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Best Famous Howard Nemerov Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Howard Nemerov poems. This is a select list of the best famous Howard Nemerov poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Howard Nemerov poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Howard Nemerov poems.

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Written by Howard Nemerov |

Lion and Honeycomb

 He didn't want to do it with skill,
He'd had enough of skill.
If he never saw Another villanelle, it would be too soon; And the same went for sonnets.
If it had been Hard work learning to rime, it would be much Harder learning not to.
The time came He had to ask himself, what did he want? What did he want when he began That idiot fiddling with the sounds of things.
He asked himself, poor moron, because he had Nobody else to ask.
The others went right on Talking about form, talking about myth And the (so help us) need for a modern idiom; The verseballs among them kept counting syllables.
So there he was, this forty-year-old teen-ager Dreaming preposterous mergers and divisions Of vowels like water, consonants like rock (While everybody kept discussing values And the need for values), for words that would Enter the silence and be there as a light.
So much coffee and so many cigarettes Gone down the drain, gone up in smoke, Just for the sake of getting something right Once in a while, something that could stand On its own flat feet to keep out windy time And the worm, something that might simply be, Not as the monument in the smoky rain Grimly endures, but that would be Only a moment's inviolable presence, The moment before disaster, before the storm, In its peculiar silence, an integer Fixed in the middle of the fall of things, Perfected and casual as to a child's eye Soap bubbles are, and skipping stones.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

Insomnia I

 Some nights it's bound to be your best way out,
When nightmare is the short end of the stick,
When sleep is a part of town where it's not safe
To walk at night, when waking is the only way
You have of distancing your wretched dead,
A growing crowd, and escaping out of their
Time into yours for another little while;

Then pass ghostly, a planet in the house
Never observed, among the sleeping rooms
Where children dream themselves, and thence go down
Into the empty domain where daylight reigned;
Reward yourself with drink and a book to read,
A mystery, for its elusive gift
Of reassurance against the hour of death.
Order your heart about: Stop doing that! And get the world to be secular again.
Then, when you know who done it, turn out the light, And quietly in darkness, in moonlight, or snowlight Reflective, listen to the whistling earth In its backspin trajectory around the sun That makes the planets sometimes retrograde And brings the cold forgiveness of the dawn Whose light extinguishes all stars but one.

Written by Howard Nemerov |


 This admirable gadget, when it is
Wound on a string and spun with steady force,
Maintains its balance on most any smooth
Surface, pleasantly humming as it goes.
It is whirled not on a constant course, but still Stands in unshivering integrity For quite some time, meaning nothing perhaps But being something agreeable to watch, A silver nearly silence gleaning a still- ness out of speed, composing unity From spin, so that its hollow spaces seem Solids of light, until it wobbles and Begins to whine, and then with an odd lunge Eccentric and reckless, it skids away And drops dead into its own skeleton.

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Written by Howard Nemerov |

Amateurs of Heaven

 Two lovers to a midnight meadow came
High in the hills, to lie there hand and hand
Like effigies and look up at the stars,
The never-setting ones set in the North
To circle the Pole in idiot majesty,
And wonder what was given them to wonder.
Being amateurs, they knew some of the names By rote, and could attach the names to stars And draw the lines invisible between That humbled all the heavenly things to farm And forest things and even kitchen things, A bear, a wagon, a long handled ladle; Could wonder at the shadow of the world That brought those lights to light, could wonder too At the ancestral eyes and the dark mind Behind them that had reached the length of light To name the stars and draw the animals And other stuff that dangled in the height, Or was it the deep? Did they look in Or out, the lovers? till they grew bored As even lovers will, and got up to go, But drunken now, with staggering and dizziness, Because the spell of earth had moved them so, Hallucinating that the heavens moved.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

The Beautiful Lawn Sprinkler

 What gives it power makes it change its mind
At each extreme, and lean its rising rain
Down low, first one and then the other way;
In which exchange humility and pride
Reverse, forgive, arise, and die again,
Wherefore it holds at both ends of the day
The rainbow in its scattering grains of spray.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

