Anna Akhmatova | |
Holy Lot was a-going behind God's angel,
He seemed huge and bright on a hill, huge and black.
But the heart of his wife whispered stronger and stranger:
"It's not very late, you have time to look back
At these rose turrets of your native Sodom,
The square where you sang, and the yard where you span,
The windows looking from your cozy home
Where you bore children for your dear man.
She looked -- and her eyes were instantly bound
By pain -- they couldn't see any more at all:
Her fleet feet grew into the stony ground,
Her body turned into a pillar of salt.
Who'll mourn her as one of Lot's family members?
Doesn't she seem the smallest of losses to us?
But deep in my heart I will always remember
One who gave her life up for one single glance.
Philip Larkin | |
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone:
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flag-staff -
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.
Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes away from death -
Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs.
Constantine P Cavafy | |
Half past twelve.
Time has gone by quickly
since nine o'clock when I lit the lamp
and sat down here.
I've been sitting without reading,
Completely alone in the house,
whom could I talk to?
Since nine o'clock when I lit the lamp
the shade of my young body
has come to haunt me, to remind me
of shut scented rooms,
of past sensual pleasure - what daring pleasure.
And it's also brought back to me
streets now unrecognizable,
bustling night clubs now closed,
theatres and cafes no longer here.
The shade of my young body
also brought back the things that make us sad:
family grief, separations,
the feelings of my own people, feelings
of the dead so little acknowledged.
Half past twelve.
How the time has gone by.
Half past twelve.
How the years have gone by.
Constantine P Cavafy | |
They had not seen, for ages, such beautiful gifts in Delphi
as these that had been sent by the two brothers,
the rival Ptolemaic kings.
After they had received them
however, the priests were uneasy about the oracle.
They will need
all their experience to compose it with astuteness,
which of the two, which of such two will be displeased.
And they hold secret councils at night
and discuss the family affairs of the Lagidae.
But see, the envoys have returned.
They are bidding farewell.
They are returning to Alexandria, they say.
And they do not ask
for any oracle.
And the priests hear this with joy
(of course they will keep the marvellous gifts),
but they also are utterly perplexed,
not understanding what this sudden indifference means.
For they are unaware that yesterday the envoys received grave news.
The oracle was given in Rome; the division took place there.
Julie Hill Alger | |
They call it stroke.
Two we loved were stunned
by that same blow of cudgel
or axe to the brow.
Lost on the earth
they left our circle
One spent five months
falling from our grasp
mute, her grace, wit,
Her green eyes gazed at us
as if asking, as if aware,
as if hers.
she slipped away;
machinery of mercy
brought her back
to die more slowly.
At long last
Our collie dog
A lesser creature, she
had to spend only one day
drifting and reeling,
her brown eyes
was tenderly lifted,
laid on a table,
and set free.
Imamu Amiri Baraka | |
A closed window looks down
on a dirty courtyard, and black people
call across or scream or walk across
defying physics in the stream of their will
Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone's
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air
We are beautiful people
with african imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants
with african eyes, and noses, and arms,
though we sprawl in grey chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.
We have been captured,
And we labor
to make our getaway, into
the ancient image, into a new
correspondence with ourselves
and our black family.
We read magic
now we need the spells, to rise up
return, destroy, and create.
What will be
the sacred words?
Louisa May Alcott | |
O lesson well and wisely taught
Stay with me to the last,
That all my life may better be
For the trial that is past.
O vanity, mislead no more!
Sleep, like passions, long!
Wake, happy heart, and dance again
To the music of my song!
O summer days, flit fast away,
And bring the blithesome hour
When we three wanderers shall meet
Safe in our household flower!
O dear mamma, lament no more!
Smile on us as we come,
Your grief has been our punishment,
Your love has led us home.
Erin Belieu | |
I've known the pleasures of being
fired at least eleven times—
most notably by Larry who found my snood
unsuitable, another time by Jack,
whom I was sleeping with.
tardiness, a contagious lack
of team spirit; I have been unmotivated
squirting perfume onto little cards,
while stocking salad bars, when stripping
covers from romance novels, their heroines
slaving on the chain gang of obsessive love—
and always the same hard candy
of shame dissolving in my throat;
handing in my apron, returning the cash-
And yet, how fine it feels,
the perversity of freedom which never signs
a rent check or explains anything to one's family.
