Pablo Neruda |
How neatly a cat sleeps,
Sleeps with its paws and its posture,
Sleeps with its wicked claws,
And with its unfeeling blood,
Sleeps with ALL the rings a series
Of burnt circles which have formed
The odd geology of its sand-colored tail.
I should like to sleep like a cat,
With all the fur of time,
With a tongue rough as flint,
With the dry sex of fire and
After speaking to no one,
Stretch myself over the world,
Over roofs and landscapes,
With a passionate desire
To hunt the rats in my dreams.
I have seen how the cat asleep
Would undulate, how the night flowed
Through it like dark water and at times,
It was going to fall or possibly
Plunge into the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
Like a tiger's great-grandfather,
And would leap in the darkness over
Rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.
Sleep, sleep cat of the night with
Episcopal ceremony and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams
Control the obscurity
Of our slumbering prowess
With your relentless HEART
And the great ruff of your tail.
Laure-Anne Bosselaar |
Doors were left open in heaven again:
drafts wheeze, clouds wrap their ripped pages
around roofs and trees.
Like wet flags, shutters
flap and fold.
Even light is blown out of town,
its last angles caught in sopped
newspaper wings and billowing plastic —
all this in one American street.
Elsewhere, somewhere, a tide
recedes, incense is lit, an infant
sucks from a nipple, a grenade
shrieks, a man buys his first cane.
Think of it: the worlds in this world.
Yesterday, while a Chinese woman took
hours to sew seven silk stitches into a tapestry
started generations ago, guards took only
seconds to mop up a cannibal’s brain from the floor
of a Wisconsin jail, while the man who bashed
the killer’s head found no place to hide,
and sat sobbing for his mother in a shower stall —
the worlds in this world.
Or say, one year — say 1916:
while my grandfather, a prisoner of war
in Holland, sewed perfect, eighteen-buttoned
booties for his wife with the skin of a dead
dog found in a trench; shrapnel slit
Apollinaire's skull, Jesuits brandished
crucifixes in Ouagadougou, and the Parthenon
was already in ruins.
That year, thousands and thousands of Jews
from the Holocaust were already — were
still ¬— busy living their lives;
while gnawed by self-doubt, Rilke couldn’t
write a line for weeks inVienna’s Victorgasse,
and fishermen drowned off Finnish coasts,
and lovers kissed for the very first time,
while in Kashmir an old woman fell asleep,
her cheek on her good husband's belly.
And all along that year the winds
kept blowing as they do today, above oceans
and steeples, and this one speck of dust
was lifted from somewhere to land exactly
here, on my desk, and will lift again — into
the worlds in this world.
Say now, at this instant:
one thornless rose opens in a blue jar above
that speck, but you — reading this — know
nothing of how it came to flower here, and I
nothing of who bred it, or where, nothing
of my son and daughter’s fate, of what grows
in your garden or behind the walls of your chest:
is it longing? Fear? Will it matter?
Listen to that wind, listen to it ranting
The doors of heaven never close,
that’s the Curse, that’s the Miracle.
Donald Hall |
To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content.
But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
More great poems below...
T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot |
En l’an trentiesme do mon aage
Que toutes mes hontes j’ay beues.
PIPIT sate upright in her chair
Some distance from where I was sitting;
Views of the Oxford Colleges
Lay on the table, with the knitting.
Daguerreotypes and silhouettes,
Here grandfather and great great aunts,
Supported on the mantelpiece
An Invitation to the Dance.
I shall not want Honour in Heaven
For I shall meet Sir Philip Sidney
And have talk with Coriolanus
And other heroes of that kidney.
I shall not want Capital in Heaven
For I shall meet Sir Alfred Mond.
We two shall lie together, lapt
In a five per cent.
I shall not want Society in Heaven,
Lucretia Borgia shall be my Bride;
Her anecdotes will be more amusing
Than Pipit’s experience could provide.
I shall not want Pipit in Heaven:
Madame Blavatsky will instruct me
In the Seven Sacred Trances;
Piccarda de Donati will conduct me.
But where is the penny world I bought
To eat with Pipit behind the screen?
The red-eyed scavengers are creeping
From Kentish Town and Golder’s Green;
Where are the eagles and the trumpets?
Buried beneath some snow-deep Alps.
Over buttered scones and crumpets
Weeping, weeping multitudes
Droop in a hundred A.