Learning by Doing

 They're taking down a tree at the front door,
The power saw is snarling at some nerves,
Whining at others.
Now and then it grunts, And sawdust falls like snow or a drift of seeds.
Rotten, they tell us, at the fork, and one Big wind would bring it down.
So what they do They do, as usual, to do us good.
Whatever cannot carry its own weight Has got to go, and so on; you expect To hear them talking next about survival And the values of a free society.
For in the explanations people give On these occasions there is generally some Mean-spirited moral point, and everyone Privately wonders if his neighbors plan To saw him up before he falls on them.
Maybe a hundred years in sun and shower Dismantled in a morning and let down Out of itself a finger at a time And then an arm, and so down to the trunk, Until there's nothing left to hold on to Or snub the splintery holding rope around, And where those big green divagations were So loftily with shadows interleaved The absent-minded blue rains in on us.
Now that they've got it sectioned on the ground It looks as though somebody made a plain Error in diagnosis, for the wood Looks sweet and sound throughout.
You couldn't know, Of course, until you took it down.
That's what Experts are for, and these experts stand round The giant pieces of tree as though expecting An instruction booklet from the factory Before they try to put it back together.
Anyhow, there it isn't, on the ground.
Next come the tractor and the crowbar crew To extirpate what's left and fill the grave.
Maybe tomorrow grass seed will be sown.
There's some mean-spirited moral point in that As well: you learn to bury your mistakes, Though for a while at dusk the darkening air Will be with many shadows interleaved, And pierced with a bewilderment of birds.

Written by Howard Nemerov |


 You see them vanish in their speeding cars, 
The many people hastening through the world,
And wonder what they would have done before
This time of time speed distance, random streams
Of molecules hastened by what rising heat?
Was there never a world where people just sat still?

Yet they might be all of them contemplatives
Of a timeless now, drivers and passengers
In the moving cars all facing to the front
Which is the future, which is destiny,
Which is desire and desire's end - 
What are they doing but just sitting still?

And still at speed they fly away, as still 
As the road paid out beneath them as it flows
Moment by moment into the mirrored past;
They spread in their wake the parading fields of food,
The windowless works where who is making what,
The grey towns where the wishes and the fears are done.

Written by Howard Nemerov |


 Flaubert wanted to write a novel
About nothing.
It was to have no subject And be sustained upon the style alone, Like the Holy Ghost cruising above The abyss, or like the little animals In Disney cartoons who stand upon a branch That breaks, but do not fall Till they look down.
He never wrote that novel, And neither did he write another one That would have been called La Spirale, Wherein the hero's fortunes were to rise In dreams, while his walking life disintegrated.
Even so, for these two books We thank the master.
They can be read, With difficulty, in the spirit alone, Are not so wholly lost as certain works Burned at Alexandria, flooded at Florence, And are never taught at universities.
Moreover, they are not deformed by style, That fire that eats what it illuminates.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

Learning the Trees

 Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees.
That's done indoors, Out of a book, which now you think of it Is one of the transformations of a tree.
The words themselves are a delight to learn, You might be in a foreign land of terms Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome, Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.
But best of all are the words that shape the leaves – Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform – And their venation – palmate and parallel – And tips – acute, truncate, auriculate.
Sufficiently provided, you may now Go forth to the forests and the shady streets To see how the chaos of experience Answers to catalogue and category.
The leaves of a single tree May differ among themselves more than they do From other species, so you have to find, All blandly says the book, "an average leaf.
" Example, the catalpa in the book Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three Around the stem; the one in front of you But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost; Maybe it's not catalpa? Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids, A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.
Still, pedetemtim as Lucretious says, Little by little, you do start to learn; And learn as well, maybe, what language does And how it does it, cutting across the world Not always at the joints, competing with Experience while cooperating with Experience, and keeping an obstinate Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.
Think finally about the secret will Pretending obedience to Nature, but Invidiously distinguishing everywhere, Dividing up the world to conquer it.
And think also how funny knowledge is: You may succeed in learning many trees And calling off their names as you go by, But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

A Life

In a sense.
In no sense! Was that it? Was that it? Was that it? That was it.

