811. Poem, by Gu Cheng

Gray sky
gray road
gray buildings
in the gray rain

Through this wide grayness
walk two children
one bright red
one pale green

(trans Eliot Weinberger)

Source: Oranges & Peanuts for Sale

812. On the Way to School, by Vicente Aleixandre

I rode my bicycle to school.
Along a peaceful street that ran through the center of the noble,
   mysterious city.
I rode by, surrounded by lights, and the carriages made no noise.
They passed, majestic, pulled by distinguished bays or chestnuts
   that moved with a proud bearing.
How they lifted their hooves as they went along, like gentlemen,
not disdaining the world, but studying it
from the sovereign grace of their manes!
And inside, what? Old ladies, scarcely a little more than lace,
silent ornaments, stuck-up hairstyles, ancient velvet:
a pure silence passing, pulled by the heavy shining animals.

I rode my bicycle, I almost had wings, I was inspired.
And there were wide sidewalks along that sunny street.
In the sunlight, some sudden butterfly hovered over the carriages
   and then, along the sidewalks,
over the slow strollers made of smoke.
But they were mothers taking their littlest children for a walk.
And fathers who, in their offices of glass and dreams...
I looked as I went by.
I sailed through the sweet smoke, and the butterfly was no stranger.
Pale in the iridescent winter afternoon,
she spread herself out in the slow street as over a sheltered,
   sleepy valley.
And I saw her swept up sometimes to hang suspended
over what could as well have been the pleasant bank of a river.
Ah, nothing was terrible.
The street had a slight grade and up I went, driven on.
A wind swept the hats of the old ladies.
It wasn't hurt by the peaceful canes of the gentlemen.
And it lit up like an imaginary rose, a little like a kiss, on the
   cheeks of the children.
The trees in a row were a motionless vapor, gentle
suspended under the blue. And by now nearly up in the air,
I hurried past on my bicycle and smiled...
and I remember perfectly
how I folded my wings mysteriously on the very threshold of the

(trans Stephen Kessler)

Source: A Longing for the Light: Selected Poems of Vicente Aleixandre

813. Proud Songsters, by Thomas Hardy

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
            In bushes
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
    As if all Time were theirs.

These are brand-new birds of twelve-months' growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
            Nor thrushes,
But only particles of grain,
    And earth, and air, and rain.

Source: The Complete Poems

814. The Bicyclist, by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Crossing a bridge in our VW bus
In Stratford-on-Avon, you swerved but grazed
A skinny man riding a bicycle.
God! Was he mad! You pulled off to the side
Beyond the bridge, and he came after us
Shouting, Police! and pedaling furiously
In his black suit. You stood by the bus
As he pulled up and flailed at his kickstand
And rained vituperation on your head.
You quietly cut through his narrative,
"Are you all right?" your face kindly and wry.

Through the bus window I saw the moment when
He first saw you, first looked you in the eye.
He straightened up. His hands moved fast
To straighten his bow tie. Well, yes, he supposed
That he was fine. You asked more questions, asked
So quietly I couldn't hear, but I could see
His more emphatically respectful answers
As he began to nod in affirmation
Of all you said. Then he smiled, sort of,
Offering his hand, and when he pedaled off
He waved and shouted, Thank you very much!

That's what you were like—you could sideswipe
A bow-tied Englishman wobbling across
A narrow bridge on his collapsible bike,
And inspire him, somehow, to thank you for it.

Source: Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-1992