change then put

 

on form but the anti-type
That thing not shadowed

 

The way music is formed of
cloud and fire once actually

 

concrete now accidental as
half truth or as whole truth

 

Is light anything like this
stray pencil commonplace

 

copy as to one aberrant
onward-gliding mystery

 

A secular arietta variation
Grass angels perish in this

 

harmonic collision because
non-being cannot be 'this'

 

Not spirit not space finite
Not infinite to those fixed—

 

That this millstone as such
Quiet which side on which—

 

Is one mind put into another
in us unknown to ourselves
by going about among trees
and fields in moonlight or in
a garden to ease distance to
fetch home spiritual things

 

That a solitary person bears
witness to law in the ark to

 

an altar of snow and every
age or century for a day is

From That This, published by New Directions. Copyright © 2011 by Susan Howe. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Was he looking for St. Lucia’s light
to touch his face those first days 
in the official November snow & sleet 
falling on the granite pose of Lincoln?
 
If he were searching for property lines
drawn in the blood, or for a hint
of resolve crisscrossing a border,
maybe he’d find clues in the taste of breadfruit.
 
I could see him stopped there squinting
in crooked light, the haze of Wall Street
touching clouds of double consciousness,
an eye etched into a sign borrowed from Egypt.

If he’s looking for tips on basketball,
how to rise up & guard the hoop,
he may glean a few theories about war   
but they aren’t in The Star-Apple Kingdom.

If he wants to finally master himself,
searching for clues to govern seagulls
in salty air, he’ll find henchmen busy with locks
& chains in a ghost schooner's nocturnal calm.

He’s reading someone who won’t speak
of milk & honey, but of looking ahead
beyond pillars of salt raised in a dream
where fat bulbs split open the earth.

The spine of the manifest was broken,
leaking deeds, songs & testaments.
Justice stood in the shoes of mercy,
& doubt was bandaged up & put to bed.

Now, he looks as if he wants to eat words,
their sweet, intoxicating flavor. Banana leaf
& animal, being & nonbeing. In fact, 
craving wisdom, he bites into memory.  

The President of the United States of America
thumbs the pages slowly, moving from reverie
to reverie, learning why one envies the octopus
for its ink, how a man’s skin becomes the final page.

Copyright © 2011 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Used with permission of the author.

The weeping of the guitar
begins.
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
begins.
Useless
to silence it.
Impossible
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
Impossible
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
things.
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

From Selected Verse by Federico García Lorca. Translations copyright © 2002 by Cola Franzen. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved.

I. IN WINTER
 
     Myself
Pale mornings, and 
   I rise. 
 
     Still Morning
Snow air--my fingers curl.
 
     Awakening
New snow, O pine of dawn!
 
     Winter Echo
Thin air! My mind is gone.
 
     The Hunter
Run! In the magpie's shadow.
 
     No Being
I, bent. Thin nights receding. 
 
 
II. IN SPRING
 
     Spring
I walk out the world's door.
 
     May
Oh, evening in my hair!
 
     Spring Rain
My doorframe smells of leaves.
 
     Song
Why should I stop
   for spring?
 
 
III. IN SUMMER AND AUTUMN
 
     Sunrise
Pale bees! O whither now?
 
     Fields
I did not pick
   a flower.
 
     At Evening
Like leaves my feet passed by.
 
     Cool Nights
At night bare feet on flowers!
 
     Sleep
Like winds my eyelids close.
 
     The Aspen's Song
The summer holds me here.
 
     The Walker
In dream my feet are still. 
 
     Blue Mountains
A deer walks that mountain.
 
     God of Roads
I, peregrine of noon. 
 
     September
Faint gold! O think not here.
 
     A Lady
She's sun on autumn leaves. 
 
     Alone
I saw day's shadow strike.
 
     A Deer
The trees rose in the dawn.
 
     Man in Desert
His feet run as eyes blink. 
 
     Desert
The tented autumn, gone!
 
     The End
Dawn rose, and desert shrunk.
 
     High Valleys
In sleep I filled these lands.
 
     Awaiting Snow
The well of autumn--dry.

This poem is in the public domain.


The soul of swift-soled Achilles hearing me
Praise his son, silvered, and then was gone,
His long strides causing him to blend, light-bent,
Into the shining, maize meadow cloudbank						
Shadowed by that one solitary tree 
It takes sixteen years for light, let alone
A soul, to cross.
		 The other dead, who thrived
Though they had died, rejoiced at seeing me
And sang, one by one, to me; and I in 
Turn said back to one after the other
That the song that soul sang was a blessing
And that I had never heard anything
Like it; which was true, but also, I must
Admit, they bored me to tears, tears that their
Surprisingly still finite knowledge took
As tears of pure joy from hearing them sing.

Only Ajax Telamoniades
Kept away, arms crossed, refusing to speak,
Dim-starred and disappearing into his rage.
All because of a simple spar of words,
A mere speech, and winning Achilles’ armor.
Athena above and those men at the ships
Decided that, not me, although it’s true 
He never stood chance. But by custom
Should have been given the matchless metal. 
How I wish I hadn’t won that contest.
How the ground closed over his head for it.
What a fool I can be. Ajax. Who knew
No equal in action but for the one
Man who surpassed him, just-fled Achilles,
So capable of happiness despite
All that happened because he washed up here,
Heaven: this implausible place for us.