Written by Howard Nemerov |


 The waters deep, the waters dark,
Reflect the seekers, hide the sought,
Whether in water or in air to drown.
Between them curls the silver spark, Barbed, baited, waiting, of a thought-- Which in the world is upside down, The fish hook or the question mark?

Written by Howard Nemerov |

September The First Day Of School


My child and I hold hands on the way to school,
And when I leave him at the first-grade door
He cries a little but is brave; he does
Let go.
My selfish tears remind me how I cried before that door a life ago.
I may have had a hard time letting go.
Each fall the children must endure together What every child also endures alone: Learning the alphabet, the integers, Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff So arbitrary, so peremptory, That worlds invisible and visible Bow down before it, as in Joseph's dream The sheaves bowed down and then the stars bowed down Before the dreaming of a little boy.
That dream got him such hatred of his brothers As cost the greater part of life to mend, And yet great kindness came of it in the end.
II A school is where they grind the grain of thought, And grind the children who must mind the thought.
It may be those two grindings are but one, As from the alphabet come Shakespeare's Plays, As from the integers comes Euler's Law, As from the whole, inseperably, the lives, The shrunken lives that have not been set free By law or by poetic phantasy.
But may they be.
My child has disappeared Behind the schoolroom door.
And should I live To see his coming forth, a life away, I know my hope, but do not know its form Nor hope to know it.
May the fathers he finds Among his teachers have a care of him More than his father could.
How that will look I do not know, I do not need to know.
Even our tears belong to ritual.
But may great kindness come of it in the end.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

A Spell before Winter

 After the red leaf and the gold have gone,
Brought down by the wind, then by hammering rain
Bruised and discolored, when October's flame
Goes blue to guttering in the cusp, this land
Sinks deeper into silence, darker into shade.
There is a knowledge in the look of things, The old hills hunch before the north wind blows.
Now I can see certain simplicities In the darkening rust and tarnish of the time, And say over the certain simplicities, The running water and the standing stone, The yellow haze of the willow and the black Smoke of the elm, the silver, silent light Where suddenly, readying toward nightfall, The sumac's candelabrum darkly flames.
And I speak to you now with the land's voice, It is the cold, wild land that says to you A knowledge glimmers in the sleep of things: The old hills hunch before the north wind blows.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

The Lobster

 Here at the Super Duper, in a glass tank
Supplied by a rill of cold fresh water
Running down a glass washboard at one end
And siphoned off at the other, and so
Perpetually renewed, a herd of lobster
Is made available to the customer
Who may choose whichever one he wants
To carry home and drop into boiling water
And serve with a sauce of melted butter.
Meanwhile, the beauty of strangeness marks These creatures, who move (when they do) With a slow, vague wavering of claws, The somnambulist¹s effortless clambering As he crawls over the shell of a dream Resembling himself.
Their velvet colors, Mud red, bruise purple, cadaver green Speckled with black, their camouflage at home, Make them conspicuous here in the strong Day-imitating light, the incommensurable Philosophers and at the same time victims Herded together in the marketplace, asleep Except for certain tentative gestures Of their antennae, or their imperial claws Pegged shut with a whittled stick at the wrist.
We inlanders, buying our needful food, Pause over these slow, gigantic spiders That spin not.
We pause and are bemused, And sometimes it happens that a mind sinks down To the blind abyss in a swirl of sand, goes cold And archaic in a carapace of horn, Thinking: There's something underneath the world.
The flame beneath the pot that boils the water.

Written by Howard Nemerov |

Ozymandias II

 I met a guy I used to know, who said:
"You take your '57 Karnak, now,
The model that they called their Coop de Veal
That had the pointy rubber boobs for bumpers--
You take that car, owned by a nigger now
Likelier'n not, with half its chromium teeth
Knocked down its throat and aerial ripped off,
Side stitched with like bullets where the stripping's gone
And rust like a fungus spreading on the fenders,

Well, what I mean, that fucking car still runs,
Even the moths in the upholstery are old
But it gets around, you see one on the street
Beat-up and proud, well, Jeezus what a country,
Where even the monuments keep on the move.