Elizabeth Bishop |
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist's appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist's waiting room.
It was winter.
It got dark
The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited and read
the National Geographic
(I could read) and carefully
studied the photographs:
the inside of a volcano,
black, and full of ashes;
then it was spilling over
in rivulets of fire.
Osa and Martin Johnson
dressed in riding breeches,
laced boots, and pith helmets.
A dead man slung on a pole
"Long Pig," the caption said.
Babies with pointed heads
wound round and round with string;
black, naked women with necks
wound round and round with wire
like the necks of light bulbs.
Their breasts were horrifying.
I read it right straight through.
I was too shy to stop.
And then I looked at the cover:
the yellow margins, the date.
Suddenly, from inside,
came an oh! of pain
--Aunt Consuelo's voice--
not very loud or long.
I wasn't at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I--we--were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
I said to myself: three days
and you'll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world.
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.
I gave a sidelong glance
--I couldn't look any higher--
at shadowy gray knees,
trousers and skirts and boots
and different pairs of hands
lying under the lamps.
I knew that nothing stranger
had ever happened, that nothing
stranger could ever happen.
Why should I be my aunt,
or me, or anyone?
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts
held us all together
or made us all just one?
How I didn't know any
word for it how "unlikely".
How had I come to be here,
like them, and overhear
a cry of pain that could have
got loud and worse but hadn't?
The waiting room was bright
and too hot.
It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.
Then I was back in it.
The War was on.
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.
Lewis Carroll |
Sent to a friend who had complained that I was glad enough to see
him when he came, but didn't seem to miss him if he stayed away.
And cannot pleasures, while they last,
Be actual unless, when past,
They leave us shuddering and aghast,
With anguish smarting?
And cannot friends be firm and fast,
And yet bear parting?
And must I then, at Friendship's call,
Calmly resign the little all
(Trifling, I grant, it is and small)
I have of gladness,
And lend my being to the thrall
Of gloom and sadness?
And think you that I should be dumb,
And full DOLORUM OMNIUM,
Excepting when YOU choose to come
And share my dinner?
At other times be sour and glum
And daily thinner?
Must he then only live to weep,
Who'd prove his friendship true and deep
By day a lonely shadow creep,
At night-time languish,
Oft raising in his broken sleep
The moan of anguish?
The lover, if for certain days
His fair one be denied his gaze,
Sinks not in grief and wild amaze,
But, wiser wooer,
He spends the time in writing lays,
And posts them to her.
And if the verse flow free and fast,
Till even the poet is aghast,
A touching Valentine at last
The post shall carry,
When thirteen days are gone and past
Farewell, dear friend, and when we meet,
In desert waste or crowded street,
Perhaps before this week shall fleet,
I trust to find YOUR heart the seat
Of wasting sorrow.
Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
February has twenty-eight alone,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting leap-year, that's the time
When February's days are twenty-nine.
More great poems below...
Percy Bysshe Shelley |
BEST and brightest come away ¡ª
Fairer far than this fair day
Which like thee to those in sorrow
Comes to bid a sweet good-morrow
To the rough year just awake 5
In its cradle on the brake.
The brightest hour of unborn Spring
Through the winter wandering
Found it seems the halcyon morn
To hoar February born; 10
Bending from heaven in azure mirth
It kiss'd the forehead of the earth
And smiled upon the silent sea
And bade the frozen streams be free
And waked to music all their fountains 15
And breathed upon the frozen mountains
And like a prophetess of May
Strew'd flowers upon the barren way
Making the wintry world appear
Like one on whom thou smilest dear.
Away away from men and towns
To the wild woods and the downs¡ª
To the silent wilderness
Where the soul need not repress
Its music lest it should not find 25
An echo in another's mind
While the touch of Nature's art
Harmonizes heart to heart.
Radiant Sister of the Day
Awake! arise! and come away! 30
To the wild woods and the plains
To the pools where winter rains
Image all their roof of leaves
Where the pine its garland weaves
Of sapless green and ivy dun 35
Round stems that never kiss the sun;
Where the lawns and pastures be
And the sandhills of the sea;
Where the melting hoar-frost wets
The daisy-star that never sets 40
And wind-flowers and violets
Which yet join not scent to hue
Crown the pale year weak and new;
When the night is left behind
In the deep east dim and blind 45
And the blue noon is over us
And the multitudinous
Billows murmur at our feet
Where the earth and ocean meet
And all things seem only one 50
In the universal Sun.