Strange that Ajax is also in Heaven
Despite ending his legendary life.
In the end he’s won, but he doesn’t seem
To understand that he’s won. Poor Ajax.
Like always, I thought I had winning words
And so I said to him with unreturned gaze:
“Son of great Telamon, mighty Ajax, 
War tower, shake free of your anger.
No one else is to blame but Zeus, and look,
He is no longer here, friend. Paradise
Has found you and given you an eternal
Roof under the one tree of High Heaven.
Zeus treated us so terribly, and you,
Whom he should have loved like his strongest son,
You worst of all.
   But that is history
Now. Come, my strong brother, lord and deserved
Winner of all Achilles wore and was,
Come, be with us here; let me hear the light
Of Heaven in your voice; and let me know,
Because I love you, how you (of all men!)
Ended up in the keen of this endless berm.”
But Ajax, gift-eyed, said nothing to me
And took his seat under the rowan tree.

Copyright © 2013 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 19, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Only name the day, and we'll fly away
	In the face of old traditions,
To a sheltered spot, by the world forgot,
	Where we'll park our inhibitions.
Come and gaze in eyes where the lovelight lies
	As it psychoanalyzes,
And when once you glean what your fantasies mean
	Life will hold no more surprises.
When you've told your love what you're thinking of
	Things will be much more informal;
Through a sunlit land we'll go hand-in-hand,
	Drifting gently back to normal.

While the pale moon gleams, we will dream sweet dreams,
	And I'll win your admiration,
For it's only fair to admit I'm there
	With a mean interpretation.
In the sunrise glow we will whisper low
	Of the scenes our dreams have painted,
And when you're advised what they symbolized
	We'll begin to feel acquainted.
So we'll gaily float in a slumber boat
	Where subconscious waves dash wildly;
In the stars' soft light, we will say good-night—
	And “good-night!” will put it mildly.

Our desires shall be from repressions free—
	As it's only right to treat them.
To your ego's whims I will sing sweet hymns,
	And ad libido repeat them.
With your hand in mine, idly we'll recline
	Amid bowers of neuroses,
While the sun seeks rest in the great red west
	We will sit and match psychoses.
So come dwell a while on that distant isle
	In the brilliant tropic weather;
Where a Freud in need is a Freud indeed,
	We'll always be Jung together.

From Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker published by Scribner. Used by permission of the publisher.

The wind blows
through the doors of my heart.
It scatters my sheet music
that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.
Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,
flattened against the screens.
The wind through my heart
blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds' nests, teacups
full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows
or is blown through the rooms of my heart
that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone
had just made love. And my dresses
they are lifted like brides come to rest
on the bedstead, crucifixes,
dresses tangled in trees in the rooms
of my heart. To save them
I've thrown flowers to fields,
so that someone would pick them up
and know where they came from.
Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.
Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother's trousseau.
It is not for me to say what is this wind
or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.
Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead
the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,
no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.
It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.
But we will never lie down again.

From The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart by Deborah Digges. Copyright © 2010 by Deborah Digges. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Long vast shapes... cooled and flushed through with darkness...
Lidless windows
Glazed with a flashy luster
From some little pert café chirping up like a sparrow.
And down among iron guts
Piled silver
Throwing gray spatter of light... pale without heat...
Like the pallor of dead bodies.

This poem is in the public domain.

I call to you as a prism to its oracle denies any prescriptive allure. What is a high sound when a sparrow takes it. When breath snatches. A latch catches. Dear diary. I am home now and affect a suitable disregard.

On a screen everyone is very particular. Does this explain.

It is this bird we want, not that one. This one not that one. Myth is the difference between birds.

Is this a letter for us to open. It is. Red yellow blue green and violet. Pressed between as petals in a bound volume for their proper keeping. Repeat, as necessary. A gift expresses the meek constituency of a recollected pleasure.

Who is happier when blind or blinded. Who says happy now.

From Archicembalo by G. C. Waldrep. Copyright © 2009 by G. C. Waldrep. Used by permission of Tupelo Press. All rights reserved.

A cold wind, later, but no rain. 
A bus breathing heavily at the station. 
Beggars at the gate, and the moon
like one bright horn of a white
cow up there in space. But

really, must I think about all this
a second time in this short life? 
This crescent moon, like a bit
of ancient punctuation. This

pause in the transience of all things. 

Up there, Ishtar in the ship
of life he’s sailing.  Has

he ripped open again his sack of grain?
Spilled it all over the place?
Bubbles rising to the surface, breaking.

Beside our sharpened blades, they’ve
set down our glasses of champagne.
A joke is made.  But, really, must

I hear this joke again?

Must I watch the spluttering
light of this specific flame? Must I
consider forever the permanent
transience of all things:

The bus, breathing at the station.
The beggars at the gate.
The girl I was.
Both pregnant and chaste.
The cold wind, that crescent moon.
No rain. What difference

can it possibly make, that
pain, now that not a single
anguished cry of it remains? 

Really, must I grieve it all again
a second time, and why tonight
of all the nights, and just
as I’m about to raise, with the
blissful others, my

glass to the silvery, liquid
chandelier above us?
 

Copyright © 2015 by Laura Kasischke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.