899. The Stoic: For Laura Von Courten, by Edgar Bowers

All winter long you listened for the boom
Of distant cannon wheeled into their place.
Sometimes outside beneath a bombers' moon
You stood alone to watch the searchlights trace

Their careful webs against the boding sky,
While miles away on Munich's vacant square
The bombs lunged down with an unruly cry
Whose blast you saw yet could but faintly hear.

And might have turned your eyes upon the gleam
Of a thousand years of snow, where near the clouds
The Alps ride massive to their full extreme,
And season after season glacier crowds

The dark, persistent smudge of conifers.
And seen beyond the hedge and through the trees
The shadowy forms of cattle on the furze,
Their dim coats white with mist against the freeze.

Or thought instead of other times than these,
Of other countries and of other sights:
Eternal Venice sinking by degrees
Into the very water that she lights;

Reflected in canals, the lucid dome
Of Maria della Salute at your feet,
Her triple spires disfigured by the foam.
Remembered in Berlin the parks, the neat

Footpaths and lawns, the clean spring foliage,
Where just short weeks before, a bomb, unaimed,
Released a frightened lion from its cage,
Which in the mottled dark that trees enflamed

Killed one who hurried homeward from the raid.
And by yourself there standing in the chill
You must, with so much known, have been afraid
And chosen such a mind of constant will,

Which, though all time corrode with constant hurt,
Remains, until it occupies no space,
That which it is; and passionless, inert,
Becomes at last no meaning and no place.

Source: Collected Poems

900. Early Autumn, by Po Chü-i

Two gray hairs appear in the lit mirror,
a single leaf tumbling into the courtyard.

Old age slips away, nothing to do with me,
and when grief comes, who does it find?

Idle months and years emptying away,
loved ones from long ago lost to sight,

I'll play with my girl here, my little girl:
we keep coaxing smiles from each other.

(trans David Hinton)

Source: The Selected Poems of Po Chu-I

901. During Wind and Rain, by Thomas Hardy

      They sing their dearest songs -
      He, she, all of them - yea,
      Treble and tenor and bass,
          And one to play;
      With the candles mooning each face...
         Ah, no; the years O!
How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!

      They clear the creeping moss -
      Elders and juniors - aye,
      Making the pathways neat
          And the garden gay;
      And they build a shady seat...
         Ah, no; the years, the years;
See, the white storm-birds wing across!

      They are blithely breakfasting all -
      Men and maidens - yea,
      Under the summer tree,
          With a glimpse of the bay,
      While pet fowl come to the knee...
         Ah, no; the years O;
And the rotten rose is ript from the wall.

      They change to a high new house,
      He, she, all of them - aye,
      Clocks and carpets and chairs
          On the lawn all day,
      And brightest things that are theirs...
         Ah, no; the years, the years;
Down their carved names the rain-drop ploughs.

Source: Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems

902. To Earthward, by Robert Frost

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of—was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost

903. Catch What You Can, by Jean Garrigue

The thing to do is try for that sweet skin
One gets by staying deep inside a thing.
The image that I have is that of fruit—
The stone within the plum or some such pith
As keeps the slender sphere both firm and sound.

Stay with me, mountain flowers I saw
And battering moth against a wind-dark rock,
Stay with me till you build me all around
The honey and the clove I thought to taste
If lingering long enough I lived and got
Your intangible wild essence in my heart.
And whether that's by sight or thought
Or staying deep inside an aerial shed
Till imagination makes the heart-leaf vine
Out of damned bald rock, I cannot guess.
The game is worth the candle if there's flame.

Source: Selected Poems

904. 116 from Tristia, by Osip Mandelstam

Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone's bees.

You can't untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.

For us, all that's left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.

Deep in the transparent night they're still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.

But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.

(trans W. S. Merwin and Clarence Brown)

Source: The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam

905. I Knew a Woman, by Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay.
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).

Source: The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke

906. XII from More Poems, by A. E. Housman

I promise nothing: friends will part;
    All things may end, for all began;
And truth and singleness of heart
     Are mortal even as is man.

But this unlucky love should last
    When answered passions thin to air;
Eternal fate so deep has cast
     Its sure foundation of despair.

