982. Silk of a Soul, by Zbigniew Herbert

did I speak with her
either about love
or about death

only blind taste
and mute touch
used to run between us
when absorbed in ourselves
we lay close

I must
peek inside her
to see what she wears
at her centre

when she slept
with her lips open
I peeked

and what
and what
would you think
I caught sight of

I was expecting
I was expecting
a bird
I was expecting
a house
by a lake great and silent

but there
on a glass counter
I caught sight of a pair
of silk stockings

my God
I'll buy her those stockings
I'll buy them

but what will appear then
on the glass counter
of the little soul

will it be something
which cannot be touched
even with one finger of a dream

(trans Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott)

Source: Selected Poems

983. Exile, by Hart Crane

(after the Chinese)

My hands have not touched pleasure since your hands,-
No,-nor my lips freed laughter since 'farewell',
And with the day, distance again expands
Voiceless between us, as an uncoiled shell.

Yet love endures, though starving and alone.
A dove's wings cling about my heart each night
With surging gentleness, and the blue stone
Set in the tryst-ring has but worn more bright.

Source: The Complete Poems of Hart Crane

984. Of Swimming in Lakes and Rivers, by Bertolt Brecht

In the pale summer when the winds above
Only in great trees' leaves a murmur make
You ought to lie in rivers or in ponds
As do the waterweeds which harbour pike.
The body grows light in the water. When your arm
Falls easily from water into sky
The little wind rocks it absentmindedly
Taking it likely for a brownish bough.

The sky at noon offers ample calm.
You close your eyes when swallows pass.
The mud is warm. Cool bubbles welling up
Show that a fish has just swum through us.
My body and thighs and resting arm
We lie in the water quite at one and still
Only when the cool fish swim through us
I sense the sun shining above the pool.

By the evening having grown very lazy
With lying so long, each limb begins to smart
You have to dash all that with a reckless smack
Into blue streams which scatter far apart.
It's best to last out until the evening
For then the pale shark-like sky will come
Evil and greedy over bush and river
And all things will assume their aptest form.

Of course you must lie upon your back
As if by habit. And drift along.
You need not swim, no, only behave as if
It's just to the mass of gravel you belong.
You should look at the sky and act
As if a woman held you, which is right.
Quite without great upheaval as the good God does
When he swims in his rivers at evening light.

(trans Lesley Lendrum)

Source: The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems

985. The Aim Was Song, by Robert Frost

Before man came to blow it right
The wind once blew itself untaught,
And did its loudest day and night
In any rough place where it caught.

Man came to tell it what was wrong:
It hadn't found the place to blow;
It blew too hard - the aim was song.
And listen - how it ought to go!

He took a little in his mouth,
And held it long enough for north
To be converted into south,
And then by measure blew it forth.

By measure. It was word and note,
The wind the wind had meant to be-
A little through the lips and throat.
The aim was song - the wind could see.

Source: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged

986. Crime Club, by Weldon Kees

No butler, no second maid, no blood upon the stair.
No eccentric aunt, no gardener, no family friend
Smiling among the bric-a-brac and murder.
Only a suburban house with the front door open
And a dog barking at a squirrel, and the cars
Passing. The corpse quite dead. The wife in Florida.

Consider the clues: the potato masher in a vase,
The torn photograph of a Wesleyan basketball team,
Scattered with check stubs in the hall;
The unsent fan letter to Shirley Temple,
The Hoover button on the lapel of the deceased,
The note: "To be killed this way is quite all right with me."

Small wonder that the case remains unsolved,
Or that the sleuth, Le Roux, is now incurably insane,
And sits alone in a white room in a white gown,
Screaming that all the world is mad, that clues
Lead nowhere, or to walls so high their tops cannot be seen;
Screaming all day of war, screaming that nothing can be solved.

Source: The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees

987. A Word with You, by Elizabeth Bishop

Look out! there's that damned ape again
sit silently until he goes,
or else forgets the things he knows
(whatever they are) about us, then
we can begin to talk again.

Have you tried playing with your ring?
Sometimes that calms them down, I find.
(Bright objects hypnotize the mind.)
Get his attention on anything –
anything will do - there, try your ring.

The glitter pleases him. You see
he squints his eyes; his lip hangs loose.
You were saying? - Oh Lord, what's the use,
for now the parrot's after me
and the monkeys are awake. You see

how hard it is, you understand
this nervous strain in which we live -
Why just one luscious adjective
infuriates the whole damned band
and they're squabbling for it. I understand

some people manage better. How?
They treat the creatures without feeling.
- Throw books to stop the monkeys' squealing,
slap the ape and make him bow,
are firm, keep order, - but I don't know how.

Quick! there's the cockatoo! he heard!
(He can't bear any form of wit.)
- Please watch out that you don't get bit;
there's not a thing escapes that bird.
Be silent, - now the ape has overheard.

Source: The Complete Poems, 1927-1979

988. Afternoon Service at Mellstock, by Thomas Hardy

On afternoons of drowsy calm
We stood in the panelled pew,
Singing one-voiced a Tate-and-Brady psalm
To the tune of 'Cambridge New'.

We watched the elms, we watched the rooks,
The clouds upon the breeze,
Between the whiles of glancing at our books,
And swaying like the trees.

So mindless were those outpourings! -
Though I am not aware
That I have gained by subtle thought on things
Since we stood psalming there.

Source: Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems