To Keep the Memory of Charlotte Forten Grimké

Still are there wonders of the dark and day:
   The muted shrilling of shy things at night,
      So small beneath the stars and moon;
   The peace, dream-frail, but perfect while the light
      Lies softly on the leaves at noon.
         These are, and these will be
             Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

Each dawn, while yet the east is veiléd grey,
   The birds about her window wake and sing;
      And far away, each day, some lark
   I know is singing where the grasses swing;
      Some robin calls and calls at dark.
         These are, and these will be
             Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

The wild flowers that she loved down green ways stray;
   Her roses lift their wistful buds at dawn,
      But not for eyes that loved them best;
   Only her little pansies are all gone,
      Some lying softly on her breast.
         And flowers will bud and be
             Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

Where has she gone? And who is there to say?
   But this we know: her gentle spirit moves
      And is where beauty never wanes,
   Perchance by other streams, mid other groves;
      And to us there, ah! she remains
         A lovely memory
             Until eternity;
She came, she loved, and then she went away.

More by Angelina Weld Grimké

To Joseph Lee

How strange, how passing strange, when we awake
        And lift our faces to the light
To know that you are lying shut away
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange, when we lie down
        To sleep, to know that you are quite
Alone beneath the moon, the stars, the little leaves,
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange to know—our eyes
        Will gladden at the fine sweet sight
Of you no more, for now your face is hid
        Within the night.

Strange, strange indeed, these things to us appear
        And yet we know they must be right;
And though your body sleeps, your soul has passed
        Beyond the night.

Ah! friend, it must be sweet to slip from out
        The tears, the pain, the losing fight
Below, and rest, just rest eternally
        Beyond the night.

And sweet it must be too, to know the kiss
        Of Peace, of Peace, the pure, the white
And step beside her hand in hand quite close
        Beyond the night.
 

The Want of You

A hint of gold where the moon will be; 
Through the flocking clouds just a star or two; 
Leaf sounds, soft and wet and hushed, 
And oh! the crying want of you. 

El Beso

Twilight—and you
Quiet—the stars;
Snare of the shine of your teeth,
Your provocative laughter,
The gloom of your hair;
Lure of you, eye and lip;
Yearning, yearning,
Languor, surrender;
Your mouth,
And madness, madness,
Tremulous, breathless, flaming,
The space of a sigh;
Then awakening—remembrance,
Pain, regret—your sobbing;
And again, quiet—the stars,
Twilight—and you.

Related Poems

The Woodlice

The beauty of one sister
who loved them so
she smuggled the woodlice
into her pockets & then into
the house, after a day’s work
of digging in the yard,
& after the older ones of us
had fed her & washed,
she carried them into
the bed with her, to mother
them, so that they would have
two blankets & be warm, for
this is what she knew of love,
& the beloveds emerged one
by one from their defenses, unfolding
themselves across the bed’s white sheet
like they did over 400 years ago, carried
from that other moonlight,
accidentally, or by children, into
the ship’s dark hold, slowly
adapting to the new rooms
of cloths, then fields, & we,
the elders to that sister,
we, having seen strangers
in our house before, we, being
older, being more ugly & afraid,
we began, then, to teach her the lessons
of dirt & fear.

Elegy, Surrounded by Seven Trees

for Michele Antoinette Pray-Griffiths

Ordinary days deliver joy easily
again & I can't take it. If I could tell you
how her eyes laughed or describe
the rage of her suffering, I must
admit that lately my memories
are sometimes like a color
warping in my blue mind.
Metal abandoned in rain.

My mother will not move.

Which is to say that
sometimes the true color of
her casket jumps from my head
like something burnt down
in the genesis of a struck flame.
Which is to say that I miss
the mind I had when I had
my mother. I own what is yet.
Which means I am already
holding my own absence
in faith. I still carry a faded slip of paper
where she once wrote a word
with a pencil & crossed it out.

From tree to tree, around her grave
I have walked, & turned back
if only to remind myself
that there are some kinds of
peace, which will not be
moved. How awful to have such
wonder. The final way wonder itself
opened beneath my mother's face
at the last moment. As if she was
a small girl kneeling in a puddle
& looking at her face for the first time,
her fingers gripping the loud,
wet rim of the universe.

Disciplines [If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling]

If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling, hands folded to a private sign. We recognize it. If there is a mother kneeling, hands a tent, she is praying or she is crying or crying and praying at the same time. Although it is recognized, the signals of it, it is private and no one knows, perhaps not even she, the content of the prayer, and perhaps its object. If there is a mother praying, she is on her kneels over some object, as one does not often pray in the middle of the room. One prays at the window or over the bed, the head bent slightly up or down, the eyes open or closed. This is a prayer for prayers, you know, a wanting something equal to a prayer, even though I am not a mother.