Source: Collected Poems

907. Mornings Innocent, by May Swenson

I wear your smile upon my lips
arising on mornings innocent
Your laughter overflows my throat
Your skin is a fleece about me
With your princely walk I salute the sun
People say I am handsome

Arising on mornings innocent
birds make the sound of kisses
Leaves flicker light and dark like eyes

I melt beneath the magnet of your gaze
Your husky breath insinuates my ear
Alert and fresh as grass I wake

and rise on mornings innocent
The strands of the wrestler
run golden through my limbs
I cleave the air with insolent ease
With your princely walk I salute the sun
People say I am handsome

Source: New and Selected Things Taking Place

908. Subway Face, by Langston Hughes

That I have been looking
For you all my life
Does not matter to you.
You do not know.

You never knew.
Nor did I.
Now you take the Harlem train uptown;
I take a local down.

Source: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

909. II, 29, from The Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

(trans Stephen Mitchell)

Source: The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

910. Dirge in Woods, by George Meredith

A wind sways the pines
            And below
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
            And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
            Even we,
            Even so.

Source: Selected Poems of George Meredith

911. Vanished Work, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Rather remote, all of it.
As in a saga, darkly,
the rag-and-bone-man
with his battered top hat,
the blue hand of the woad-miller,
the corn-chandler in his cool cellar.

The rush-man has deserted his reed,
the beekeeper his hive,
the charcoal burner his flue.
The woolcarder threw her teasel away,
the trough-maker his chisel.
Trades moldered away,
extinct skills.

What has happened to the bridoons,
the hames and the terrets?
The cartwright has passed away.
Only his name survives,
like an insect congealed in amber,
in the telephone book.

But the shimmering block of light
I have lived to see
with my own eyes, heaved
easily, as if by magic
with an iron hook
onto the leathery shoulder-strap

of the iceman, on Wednesdays
at noon, punctually, and the chips
melted like fire
in my chill mouth.

(trans Michael Hamburger with the author)

Source: The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry

912. On Seeing Two Swallows Late in October, by John Clare

Lone occupiers of a naked sky
When desolate November hovers nigh
And all your fellow tribes in many crowds
Have left the village with the autumn clouds
Careless of old affections for the scene
That made them happy when the fields were green
And left them undisturbed to build their nests
In each old chimney like to welcome guests
Forsaking all like untamed winds they roam
And make with summers an unsettled home
Following her favours to the farthest lands
O'er untraced oceans and untrodden sands
Like happy images they haste away
And leave us lonely till another may

But little lingerers old esteem detains
Ye haply thus to brave the chilly air
When skies grow dull with winter's heavy rains
And all the orchard trees are nearly bare
Yet the old chimneys still are peeping there
Above the russet thatch where summers tide
Of sunny joys gave you such social fare
As makes you haply wishing to abide
In your old dwellings through the changing year
I wish ye well to find a dwelling here
For in the unsocial weather ye would fling
Gleamings of comfort through the winter wide
Twittering as wont above the old fire side
And cheat the surly winter into spring

Source: Major Works

913. To My Sister, by William Wordsworth

It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field.

My sister! ('tis a wish of mine)
Now that our morning meal is done,
Make haste, your morning task resign;
Come forth and feel the sun.

Edward will come with you;—and, pray,
Put on with speed your woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We'll give to idleness.

No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living calendar:
We from to-day, my Friend, will date
The opening of the year.

Love, now a universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth:
—It is the hour of feeling.

One moment now may give us more
Than years of toiling reason:
Our minds shall drink at every pore
The spirit of the season.

Some silent laws our hearts will make,
Which they shall long obey:
We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.

And from the blessed power that rolls
About, below, above,
We'll frame the measure of our souls:
They shall be tuned to love.

Then come, my Sister! come, I pray,
With speed put on your woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We'll give to idleness.

Source: Selected Poetry of William Wordsworth

914. From the Dark Tower, by Countee Cullen

(To Charles S. Johnson)

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made eternally to weep.

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark,
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

Source: The Making of a Poem

915. Rain Song, by Jean Garrigue

My sad-bad rain that falls
In lisp and dibble-dabble
On the porch and under stairs
And puddles in the driveway brimmed
And dolloped by the slow loitering
Of the not-quite clapping hands
So slight they are on primrose
Leaves and the periwinkle
And keeps such babble going through the day.

Cats in beds sleep long
And I, I'd do the same
Or sing
If all the birds weren't gone.
It's silk under the elm leaves
It's slip into the streams
That clasp the globe around,
It's in the stealth to steal
Another tongue than bell
That does not strike but holds
All in its spell
So fresh and so small.