W S Merwin | |
Would you believe me
if I told you the name of the farmers
at the end of the lake
where it grew shallow over the mossy rocks
and if you came in the morning the grass was blue
the fur of the rocks was wet the small frogs jumped
and the lake was silent behind you
except for echoes
you tied your boat carefully to a tree
before setting out across the cool pasture
watching for the bull
all the way to the barn
or if you came in the afternoon
the pasture glared and hummed the dark leaves smelled
from beside the water and the barn was drunk
by the time you got to it
to climb on the beams
to dive into the distant hay
will you believe
the names of the farmers' children
Stanley Kunitz | |
When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.
Sylvia Plath | |
A dream tree, Polly's tree:
a thicket of sticks,
each speckled twig
ending in a thin-paned
leaf unlike any
other on it
or in a ghost flower
flat as paper and
of a color
vaporish as frost-breath,
more finical than
any silk fan
the Chinese ladies use
to stir robin's egg
haired seed of the milkweed
comes to roost there, frail
as the halo
rayed round a candle flame,
nimbus, or puff
of cloud-stuff, tipping her
Palely lit by
white daisy wheels and
a tiger faced
pansy, it glows.
no family tree,
Polly's tree, nor
a tree of heaven, though
it marry quartz-flake,
feather and rose.
It sprang from her pillow
whole as a cobweb
ribbed like a hand,
a dream tree.
wears a valentine
arc of tear-pearled
bleeding hearts on its sleeve
and, crowning it, one
blue larkspur star.
Sylvia Plath | |
Pocket watch, I tick well.
The streets are lizardly crevices
Sheer-sided, with holes where to hide.
It is best to meet in a cul-de-sac,
A palace of velvet
With windows of mirrors.
There one is safe,
There are no family photographs,
No rings through the nose, no cries.
Bright fish hooks, the smiles of women
Gulp at my bulk
And I, in my snazzy blacks,
Mill a litter of breasts like jellyfish.
The cellos of moans I eat eggs --
Eggs and fish, the essentials,
The aphrodisiac squid.
My mouth sags,
The mouth of Christ
When my engine reaches the end of it.
The tattle of my
Gold joints, my way of turning
Bitches to ripples of silver
Rolls out a carpet, a hush.
And there is no end, no end of it.
I shall never grow old.
Shriek in the sea and I
Glitter like Fontainebleu
All the fall of water an eye
Over whose pool I tenderly
Lean and see me.
Allen Ginsberg | |
Now mind is clear
as a cloudless sky.
Time then to make a
home in wilderness.
What have I done but
wander with my eyes
in the trees? So I
will build: wife,
family, and seek
perish of lonesomeness
or want of food or
lightning or the bear
(must tame the hart
and wear the bear).
And maybe make an image
of my wandering, a little
image—shrine by the
roadside to signify
to traveler that I live
here in the wilderness
awake and at home.
Louise Gluck | |
In our family, there were two saints,
my aunt and my grandmother.
But their lives were different.
My grandmother's was tranquil, even at the end.
She was like a person walking in calm water;
for some reason
the sea couldn't bring itself to hurt her.
When my aunt took the same path,
the waves broke over her, they attacked her,
which is how the Fates respond
to a true spiritual nature.
My grandmother was cautious, conservative:
that's why she escaped suffering.
My aunt's escaped nothing;
each time the sea retreats, someone she loves is taken away.
Still she won't experience
the sea as evil.
To her, it is what it is:
where it touches land, it must turn to violence.
Forrest Hamer | |
It was 1963 or 4, summer,
and my father was driving our family
Hood to North Carolina in our 56 Buick.
We'd been hearing about Klan attacks, and we knew
Mississippi to be more dangerous than usual.
Dark lay hanging from the trees the way moss did,
and when it moaned light against the windows
that night, my father pulled off the road to sleep.
that usually woke me from rest afraid of monsters
kept my father awake that night, too,
and I lay in the quiet noticing him listen, learning
that he might not be able always to protect us
from everything and the creatures besides;
perhaps not even from the fury suddenly loud
through my body about his trip from Texas
to settle us home before he would go away
to a place no place in the world
he named Viet Nam.