Delmore Schwartz |
The children of the Czar
Played with a bouncing ball
In the May morning, in the Czar's garden,
Tossing it back and forth.
It fell among the flowerbeds
Or fled to the north gate.
A daylight moon hung up
In the Western sky, bald white.
Like Papa's face, said Sister,
Hurling the white ball forth.
While I ate a baked potato
Six thousand miles apart,
In Brooklyn, in 1916,
Aged two, irrational.
When Franklin D.
Was an Arrow Collar ad.
O Nicholas! Alas! Alas!
My grandfather coughed in your army,
Hid in a wine-stinking barrel,
For three days in Bucharest
Then left for America
To become a king himself.
I am my father's father,
You are your children's guilt.
In history's pity and terror
The child is Aeneas again;
Troy is in the nursery,
The rocking horse is on fire.
Child labor! The child must carry
His fathers on his back.
But seeing that so much is past
And that history has no ruth
For the individual,
Who drinks tea, who catches cold,
Let anger be general:
I hate an abstract thing.
Brother and sister bounced
The bounding, unbroken ball,
The shattering sun fell down
Like swords upon their play,
Moving eastward among the stars
Toward February and October.
But the Maywind brushed their cheeks
Like a mother watching sleep,
And if for a moment they fight
Over the bouncing ball
And sister pinches brother
And brother kicks her shins,
Well! The heart of man in known:
It is a cactus bloom.
The ground on which the ball bounces
Is another bouncing ball.
The wheeling, whirling world
Makes no will glad.
Spinning in its spotlight darkness,
It is too big for their hands.
A pitiless, purposeless Thing,
Arbitrary, and unspent,
Made for no play, for no children,
But chasing only itself.
The innocent are overtaken,
They are not innocent.
They are their father's fathers,
The past is inevitable.
Now, in another October
Of this tragic star,
I see my second year,
I eat my baked potato.
It is my buttered world,
But, poked by my unlearned hand,
It falls from the highchair down
And I begin to howl
And I see the ball roll under
The iron gate which is locked.
Sister is screaming, brother is howling,
The ball has evaded their will.
Even a bouncing ball
And is under the garden wall.
I am overtaken by terror
Thinking of my father's fathers,
And of my own will.
Elinor Wylie |
When the world turns completely upside down
You say we'll emigrate to the Eastern Shore
Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore;
We'll live among wild peach trees, miles from town,
You'll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown
Homespun, dyed butternut's dark gold colour.
Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor,
We'll swim in milk and honey till we drown.
The winter will be short, the summer long,
The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot,
Tasting of cider and of scuppernong;
All seasons sweet, but autumn best of all.
The squirrels in their silver fur will fall
Like falling leaves, like fruit, before your shot.
The autumn frosts will lie upon the grass
Like bloom on grapes of purple-brown and gold.
The misted early mornings will be cold;
The little puddles will be roofed with glass.
The sun, which burns from copper into brass,
Melts these at noon, and makes the boys unfold
Their knitted mufflers; full as they can hold
Fat pockets dribble chestnuts as they pass.
Peaches grow wild, and pigs can live in clover;
A barrel of salted herrings lasts a year;
The spring begins before the winter's over.
By February you may find the skins
Of garter snakes and water moccasins
Dwindled and harsh, dead-white and cloudy-clear.
When April pours the colours of a shell
Upon the hills, when every little creek
Is shot with silver from the Chesapeake
In shoals new-minted by the ocean swell,
When strawberries go begging, and the sleek
Blue plums lie open to the blackbird's beak,
We shall live well -- we shall live very well.
The months between the cherries and the peaches
Are brimming cornucopias which spill
Fruits red and purple, sombre-bloomed and black;
Then, down rich fields and frosty river beaches
We'll trample bright persimmons, while you kill
Bronze partridge, speckled quail, and canvasback.
Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
There's something in this richness that I hate.
I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
There's something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.