Source: Selected Poems

916. Long-Legged Fly, by W. B. Yeats

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

Source: The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

917. Sonnet, by John Keats

After dark vapours have oppress'd our plains
    For a long dreary season, comes a day
    Born of the gentle South, and clears away
From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.
The anxious month, relieved of its pains,
    Takes as a long-lost right the feel of May;
    The eyelids with the passing coolness play
Like rose leaves with the drip of Summer rains.
The calmest thoughts come round us; as of leaves
    Budding—fruit ripening in stillness—Autumn suns
Smiling at eve upon the quiet sheaves—
Sweet Sappho's cheek—a smiling infant's breath—
    The gradual sand that through an hour-glass runs—
A woodland rivulet—a Poet's death.

Source: Complete Poems of Keats and Shelley

918. The Lion in Love, by La Fontaine

To Mademoiselle de Sévigné

Mademoiselle—goddess instead—
In whom the Graces find a school
Although you are more beautiful,
Even if with averted head,
Might you not be entertained
By a tale that is unadorned—
Hearing with no more than a quiver
Of a lion whom Love knew how to conquer.
Love is a curious mastery,
In name alone a felicity.
Better know of than know the thing.
If too personal and thus trespassing,
I'm saying what may seem to you an offense,
A fable could not offend your ear.
This one, assured of your lenience,
Attests its devotion embodied here,
And kneels in sworn obedience.

Before their speech was obstructed,
Lions or such as were attracted
To young girls, sought an alliance.
Why not? since as paragons of puissance,
They were at that time knightly fellows
Of mettle and intelligence
Adorned by manes like haloes.

The point of the preamble follows.
A lion—one in a multitude—
Met in a meadow as he fared,
A shepherdess for whom he cared.
He sought to win her if he could,
Though the father would have preferred
A less ferocious son-in-law.
To consent undoubtedly was hard;
Fear meant that the alternate was barred.
Moreover, refuse and he foresaw
That some fine day the two might explain
Clandestine marriage as the chain
That fettered the lass, bewitched beyond cure,
By fashions conducive to hauteur,
And a fancy that shaggy shoulder fur
Made her willful lover handsomer.
The father with despair choked down,
Said though at heart constrained to frown,
"The child is a dainty one; better wait;
You might let your claw points scratch her
When your heavy forepaws touch her.
You could if not too importunate,
Have your claws clipped. And there in front,
See that your teeth are filed blunt,
Because a kiss might be enjoyed
By you the more, I should think,
If my daughter were not forced to shrink
Because improvidently annoyed."
The enthralled animal mellowed,
His mind's eye having been shuttered.
Without teeth or claws it followed
That the fortress was shattered.
Dogs were loosed; defenses were gone:
The consequence was slight resistance.

Love, ah Love, when your slipknot's drawn,
One can but say, "Farewell, good sense."

(trans Marianne Moore)

Source: Complete Poems

919. Negative Indicative, by Philip Larkin

Never to walk from the station's lamps and laurels
Carrying my father's lean old leather case
Crumbling like the register at the hotel;
Never to be shown upstairs

To a plain room smelling of soap, a towel
Neatly hung on the back of a rush chair,
The floor uneven, the grate choked with a frill,
Muslin curtains hiding the market square;

Never to visit the lame girl who lives three doors
Down Meeting-House Lane — 'This pile is ready; these
I shall finish tonight, with luck' — to watch, as she pours
Tea from a gold-lined jubilee pot, her eyes,

Her intelligent face; never, walking away
As light fails, to notice the first star
Pulsing alone in a long shell-coloured sky,
And remember the year has turned, and feel the air

Alive with the emblematic sound of water —

Source: Collected Poems

920. Winter (from Love's Labour Lost), by William Shakespeare

When icicles hang by the wall,
    And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
    And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipped, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl:
Tu-whit, tu-whoo! ―a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
    And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
    And Marian's nose looks red and raw;
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl:
Tu-whit, tu-whoo! ―a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

Source: The Norton Shakespeare

921. Journey, by Tomas Transtromer

On the subway platform.
A crowd among billboards
in a staring dead light.

The train comes and fetches
faces and briefcases.

Darkness next. We sit
like statues in the cars
hauled into the tunnels.
Strain, dreams, strain.

At stations below sea level
the news of darkness is sold.
People moving melancholy,
mum, beneath clockfaces.