A boy needs a father
with him, I kept thinking, fixed against noise
from the dark.
Vachel Lindsay | |
The Lion is a kingly beast.
He likes a Hindu for a feast.
And if no Hindu he can get,
The lion-family is upset.
He cuffs his wife and bites her ears
Till she is nearly moved to tears.
Then some explorer finds the den
And all is family peace again.
Les Murray | |
The paddocks shave black
with a foam of smoke that stays,
welling out of red-black wounds.
In the white of a drought
The hardcourt game.
Logs that fume are mostly cattle,
Tree stumps are kilns.
Walloped, wiped, hand-pumped,
even this day rolls over, slowly.
At dusk, a family drives sheep
out through the yellow
of the Aboriginal flag.
Ogden Nash | |
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.
Ogden Nash | |
One would be in less danger
From the wiles of a stranger
If one's own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.
Linda Pastan | |
The gathering family
throws shadows around us,
it is the late afternoon
Of the family.
There is still enough light
to see all the way back,
but at the windows
that light is wasting away.
Soon we will be nothing
but silhouettes: the sons'
as the fathers'.
Soon the daughters
will take off their aprons
as trees take off their leaves
Let us eat quickly--
let us fill ourselves up.
the covers of the album are closing
William Stafford | |
My family slept those level miles
but like a bell rung deep till dawn
I drove down an aisle of sound,
nothing real but in the bell,
past the town where I was born.
Once you cross a land like that
you own your face more: what the light
struck told a self; every rock
denied all the rest of the world.
We stopped at Sharon Springs and ate--
My state still dark, my dream too long to tell.
William Stafford | |
Day after day up there beating my wings
with all the softness truth requires
I feel them shrug whenever I pause:
they class my voice among tentative things,
And they credit fact, force, battering.
I dance my way toward the family of knowing,
embracing stray error as a long-lost boy
and bringing him home with my fluttering.
Every quick feather asserts a just claim;
it bites like a saw into white pine.
I communicate right; but explain to the dean--
well, Right has a long and intricate name.
And the saying of it is a lonely thing.
Ezra Pound | |
Come, my songs, let us express our baser passions.
Let us express our envy for the man with a steady job and no worry about the future.
You are very idle, my songs,
I fear you will come to a bad end.
You stand about the streets, You loiter at the corners and bus-stops,
You do next to nothing at all.
You do not even express our inner nobilitys,
You will come to a very bad end.
And I? I have gone half-cracked.
I have talked to you so much that I almost see you about me,
Insolent little beasts! Shameless! Devoid of clothing!
But you, newest song of the lot,
You are not old enough to have done much mischief.
I will get you a green coat out of China
With dragons worked upon it.
I will get you the scarlet silk trousers
From the statue of the infant Christ at Santa Maria Novella;
Lest they say we are lacking in taste,
Or that there is no caste in this family.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
The very fall my sister Nancy Knapp
Set fire to the house
They were trying Dr.
For the murder of Zora Clemens,
And I sat in the court two weeks
Listening to every witness.
It was clear he had got her in a family way;
And to let the child be born
Would not do.
Well, how about me with eight children,
And one coming, and the farm
Mortgaged to Thomas Rhodes?
And when I got home that night,
(After listening to the story of the buggy ride,
And the finding of Zora in the ditch,)
The first thing I saw, right there by the steps,
Where the boys had hacked for angle worms,
Was the hatchet!
And just as I entered there was my wife,
Standing before me, big with child.
She started the talk of the mortgaged farm,
And I killed her.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
Mr Kessler, you know, was in the army,
And he drew six dollars a month as a pension,
And stood on the corner talking politics,
Or sat at home reading Grant's Memoirs;
And I supported the family by washing,
Learning the secrets of all the people
From their curtains, counterpanes, shirts and skirts.
For things that are new grow old at length,
They're replaced with better or none at all:
People are prospering or falling back.
And rents and patches widen with time;
No thread or needle can pace decay,
And there are stains that baffle soap,
And there are colors that run in spite of you,
Blamed though you are for spoiling a dress.
Handkerchieds, napery, have their secrets--
The laundress, Life, knows all about it.
And I, who went to all the funerals
Held in Spoon River, swear I never
Saw a dead face without thinking it looked
Like something washed and ironed.