Against the stone breakwater, Only an ominous lapping, While the wind whines overhead, Coming down from the mountain, Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces; A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves, And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against the lamp pole. Where have the people gone? There is one light on the mountain.
Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell, The waves not yet high, but even, Coming closer and closer upon each other; A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea, Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot, The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending, Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness. A time to go home!— And a child's dirty shift billows upward out of an alley, A cat runs from the wind as we do, Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia, Where the heavy door unlocks, And our breath comes more easy,— Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating The walls, the slatted windows, driving The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer To their cards, their anisette.
We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress. We wait; we listen. The storm lulls off, then redoubles, Bending the trees half-way down to the ground, Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard, Flattening the limber carnations. A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb, Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead. The bulb goes on and off, weakly. Water roars into the cistern. We lie closer on the gritty pillow, Breathing heavily, hoping— For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater, The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell, The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses, And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.
From The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke by Theodore Roethke, published by Anchor Books. © 1975 by Theodore Roethke. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
We know ’tis good that old Winter should come,
Roving awhile from his Lapland home;
’Tis fitting that we should hear the sound
Of his reindeer sledge on the slippery ground:
For his wide and glittering cloak of snow
Protects the seeds of life below;
Beneath his mantle are nurtured and born
The roots of the flowers, the germs of the corn.
The whistling tone of his pure strong breath
Rides purging the vapours of pestilent death.
I love him, I say, and avow it again,
For God’s wisdom and might show well in his train.
But the naked—the poor! I know they quail
With crouching limbs from the biting gale;
They pine and starve by the fireless hearth,
And weep as they gaze on the frost-bound earth.
Stand nobly forth, ye rich of the land,
With kindly heart and bounteous hand;
Remember ’tis now their season of need,
And a prayer for help is a call ye must heed.
A few of thy blessings, a tithe of thy gold,
Will save the young, and cherish the old.
’Tis a glorious task to work such good—
Do it, ye great ones! Ye can, and ye should.
He is not worthy to hold from heaven
The trust reposed, the talents given,
Who will not add to the portion that’s scant,
In the pinching hours of cold and want.
Oh! listen in mercy, ye sons of wealth,
Basking in comfort and glowing with health;
Give whate’er ye can spare, and be ye sure
He serveth his Maker who aideth the poor.
This poem appeared in Melaia and Other Poems (Charles Tilt, 1840). It is in the public domain.
A boy on a horse,
a boy on a horse along a river.
Less simple—time intervenes thievish.
A boy on a horse in the rain along a river.
A picture emerges from mist—faint rain
hiding the regnant risk, arrowing rain,
boy lost on a horse in the rain along a river,
a high bluff beside water. Story:
the bit firm in the horse’s mouth
the hand of the boy unfirm.
What we played we played, dangerous
only in retrospect.
If it can be remembered
it was survived,
the era of imagined
horses in radiant landscape;
only the rivers remain.
From Light Wind Light Light (Omnidawn, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Bin Ramke. Used with the permission of Omnidawn Publishing.