The train carries a load
of street clothes and souls.

Looks in all directions,
passing through the mountain.
Nothing changing yet.

But near the surface begins
the hum of freedom's bees.
We emerge from the earth.

The countryside flaps its wings
once, and then subsides
under us, wide and greenish.

Shucks of corn blow in
across the platforms.

End of the line! I ride
beyond the end of the line.

How many aboard? Four,
five, hardly more.

Houses, roads, skies,
fjords, mountains
have opened their windows.

(trans May Swenson)

Source: Selected Poems, 1954-1986

922. On the Balcony, by D.H. Lawrence

In front of the sombre mountains, a faint, lost ribbon of rainbow;
And between us and it, the thunder;
And down below in the green wheat, the labourers
Stand like dark stumps, still in the green wheat.

You are near to me, and your naked feet in their sandals,
And through the scent of the balcony's naked timber
I distinguish the scent of your hair: so now the limber
Lightning falls from heaven.

Adown the pale-green glacier river floats
A dark boat through the gloom—and whither?
The thunder roars. But still we have each other!
The naked lightnings in the heavens dither
And disappear—what have we but each other?
The boat has gone.

Source: Complete Poems

923. Autumn Day, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander on the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

(trans Stephen Mitchell)

Source: The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

924. May 31, 1961, by Charles Olson

the lilac moon of the earth's backyard
which gives silence to the whole house
falls down
out of the sky
over the fence

                                 poor planet
                    now reduced
                    to disuse

who looks so big
and alive
I am talking to you

                    The shades
                    on the windows
                    of the Centers'
                    half down
                    like nobody else's
                    lets the glass lower halves
                    make quiet mouths at you

lilac moon

                    old backyard bloom

Source: Selected Poems

925. Envoi to The Earthly Paradise, by William Morris

Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,
Or hope again for aught that I can say,
The idle singer of an empty day.

    But rather, when aweary of your mirth,
From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh,
And, feeling kindly unto all the earth,
Grudge every minute as it passes by,
Made the more mindful that the sweet days die —
Remember me a little then I pray,
The idle singer of an empty day.

    The heavy trouble, the bewildering care
That weighs us down who live and earn our bread,
These idle verses have no power to bear;
So let me sing of names remembered,
Because they, living not, can ne'er be dead,
Or long time take their memory quite away
From us poor singers of an empty day.

    Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme
Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
Telling a tale not too importunate
To those who in the sleepy region stay,
Lulled by the singer of an empty day.

    Folk say, a wizard to a northern king
At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show,
That through one window men beheld the spring,
And through another saw the summer glow,
And through a third the fruited vines a-row,
While still, unheard, but in its wonted way,
Piped the drear wind of that December day.

    So with this Earthly Paradise it is,
If ye will read aright, and pardon me,
Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
Where tossed about all hearts of men must be;
Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,
Not the poor singer of an empty day.

Source: News from Nowhere and Other Writings

926. My Grandmother's Love Letters, by Hart Crane

There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother's mother,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.

Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

"Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?"

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

Source: The Complete Poems of Hart Crane

927. To a Dry Elm, by Antonio Machado

The old elm, split by lightning
and half rotted
with April rain and May sun,
has sprouted a few green leaves.

The hundred-year-old elm on a hill
lapped by the Duero! A yellowish moss
stains the bleached bark
of the crumbling, worm-eaten trunk.

Unlike the singing poplars
that guard roads and riverbanks,
it won't be a home to nightingales.

An army of ants in a single line
climbs up its side and spiders weave
their gray webs in its hollowed core.

Elm by the Duero, before you are felled
by the woodman's ax and the carpenter
transforms you into a bell tower,
a wagon axle or cart's yoke;
before you are a red flame on
tomorrow's hearth in some poor cottage
along the side of the road;
before a whirlwind uproots you,
and the wind from the white sierras snaps you;
before the river pushes you to the sea
through valleys and ravines,
elm, I want to note
the grace of your greening branch.
My heart also waits in hope,
turned toward light and life,
for another miracle of spring.

(trans Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney)

Source: The Landscape of Castile

928. Living Together, by Edgar Bowers

Of you I have no memory, keep no promise.
But, as I read, drink, wait, and watch the surf,
Faithful, almost forgotten, your demand
Becomes all others, and this loneliness
The need that is your presence. In the dark,
Beneath the lamp, attentive, like a sound
I listen for, you draw near — closer, surer
Than speech, or sight, or love, or love returned.

