Morning on Shinnecock

- 1869-1944

The rising sun had crowned the hills,
            And added beauty to the plain;
O grand and wondrous spectacle!
            That only nature could explain.

I stood within a leafy grove,
            And gazed around in blissful awe;
The sky appeared one mass of blue,
            That seemed to spread from sea to shore.

Far as the human eye could see,
            Were stretched the fields of waving corn.
Soft on my ear the warbling birds
            Were heralding the birth of morn.

While here and there a cottage quaint
            Seemed to repose in quiet ease
Amid the trees, whose leaflets waved
            And fluttered in the passing breeze.

O morning hour! so dear thy joy,
            And how I longed for thee to last;
But e’en thy fading into day
            Brought me an echo of the past.

 ‘Twas this,—how fair my life began;
            How pleasant was its hour of dawn;
But, merging into sorrow’s day,
            Then beauty faded with the morn.

More by Olivia Ward Bush-Banks

Regret

I said a thoughtless word one day,
A loved one heard and went away;
I cried: “Forgive me, I was blind;
I would not wound or be unkind.”
I waited long, but all in vain,
To win my loved one back again.
Too late, alas! to weep and pray,
Death came; my loved one passed away.
Then, what a bitter fate was mine;
No language could my grief define;
Tears of deep regret could not unsay
The thoughtless word I spoke that day.

The Plains of Peace

Again my fancy takes its flight,
And soars away on thoughtful wing,
Again my soul thrills with delight,
And this the fancied theme, I sing,
From Earthly scenes awhile, I find release,
And dwell upon the restful Plains of Peace.

The Plains of Peace are passing fair,
Where naught disturbs and naught can harm,
I find no sorrow, woe or care,
These all are lost in perfect calm,
Bright are the joys, and pleasures never cease,
For those who dwell on the Plains of Peace.

No scorching sun or blighting storm,
No burning sand or desert drear,
No fell disease or wasting form,
To mar the glowing beauty here.
Decay and ruin ever must decrease,
Here on the fertile, healthful Plains of Peace.

What rare companionship I find,
What hours of social joy I spend,
What restfulness pervades my mind,
Communing with congenial friend.
True happiness seems ever to increase,
While dwelling here upon the Plains of Peace.

Ambitions too, are realized,
And that which I have sought on earth,
I find at last idealized,
My longings ripen into worth,
My fondest hopes no longer fear decease,
But bloom forth brightly on the Plains of Peace.

'Tis by my fancy, yet 'tis true,
That somewhere having done with Earth,
We shall another course pursue,
According to our aim or worth,
Our souls from mortal things must find release,
And dwell immortal on the Plains of Peace.

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Prayer at Sunrise

Now thou art risen, and thy day begun.
How shrink the shrouding mists before thy face,
As up thou spring’st to thy diurnal race!
How darkness chases darkness to the west,
As shades of light on light rise radiant from thy crest!
For thee, great source of strength, emblem of might,
In hours of darkest gloom there is no night.
Thou shinest on though clouds hide thee from sight,
And through each break thou sendest down thy light.

O greater Maker of this Thy great sun,
Give me the strength this one day’s race to run,
Fill me with light, fill me with sun-like strength,
Fill me with joy to rob the day its length.
Light from within, light that will outward shine,
Strength to make strong some weaker heart than mine,
Joy to make glad each soul that feels its touch;
Great Father of the sun, I ask this much.

who will be the messenger of this land

who will be the messenger of this land
count its veins
speak through the veins
translate the language of water
navigate the heels of lineage
who will carry this land in parcels
paper, linen, burlap
who will weep when it bleeds
and hardens
forgets to birth itself

who will be the messenger of this land
wrapping its stories carefully
in patois of creole, irish,
gullah, twe, tuscarora
stripping its trees for tea
and pleasure
who will help this land to
remember its birthdays, baptisms
weddings, funerals, its rituals
denials, disappointments
and sacrifices

who will be the messengers
of this land
harvesting its truths
bearing unleavened bread
burying mutilated crops beneath
its breasts

who will remember
to unbury the unborn seeds
that arrived
in captivity
shackled, folded,
bent, layered in its
bowels

we are their messengers
with singing hoes
and dancing plows
with fingers that snap
beans, arms that
raise corn, feet that
cover the dew falling from
okra, beans, tomatoes

we are these messengers
whose ears alone choose
which spices
whose eyes alone name
basil, nutmeg, fennel, ginger,
cardamom, sassafras
whose tongues alone carry
hemlock, blood root, valerian,
damiana, st. john’s wort
these roots that contain
its pleasures its languages its secrets

we are the messengers
new messengers
arriving as mutations of ourselves
we are these messengers
blue breath
red hands
singing a tree into dance

America Talks to Me Like a Mother

Don’t worry. One kills in dreams
but wakes having not killed.

Having not killed is part of waking. Some mornings, though,
you lay there pinned under layers of light, fear,

and woolen blankets.
You know what’s right and what’s wrong,
what you don’t know is what happened
and if you were actually there.

That’s why dreams of digging a deep hole with a stolen shovel
are so confusing. That’s why you expect to jerk awake
when you stand in a pile of dry brush
holding a lit match in your hand.

The best thing to do, always,
is get up and walk down the stairs.
Don’t leave.
Not yet.

Wait awhile in the kitchen, it doesn’t matter whose kitchen,
and let the house absorb the blame.
That’s what a house is for.

You aren’t screaming,
you’re insisting
because you’re always wrong,
even while you sit on the ground before daybreak waiting
for enough light to gather sticks.
You don’t know yet what a stick is.
You can’t be expected to remember anything
once you’ve seen the sun rise.

All day long, you walk back and forth through the field,
standing guard over what didn’t happen
to keep it from mixing with what did.
You didn’t shoot the gun, you just listened well
when people talked about how to do it.
You didn’t walk unscathed through the fire,
you walked unscathed over it.
You happened to find a narrow bridge.

You wouldn’t purposely hurt anyone,
but keep describing all the ways that you would.
List all the things that never happened,
and see if you can suck clean the edges of what did.