Somewhere I read that when they finally staggered off the mountain into some strange town, past drunk, hoarse, half naked, blear-eyed, blood dried under broken nails and across young thighs, but still jeering and joking, still trying to dance, lurching and yelling, but falling dead asleep by the market stalls, sprawled helpless, flat out, then middle-aged women, respectable housewives, would come and stand nightlong in the agora silent together as ewes and cows in the night fields, guarding, watching them as their mothers watched over them. And no man dared that fierce decorum.
From Finding My Elegy by Ursula K. Le Guin. Copyright © 2012 by Ursula K. Leguin. Reprinted with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Time says “Let there be”
every moment and instantly
there is space and the radiance
of each bright galaxy.
And eyes beholding radiance.
And the gnats’ flickering dance.
And the seas’ expanse.
And death, and chance.
Time makes room
for going and coming home
and in time’s womb
begins all ending.
Time is being and being
time, it is all one thing,
the shining, the seeing,
the dark abounding.
From Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014 (PM Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ursula K. Le Guin. Used with the permission of PM Press.
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
From Ariel, published by Harper & Row, 1966. Copyright © 1966 by Ted Hughes. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Not once—not when I toppled, rigid, a
5'7" pine felled,
stiff as a board, a five and a half foot
plank, 16 x 32,
and not while I wallowed on the rug among
his oxygen tubes and my cane and his 8
wheelchair wheels, and not when I sat by his
hospice bed, chirping I’m fine!,
and not the next day, when the brilliant violet
and black slash-slathered in my easy-life skin,
or days later when the purple turned yellow and the
blue green—never once when I
said No pain, Nothing broken,
did I feel lucky, did I measure the force of the
blow, the floor speeding up like a heavy-weight’s
smash to my cheek and eyebrow, not until
today, did I begin to feel
grateful for my good fortune—no concussion, no
fracture—as if I expected to be able to be
struck by the earth, a wrecking ball,
and not feel it—
as when someone on the other side of the world,
or the city, is struck in my name, I do not feel it.
Copyright © 2022 by Sharon Olds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.