Source: Collected Poems

929. Watching You, by James Schuyler

Watching you sleep
a thing you do so well
no shove no push
on the sliding face
of sleep as on
the deep a sea bird
of a grand wingspread
trusts what it knows
and I who rumple crumple
and mash (snore) amble
and ankle about wide
awake, wanting to fold,
loving to watch sleep
embodied in you my
warm machine that draws
me back to bed
and you who turn
all toward me
to love and seduce
me back to sleep "You
said 9:30, now it's
10:" you
don't seem to care
cold coffee (sugar,
no milk) about time:
you never do, never
get roiled the way
I do "Should I nag
you or shut up? If
you say, I will"
always be
glad to return to
that warm turning
to me in that
tenderest moment
of my nights,
and more, my days.

Source: Selected Poems

930. Metamorphoses, by Roy Fisher

She sleeps, in the day, in the silence. Where there is light, but little else: the white covers, the pillow, her head with its ordinary hair, her forearm dark over the sheet.

She sleeps and it is hardly a mark on the stillness; that she should have moved to be there, that she should be moving now across her sleep as the window where the light comes in passes across the day.

Her warmth is in the shadows of the bed, and the bed has few shadows, the sky is smoked with a little cloud, there are fish-trails high in the air. Her sleep rides on the silence, it is an open mouth travelling backward on moving waves.

Mouth open across the water, the knees loosened in sleep; dusks of the body shadowed around the room. In the light from the windows there is the thought of a beat, a flicker, an alternation of aspect from the outside to the inside of the glass. The light is going deep under her.

Source: The Long and The Short of It: Poems 1955-2005

931. Experience, by C.K. Williams

After a string of failed romances and intensely remarked sexual
        adventures she'd finally married.
The husband was a very formal man, handsome, elegant ... perhaps
       to my taste too much so;
I sensed too much commitment in him to a life entailing ...
       handsomeness and elegance, I suppose,
but he was generous with her and even their frequent arguments
       had a manageable vehemence.
She smiled often in those days, but behind her face an edge
       of animation seemed nailed shut.
You wouldn't really worry for her, by now you knew she'd be
       all right, but there were moments
when for no reason you could put your finger on you'd feel
       something in yourself too rigidly attentive:
it was as though some soft herd-alarm, a warning signal from
       the species, had been permanently tripped.

Source: Collected Poems

932. The Spinner, by Paul Valéry

The garden rocks in a melodious swell.
Beside the open sash a woman spins
And grows bewildered by her snoring wheel.

Tired, having drunk the azure, she begins
To dream, guiding the evasive, wheedling hair
With feeble hands; her little head inclines.

By falling flowers formed, and the pure air,
A living spring suspended to the day
Waters her garden while she idles there.

A stem the restless wind lingers to sway
Inclines a vain salute of starry grace —
Its rose before the ancient wheel to lay.

The sleeper spins a single thread. The lace
Of fragile shadow strangely interweaves,
Spun with the thread her sleeping fingers trace.

The gentle spindle endlessly receives
The lazy-winding dream with a caress
That stirs the credulous skein which it relieves.

Beyond so many flowers the blue is less
Than blue, spinner bound by leaves and light:
The last tree burns. The green sky perishes.

The rose, your sister, where a saint delights,
Perfumes your vague brow with her innocent breath;
You languish ... you are an extinguished light

At the blue window, where you spun the thread.

(trans Barbara Gibbs)

Source: Selected Writings of Paul Valery

933. Poem 1.45 from the Sattasai, by Anonymous

Your girlhood
sweeps past like a torrent
days are fast travelers
not a single night's ever returned
And still you
cleave to this untenable
of chastity.

(trans Andrew Schelling)

Source: Columbia, Issue 41

934. To His Mistris Going to Bed, by John Donne

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defie,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir'd with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heavens Zone glistening,
But a far fairer world incompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th'eyes of busie fooles may be stopt there.
Unlace your self, for that harmonious chyme,
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envie,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beautious state reveals,
As when from flowry meads th'hills shadow steales.
Off with that wyerie Coronet and shew
The haiery Diademe which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shooes, and then safely tread
In this loves hallow'd temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven's Angels us'd to be
Receavd by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee
A heaven like Mahomets Paradice; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easly know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
    Licence my roaving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdome, safeliest when with one man man'd,
My Myne of precious stones, My Emperie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
    Full nakedness! All joyes are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth'd must be
To taste whole joyes. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta's balls, cast in mens views,
That when a fools eye lighteth on a Gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array'd;
Themselves are mystick books, which only wee
(Whom their imputed grace will dignifie)
Must see reveal'd. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white lynnen hence,
Here is no pennance, much less innocence.
    To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man.

