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

950. Solemnly Over the Fertile Land, by Fernando Pessoa (as Ricardo Reis)

Solemnly over the fertile land
The brief and futile white cloud passes,
And for a black instant the fields are touched
___By a cold breeze

So too in my soul the slow thought soars
And darkens my mind, but I, like the field
That returns to itself, return to the day,
___The surface of life.

(trans Richard Zenith)

Source: Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems