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Best Famous Robert Penn Warren Poems

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by Robert Penn Warren |

San Francisco Night Windows

 So hangs the hour like fruit fullblown and sweet,
Our strict and desperate avatar,
Despite that antique westward gulls lament
Over enormous waters which retreat
Weary unto the white and sensual star.
Accept these images for what they are-- Out of the past a fragile element Of substance into accident.
I would speak honestly and of a full heart; I would speak surely for the tale is short, And the soul's remorseless catalogue Assumes its quick and piteous sum.
Think you, hungry is the city in the fog Where now the darkened piles resume Their framed and frozen prayer Articulate and shafted in the stone Against the void and absolute air.
If so the frantic breath could be forgiven, And the deep blood subdued before it is gone In a savage paternoster to the stone, Then might we all be shriven.


by Robert Penn Warren |

True Love

 In silence the heart raves.
It utters words Meaningless, that never had A meaning.
I was ten, skinny, red-headed, Freckled.
In a big black Buick, Driven by a big grown boy, with a necktie, she sat In front of the drugstore, sipping something Through a straw.
There is nothing like Beauty.
It stops your heart.
It Thickens your blood.
It stops your breath.
It Makes you feel dirty.
You need a hot bath.
I leaned against a telephone pole, and watched.
I thought I would die if she saw me.
How could I exist in the same world with that brightness? Two years later she smiled at me.
She Named my name.
I thought I would wake up dead.
Her grown brothers walked with the bent-knee Swagger of horsemen.
They were slick-faced.
Told jokes in the barbershop.
Did no work.
Their father was what is called a drunkard.
Whatever he was he stayed on the third floor Of the big white farmhouse under the maples for twenty-five years.
He never came down.
They brought everything up to him.
I did not know what a mortgage was.
His wife was a good, Christian woman, and prayed.
When the daughter got married, the old man came down wearing An old tail coat, the pleated shirt yellowing.
The sons propped him.
I saw the wedding.
There were Engraved invitations, it was so fashionable.
I thought I would cry.
I lay in bed that night And wondered if she would cry when something was done to her.
The mortgage was foreclosed.
That last word was whispered.
She never came back.
The family Sort of drifted off.
Nobody wears shiny boots like that now.
But I know she is beautiful forever, and lives In a beautiful house, far away.
She called my name once.
I didn't even know she knew it.


by Robert Penn Warren |

Evening Hawk

 From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds,
Out of the peak's black angularity of shadow, riding
The last tumultuous avalanche of
Light above pines and the guttural gorge,
The hawk comes.
His wing Scythes down another day, his motion Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear The crashless fall of stalks of Time.
The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error.
Look!Look!he is climbing the last light Who knows neither Time nor error, and under Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings Into shadow.
Long now, The last thrush is still, the last bat Now cruises in his sharp hieroglyphics.
His wisdom Is ancient, too, and immense.
The star Is steady, like Plato, over the mountain.
If there were no wind we might, we think, hear The earth grind on its axis, or history Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.


by Robert Penn Warren |

A Way to Love God

 Here is the shadow of truth, for only the shadow is true.
And the line where the incoming swell from the sunset Pacific First leans and staggers to break will tell all you need to know About submarine geography, and your father's death rattle Provides all biographical data required for the Who's Who of the dead.
I cannot recall what I started to tell you, but at least I can say how night-long I have lain under the stars and Heard mountains moan in their sleep.
By daylight, They remember nothing, and go about their lawful occasions Of not going anywhere except in slow disintegration.
At night They remember, however, that there is something they cannot remember.
So moan.
Theirs is the perfected pain of conscience that Of forgetting the crime, and I hope you have not suffered it.
I have.
I do not recall what had burdened my tongue, but urge you To think on the slug's white belly, how sick-slick and soft, On the hairiness of stars, silver, silver, while the silence Blows like wind by, and on the sea's virgin bosom unveiled To give suck to the wavering serpent of the moon; and, In the distance, in plaza, piazza, place, platz, and square, Boot heels, like history being born, on cobbles bang.
Everything seems an echo of something else.
And when, by the hair, the headsman held up the head Of Mary of Scots, the lips kept on moving, But without sound.
The lips, They were trying to say something very important.
But I had forgotten to mention an upland Of wind-tortured stone white in darkness, and tall, but when No wind, mist gathers, and once on the Sarré at midnight, I watched the sheep huddling.
Their eyes Stared into nothingness.
In that mist-diffused light their eyes Were stupid and round like the eyes of fat fish in muddy water, Or of a scholar who has lost faith in his calling.
Their jaws did not move.
Shreds Of dry grass, gray in the gray mist-light, hung From the side of a jaw, unmoving.
You would think that nothing would ever again happen.
That may be a way to love God.


by Robert Penn Warren |

Tell Me a Story

 Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.
I could not see them, there being no moon And the stars sparse.
I heard them.
I did not know what was happening in my heart.
It was the season before the elderberry blooms, Therefore they were going north.
The sound was passing northward.


by Robert Penn Warren |

Mortal Limit

 I saw the hawk ride updraft in the sunset over Wyoming.
It rose from coniferous darkness, past gray jags Of mercilessness, past whiteness, into the gloaming Of dream-spectral light above the lazy purity of snow-snags.
There--west--were the Tetons.
Snow-peaks would soon be In dark profile to break constellations.
Beyond what height Hangs now the black speck?Beyond what range will gold eyes see New ranges rise to mark a last scrawl of light? Or, having tasted that atmosphere's thinness, does it Hang motionless in dying vision before It knows it will accept the mortal limit, And swing into the great circular downwardness that will restore The breath of earth?Of rock?Of rot?Of other such Items, and the darkness of whatever dream we clutch?