Source: The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose

935. A Character, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

With a half-glance upon the sky
At night he said, 'The wanderings
Of this most intricate Universe
Teach me the nothingness of things.'
Yet could not all creation pierce
Beyond the bottom of his eye.

He spake of beauty: that the dull
Saw no divinity in grass,
Life in dead stones, or spirit in air;
Then looking as 'twere in a glass,
He smooth'd his chin and sleek'd his hair,
And said the earth was beautiful.

He spake of virtue: not the gods
More purely, when they wish to charm
Pallas and Juno sitting by:
And with a sweeping of the arm,
And a lack-lustre dead-blue eye,
Devolved his rounded periods.

Most delicately hour by hour
He canvass'd human mysteries
And trod on silk, as if the winds
Blew his own praises in his eyes,
And stood aloof from other minds
In impotence of fancied power.

With lips depress'd as he were meek,
Himself unto himself he sold:
Upon himself himself did feed:
Quite, dispassionate, and cold,
And other than his form of creed,
With chisell'd features clear and sleek.

Source: The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson

936. Saturday Evening in the Village, by Giacomo Leopardi

The young girl now comes back from the open fields,
About the set of sun,
Bearing her swathe of grass, and in her hand
A bunch of roses and of violets,
As is her custom, for
Tomorrow's holiday,
To make more beautiful her breast and hair.
And the old woman sits
Upon the steps among her neighbors, spinning,
Turning herself to where the day goes down,
And telling tales how she, in better times,
Decked herself out against the holiday,
And graceful still, and fresh,
Would dance the evening through among the rest,
Who were companions of her lovely prime.
Darkens the air, the sky
Takes on a deeper blue, and shadows fall
Cast by the roofs and hills
Beneath the whiteness of the rising moon.
And now the bell proclaims
The holy day's approach,
And at that sound, it seems,
Each heart is cheered once more.
The small boys shouting in troops
About the village square
Go leaping hither and thither
And make a cheerful noise;
Meanwhile the laborer goes whistling home,
Back to his frugal meal,
And thinks about the coming day of rest.

When every other light around is out,
All other sound is mute,
Hark to the hammer knocking, and the saw —
The carpenter is up,
Working by lamplight in his shuttered shop,
And labors on, in haste
To get all finished before morning comes.

This is the best-loved day of all the week,
Most full of hope and joy;
The morrow will bring back
Sadness and tedium, and each within his thought
Returns once more to find his usual labor.

You little playful boy,
Even this your flowering time
Is like a day filled up with grace and joy —
A clear, calm day that comes
As a precursor to life's festival.
Be happy, little boy;
A joyful time is this.
More I'd not tell you; but if your holiday
Seems somewhat tardy yet, let not that grieve you.

(trans John Heath-Stubbs)

Source: Selected Prose and Poetry

937. The Flood, by James Richardson (from "Under Water")

So even having heard the news, I stayed
by the bay window, page unturning,
as the water rose, as it was growing
unsuddenly out of the air, like evening,
wetless, exactly body temperature,
and with such slight adjustment, breathable,
that only my slowing hands showed it was there.

Like your Listen! as it branches up a stairwell,
or your voice at a question's end, it rose.
With a faint jangle of hangers, closets were emptied,
with a soft shuddering, the drawers,
and the walls subsiding and the lapse of doors
were an old song played back too slowly,
the I and love now moaning youuu and ohhh.

And I heard (because sound travels under water)
the dinner mutter of my neighbors,
untroubled, nothing about the water,
though there passed from left to right across my window
what must have been their furniture,
and to the glass loomed momentarily
and open-mouthed one or the other of their daughters.

Swallows, without a wingbeat, pour through evening
slowly as floaters dimly behind my gaze,
the phone rings, ember-slow, and streetlamps,
slowly as dragged-on cigarettes, grow strong.
The luster of eyes is an hour rising or draining,
and lightning of revelation, when it comes,
is a hand passing slowly down my face.

