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.
A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.
One more window dark
in this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.
If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.
Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.
I know now the beloved Has no fixed abode, That each body She inhabits Is only a temporary Home. That she Casts off forms As eagerly As lovers shed clothes. I accept that he's Just passing through That flower Or that stone. And yet, it makes Me dizzy— The way he hides In the flow of it, The way she shifts In fluid motions, Becoming other things. I want to stop him— If only briefly. I want to lure her To the surface And catch her In this net of words.
Copyright © 2012 by Gregory Orr. Used with permission of the author.
The world seems so palpable And dense: people and things And the landscapes They inhabit or move through. Words, on the other hand, Are so abstract—they’re Made of empty air Or black scratches on a page That urge us to utter Certain sounds. And us: Poised in the middle, aware Of the objects out there Waiting patiently to be named, As if the right words Could save them. And don’t They deserve it? So much hidden inside each one, Such a longing To become the beloved. And inside us: the sounds That could extend that blessing— How they crowd our mouths, How they press up against Our lips, which are such A narrow exit for a joy so desperate.