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Best Famous Howard Nemerov Poems

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by Howard Nemerov | |

Casting

 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?


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.


by Howard Nemerov | |

Storm Windows

 People are putting up storm windows now,
Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain
Drove them indoors.
So, coming home at noon, I saw storm windows lying on the ground, Frame-full of rain; through the water and glass I saw the crushed grass, how it seemed to stream Away in lines like seaweed on the tide Or blades of wheat leaning under the wind.
The ripple and splash of rain on the blurred glass Seemed that it briefly said, as I walked by, Something I should have liked to say to you, Something.
.
.
the dry grass bent under the pane Brimful of bouncing water.
.
.
something of A swaying clarity which blindly echoes This lonely afternoon of memories And missed desires, while the wintry rain (Unspeakable, the distance in the mind!) Runs on the standing windows and away.


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.
"


by Howard Nemerov | |

Poetics

 You know the old story Ann Landers tells
About the houseife in her basement doing the wash?
She's wearing her nightie, and she thinks, "Well, hell,
I might's well put this in as well," and then
Being dripped on by a leaky pipe puts on
Her son's football helmet; whereupon
The meter reader happens to walk through
and "Lady," he gravely says, "I sure hope your team wins.
" A story many times told in many ways, The set of random accidents redeemed By one more accident, as though chaos Were the order that was before the creation came.
That is the way things happen in the world: A joke, a disappointment satisfied, As we walk through doing our daily round, Reading the meter, making things add up.


by Howard Nemerov | |

A Life

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


by Howard Nemerov | |

Fugue

 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.


by Howard Nemerov | |

Because You Asked About The Line Between Prose And Poetry

 Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.
There came a moment that you couldn't tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.


by Howard Nemerov | |

Style

 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.


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.


by Howard Nemerov | |

Threshold

 When in still air and still in summertime
A leaf has had enough of this, it seems
To make up its mind to go; fine as a sage
Its drifting in detachment down the road.


by Howard Nemerov | |

Gyroscope

 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.


by Howard Nemerov | |

Kicks

 The fishermen on Lake Michigan, sometimes,
For kicks, they spit two hunks of bait on hooks
At either end of a single length of line
And toss that up among the scavenging gulls,

Who go for it so fast that often two of them
Make the connection before it hits the water.
Hooked and hung up like that, they do a dance That lasts only so long.
The fishermen Do that for kicks, on Lake Michigan, sometimes.