A glass of daffodils (for spring is floodtime)
at these depths is a blowless yellow gale,
the piano, in a haze of keys, faint savor.
Reach of my arms for reachlessness,
bay of my gaze now lessening in blue,
and all I have called my body: held notes failing,
as if I were being remembered, but vaguely.

Source: Interglacial: New and Selected Poems & Aphorisms

938. The Cucumber, by Nazim Hikmet

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and still coming down hard:
it hasn't let up all morning.
We're in the kitchen.
On the table, on the oilcloth, spring —
on the table there's a very tender young cucumber,
                                           pebbly and fresh as a daisy.
We're sitting around the table staring at it.
It softly lights up our faces,
and the very air smells fresh.
We're sitting around the table staring at it,
We're as if in a dream.
On the table, on the oilcloth, hope —
on the table, beautiful days,
a cloud seeded with a green sun,
an emerald crowd impatient and on its way,
loves blooming openly —
on the table, there on the oilcloth, a very tender young cucumber,
                                           pebbly and fresh as a daisy.
The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and coming down hard.
It hasn't let up all morning.

(trans Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk)

Source: The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry

939. The Wasp Trap, by Edward Thomas

This moonlight makes
The lovely lovelier
Than ever before lakes
And meadows were.

And yet they are not,
Though this their hour is, more
Lovely than things that were not
Lovely before.

Nothing on earth,
And in the heavens no star,
For pure brightness is worth
More than that jar,

For wasps meant, now
A star — long may it swing,
From the dead apple-bough,
So glistening.

Source: Poems of Edward Thomas

940. Family Portrait, by Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Yes, this family portrait
is a little dusty.
The father's face doesn't show
how much money he earned.

The uncles' hands don't reveal
the voyages both of them made.
The grandmother's smoothed and yellowed;
she's forgotten the monarchy.

The children, how they've changed.
Peter's face is tranquil,
that wore the best dreams.
And John's no longer a liar.

The garden's become fantastic.
The flowers are gray badges.
And the sand, beneath dead feet,
is an ocean of fog.

In the semicircle of armchairs
a certain movement is noticed.
The children are changing places,
but noiselessly! it's a picture.

Twenty years is a long time.
It can form any image.
If one face starts to wither,
another presents itself, smiling.

All these seated strangers,
my relations? I don't believe it.
They're guests amusing themselves
in a rarely-opened parlor.

Family features remain
lost in the play of bodies.
But there's enough to suggest
that a body is full of surprises.

The frame of this family portrait
holds its personages in vain.
They're there voluntarily,
they'd know how — if need be — to fly.

They could refine themselves
in the room's chiaroscuro,
live inside the furniture
or the pockets of old waistcoats.

The house has many drawers,
papers, long staircases.
When matter becomes annoyed,
who knows the malice of things?

The portrait does not reply,
it stares; in my dusty eyes
it contemplates itself.
The living and dead relations

multiply in the glass.
I don't distinguish those
that went away from those
that stay. I only perceive
the strange idea of family

traveling through the flesh.

(trans Elizabeth Bishop)

Source: The Complete Poems, 1927-1979

941. The Public Garden, by Robert Lowell

Burnished, burned-out, still burning as the year
you lead me to our stamping ground.
The city and its cruising cars surround
the Public Garden. All's alive—
the children crowding home from school at five,
punting a football in the bricky air,
the sailors and their pick-ups under trees
with Latin labels. And the jaded flock
of swanboats paddles to its dock.
The park is drying.
Dead leaves thicken to a ball
inside the basin of a fountain, where
the heads of four stone lions stare
and suck on empty fawcets. Night
deepens. From the arched bridge, we see
the shedding park-bound mallards, how they keep
circling and diving in the lanternlight,
searching for something hidden in the muck.
And now the moon, earth's friend, that cared so much
for us, and cared so little, comes again—
always a stranger! As we walk,
it lies like chalk
over the waters. Everything's aground.
Remember summer? Bubbles filled
the fountain, and we splashed. We drowned
in Eden, while Jehovah's grass-green lyre
was rustling all about us in the leaves
that gurgled by us, turning upside down...
The fountain's failing waters flash around
the garden. Nothing catches fire.

Source: Life Studies and For the Union Dead

942. Running on the Shore, by May Swenson

The sun is hot, the ocean cool. The waves
throw down their snowy heads. I run
under their hiss and boom, mine their wild
breath. Running the ledge where pipers
prod their awls into sand-crab holes,
my barefoot tracks their little prints cross
on wet slate. Circles of romping water swipe
and drag away our evidence. Running and
gone, running and gone, the casts of our feet.