I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meagre sheaves;
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom's breath,
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |
The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead.
Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red.
The snow recommences;
The buried fences
Mark no longer
The road o'er the plain;
While through the meadows,
Like fearful shadows,
A funeral train.
The bell is pealing,
And every feeling
Within me responds
To the dismal knell;
Shadows are trailing,
My heart is bewailing
And tolling within
Like a funeral bell.
Dale Harcombe |
Frail as smoke, she drifts
through the crowded train,
bringing with her
the cold ashes of poverty.
Without a word, her bruise-blue eyes
try to niggle each passenger
to part with coins or a note.
The sign pleads her story:
Three children in foster care.
Like promises of happier times, some
passengers toss hard-edged confetti
at her, before hiding behind
newspapers or over-loud
her like an errant child
with swift, silent shakes of their heads.
I look at her canescent face
and know I have seen her before,
on a grey, Sydney day in George Street.
‘Homeless, hungry, and cold’
her sign read then, as she curled
like a cloud on the footpath
near Town Hall.
In the dusk of a blustery day,
people, toting bags emblazoned
with designer labels, walked past.
Their gaze sliding away from her like water,
they turned toward the nimbus
of lights across the street, glittering
like angels in the trees.
I walked on too, then wished I had
But the tide
flowed against me.
With nothing else to give
I came home and wrote a poem.
© May 2003 Dale Harcombe
First published Artlook February 2005
Anne Sexton |
She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.
She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.
Let's face it, I have been momentary.
A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.
She is more than that.
She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment.
She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,
has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter's wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,
done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.
She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person,
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.
I give you back your heart.
I give you permission --
for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound --
for the burying of her small red wound alive --
for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother's knee, for the stocking,
for the garter belt, for the call --
the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.
She is so naked and singular
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.
As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.
Boris Pasternak |
It snowed and snowed ,the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.
As during summer midges swarm
To beat their wings against a flame
Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed
To beat against the window pane
The blizzard sculptured on the glass
Designs of arrows and of whorls.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.
Distorted shadows fell
Upon the lighted ceiling:
Shadows of crossed arms,of crossed legs-
Of crossed destiny.
Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears
Upon a dress.
All things vanished within
The snowy murk-white,hoary.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.
A corner draft fluttered the flame
And the white fever of temptation
Upswept its angel wings that cast
A cruciform shadow
It snowed hard throughout the month
Of February, and almost constantly
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.
Emily Dickinson |
No Brigadier throughout the Year
So civic as the Jay --
A Neighbor and a Warrior too
With shrill felicity
Pursuing Winds that censure us
A February Day,
The Brother of the Universe
Was never blown away --
The Snow and he are intimate --
I've often seem them play
When Heaven looked upon us all
With such severity
I felt apology were due
To an insulted sky
Whose pompous frown was Nutriment
To their Temerity --
The Pillow of this daring Head
Is pungent Evergreens --
His Larder -- terse and Militant --
Unknown -- refreshing things --
His Character -- a Tonic --
His future -- a Dispute --
Unfair an Immortality
That leaves this Neighbor out --
Anne Bronte |
Blessed be Thou for all the joy
My soul has felt today!
O let its memory stay with me
And never pass away!
I was alone, for those I loved
Were far away from me,
The sun shone on the withered grass,
The wind blew fresh and free.
Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
'Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.
Was it some feeling of delight,
All vague and undefined?
No, 'twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind!
Was it a sanguine view of life
And all its transient bliss-
A hope of bright prosperity?
O no, it was not this!
It was a glimpse of truth divine
Unto my spirit given
Illumined by a ray of light
That shone direct from heaven!
I felt there was a God on high
By whom all things were made.
I saw His wisdom and his power
In all his works displayed.
But most throughout the moral world
I saw his glory shine;
I saw His wisdom infinite,
His mercy all divine.
Deep secrets of his providence
In darkness long concealed
Were brought to my delighted eyes
And graciously revealed.
But while I wondered and adored
His wisdom so divine,
I did not tremble at his power,
I felt that God was mine.
I knew that my Redeemer lived,
I did not fear to die;
Full sure that I should rise again
I longed to view that bliss divine
Which eye hath never seen,
To see the glories of his face
Without the veil between.