My twin, my sprinting shadow on yellow shag,
wand of summer over my head, it seems
that we could run forever while the strong
waves crash. But sun takes its belly under.
Flashing above magnetic peaks of the ocean's
purple heave, the gannet climbs,
and turning, turns
to a black sword that drops,
hilt-down, to the deep.

Source: New and Selected Things Taking Place

943. "How the old Mountains drip with Sunset," by Emily Dickinson

How the old Mountains drip with Sunset
How the Hemlocks burn —
How the Dun Brake is draped in Cinder
By the Wizard Sun —

How the old Steeples hand the Scarlet
Till the Ball is full —
Have I the lip of the Flamingo
That I dare to tell?

Then, how the Fire ebbs like Billows —
Touching all the Grass
With a departing — Sapphire — feature —
As a Duchess passed —

How a small Dusk crawls on the Village
Till the Houses blot
And the odd Flambeau, no men carry
Glimmer on the Street —

How it is Night — in Nest and Kennel —
And where was the Wood —
Just a Dome of Abyss is Bowing
Into Solitude —

These are the Visions flitted Guido —
Titian — never told —
Domenichino dropped his pencil —
Paralyzed, with Gold —

Source: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

944. Faint Music, by Walter de la Mare

The meteor's arc of quiet; a voiceless rain;
The mist's mute communing with a stagnant moat;
The sigh of a flower that has neglected lain;
            That bell's unuttered note:

A hidden self rebels, its slumber broken;
Love secret as crystal forms within the womb;
The heart may as faithfully beat, the vow unspoken;
            All sounds to silence come.

Source: A Choice of de la Mare's Verse

945. Why the Classics, by Zbigniew Herbert


in the fourth book of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides tells among other things
the story of his unsuccessful expedition

among long speeches of chiefs
battles sieges plague
dense net of intrigues of diplomatic endeavours
the episode is like a pin
in a forest

the Greek colony Amphipolis
fell into the hands of Brasidos
because Thucydides was late with relief

for this he paid his native city
with lifelong exile

exiles of all times
know what price this is


generals of the most recent wars
if a similar affair happens to them
whine on their knees before posterity
praise their heroism and innocence

they accuse their subordinates
envious colleagues
unfavourable winds

Thucydides says only
that he had seven ships
it was winter
and he sailed quickly


if art for its subject
will have a broken jar
a small broken soul
with a great self-pity

what will remain after us
will be like lovers' weeping
in a small dirty hotel
when wall-paper dawns

Source: Selected Poems

946. From "Eight Variations," by Weldon Kees

And when your beauty, washed away
In impure streams by my desire,
Is only topic for ill-mannered minds,
Gifted and glassy with exact recall,
Gossip and rancid footnotes, or remote despair,
Let ruined weather perish in the streets
And let the world's black lying flag come down.

Only in calendars that mark no Spring
Can there be weather in the mind
That moves to you again as you are now:
Tired after love and silent in this house,
Your back turned to me, quite alone,
Standing with one hand raised to smooth your hair,
At a small window, green with rain.

Source: Collected Poems

947. "I left you last night," by Inge Müller

I left you last night
For a long time — I have a feeling, for good.
The morning was a grey room
And when you went out the streets were full of smoke.

(trans Michael Hoffman)

Source: The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems

948. The North Star Whispers to the Blacksmith's Son, by Vachel Lindsay

The North Star whispers: "You are one
Of those whose course no chance can change.
You blunder, but are not undone,
Your spirit-task is fixed and strange.

"When here you walk, a bloodless shade,
A singer all men else forget.
Your chants of hammer, forge and spade
Will move the prairie-village yet.

"That young, stiff-necked, reviling town
Beholds your fancies on her walls,
And paints them out or tears them down,
Or bars them from her feasting halls.

"Yet shall the fragments still remain;
Yet shall remain some watch-tower strong
That ivy-vines will not disdain,
Haunted and trembling with your song.

"Your flambeau in the dusk shall burn,
Flame high in storms, flame white and clear;
Your ghost in gleaming robes return
And burn a deathless incense here."

Source: Collected Poems of Vachel Lindsay

949. "My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold," by William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
____A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
____Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Source: Selected Poetry