Robert Burns |
SIR, as your mandate did request,
I send you here a faithfu’ list,
O’ gudes an’ gear, an’ a’ my graith,
To which I’m clear to gi’e my aith.
Imprimis, then, for carriage cattle,
I hae four brutes o’ gallant mettle,
As ever drew afore a pettle.
My hand-afore ’s a guid auld has-been,
An’ wight an’ wilfu’ a’ his days been:
My hand-ahin ’s a weel gaun fillie,
That aft has borne me hame frae Killie.
An’ your auld borough mony a time
In days when riding was nae crime.
But ance, when in my wooing pride
I, like a blockhead, boost to ride,
The wilfu’ creature sae I pat to,
(L—d pardon a’ my sins, an’ that too!)
I play’d my fillie sic a shavie,
She’s a’ bedevil’d wi’ the spavie.
My furr-ahin ’s a wordy beast,
As e’er in tug or tow was traced.
The fourth’s a Highland Donald hastle,
A d—n’d red-wud Kilburnie blastie!
Foreby a cowt, o’ cowts the wale,
As ever ran afore a tail:
Gin he be spar’d to be a beast,
He’ll draw me fifteen pund at least.
Wheel-carriages I ha’e but few,
Three carts, an’ twa are feckly new;
An auld wheelbarrow, mair for token,
Ae leg an’ baith the trams are broken;
I made a poker o’ the spin’le,
An’ my auld mither brunt the trin’le.
For men, I’ve three mischievous boys,
Run-deils for ranting an’ for noise;
A gaudsman ane, a thrasher t’ other:
Wee Davock hauds the nowt in fother.
I rule them as I ought, discreetly,
An’ aften labour them completely;
An’ aye on Sundays duly, nightly,
I on the Questions targe them tightly;
Till, faith! wee Davock’s grown sae gleg,
Tho’ scarcely langer than your leg,
He’ll screed you aff Effectual Calling,
As fast as ony in the dwalling.
I’ve nane in female servant station,
(L—d keep me aye frae a’ temptation!)
I hae nae wife-and thay my bliss is,
An’ ye have laid nae tax on misses;
An’ then, if kirk folks dinna clutch me,
I ken the deevils darena touch me.
Wi’ weans I’m mair than weel contented,
Heav’n sent me ane mae than I wanted!
My sonsie, smirking, dear-bought Bess,
She stares the daddy in her face,
Enough of ought ye like but grace;
But her, my bonie, sweet wee lady,
I’ve paid enough for her already;
An’ gin ye tax her or her mither,
By the L—d, ye’se get them a’ thegither!
And now, remember, Mr.
Nae kind of licence out I’m takin:
Frae this time forth, I do declare
I’se ne’er ride horse nor hizzie mair;
Thro’ dirt and dub for life I’ll paidle,
Ere I sae dear pay for a saddle;
My travel a’ on foot I’ll shank it,
I’ve sturdy bearers, Gude the thankit!
The kirk and you may tak you that,
It puts but little in your pat;
Sae dinna put me in your beuk,
Nor for my ten white shillings leuk.
This list, wi’ my ain hand I wrote it,
The day and date as under noted;
Then know all ye whom it concerns,
Subscripsi huic, ROBERT BURNS.
MOSSGIEL, February 22, 1786.
The “Inventory” was addressed to Mr.
Aitken of Ayr, surveyor of taxes for the district.
Emily Dickinson |
White as an Indian Pipe
Red as a Cardinal Flower
Fabulous as a Moon at Noon
February Hour --
David Lehman |
Light rain is falling in Central Park
but not on Upper Fifth Avenue or Central Park West
where sun and sky are yellow and blue
Winds are gusting on Washington Square
through the arches and on to LaGuardia Place
but calm is the corner of 8th Street and Second Avenue
which reminds me of something John Ashbery said
about his poem "Crazy Weather" he said
he was in favor of all kinds of weather
just so long as it's genuine weather
which is always unusually bad, unusually
good, or unusually indifferent,
since there isn't really any norm for weather
When he was a boy his mother met a friend
who said, "Isn't this funny weather?"
It was one of his earliest memories