Emily Dickinson |
The Mountain sat upon the Plain
In his tremendous Chair --
His observation omnifold,
His inquest, everywhere --
The Seasons played around his knees
Like Children round a sire --
Grandfather of the Days is He
Of Dawn, the Ancestor --
Ogden Nash |
Middle-aged life is merry, and I love to
But there comes a day when your eyes
are all right but your arm isn't long
to hold the telephone book where you can read it,
And your friends get jocular, so you go
to the oculist,
And of all your friends he is the joculist,
So over his facetiousness let us skim,
Only noting that he has been waiting for you ever since
you said Good evening to his grandfather clock under
the impression that it was him,
And you look at his chart and it says SHRDLU QWERTYOP,
and you say Well, why SHRDNTLU QWERTYOP? and he
says one set of glasses won't do.
You need two.
One for reading Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason and
Keats's "Endymion" with,
And the other for walking around without saying Hello
to strange wymion with.
So you spend your time taking off your seeing glasses to put
on your reading glasses, and then remembering that your
reading glasses are upstairs or in the car,
And then you can't find your seeing glasses again because
without them on you can't see where they are.
Enough of such mishaps, they would try the patience of an
I prefer to forget both pairs of glasses and pass my declining
years saluting strange women and grandfather clocks.
Chris Tusa |
My grandmother’s teeth stare at her
from a mason jar on the nightstand.
The radio turns itself on,
sunlight crawls through the window,
and she thinks she feels her bright blue eyes
rolling out her head.
She’s certain her blood has turned to dirt,
that beetles haunt the dark hollow of her bones.
The clock on the kitchen wall is missing its big hand.
The potatoes in the sink are growing eyes.
She stares at my grandfather standing in the doorway,
his smile flickering like the side of an axe.
Outside, in the yard, a chicken hops
through the tall grass, looking for its head.
Anne Sexton |
In my dream,
drilling into the marrow
of my entire bone,
my real dream,
I'm walking up and down Beacon Hill
searching for a street sign --
namely MERCY STREET.
I try the Back Bay.
And yet I know the number.
45 Mercy Street.
I know the stained-glass window
of the foyer,
the three flights of the house
with its parquet floors.
I know the furniture and
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,
I know the cupboard of Spode
the boat of ice, solid silver,
where the butter sits in neat squares
like strange giant's teeth
on the big mahogany table.
I know it well.
Where did you go?
45 Mercy Street,
kneeling in her whale-bone corset
and praying gently but fiercely
to the wash basin,
at five A.
dozing in her wiggy rocker,
grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,
grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,
and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower
on her forehead to cover the curl
of when she was good and when she was.
And where she was begat
and in a generation
the third she will beget,
with the stranger's seed blooming
into the flower called Horrid.
I walk in a yellow dress
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,
enough pills, my wallet, my keys,
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?
I hold matches at street signs
for it is dark,
as dark as the leathery dead
and I have lost my green Ford,
my house in the suburbs,
two little kids
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me
and a husband
who has wiped off his eyes
in order not to see my inside out
and I am walking and looking
and this is no dream
just my oily life
where the people are alibis
and the street is unfindable for an
Pull the shades down --
I don't care!
Bolt the door, mercy,
erase the number,
rip down the street sign,
what can it matter,
what can it matter to this cheapskate
who wants to own the past
that went out on a dead ship
and left me only with paper?
I open my pocketbook,
as women do,
and fish swim back and forth
between the dollars and the lipstick.
I pick them out,
one by one
and throw them at the street signs,
and shoot my pocketbook
into the Charles River.
Next I pull the dream off
and slam into the cement wall
of the clumsy calendar
I live in,
and its hauled up
Philip Levine |
All afternoon my father drove the country roads
between Detroit and Lansing.
What he was looking for
I never learned, no doubt because he never knew himself,
though he would grab any unfamiliar side road
and follow where it led past fields of tall sweet corn
in August or in winter those of frozen sheaves.
Often he'd leave the Terraplane beside the highway
to enter the stunned silence of mid-September,
his eyes cast down for a sign, the only music
his own breath or the wind tracking slowly through
the stalks or riding above the barren ground.
he'd come home, his dress shoes coated with dust or mud,
his long black overcoat stained or tattered
at the hem, sit wordless in his favorite chair,
his necktie loosened, and stare at nothing.
my brothers and I tried conversation, questions
only he could answer: Why had he gone to war?
Where did he learn Arabic? Where was his father?
I remember none of this.
I read it all later,
years later as an old man, a grandfather myself,
in a journal he left my mother with little drawings
of ruined barns and telephone poles, receding
toward a future he never lived, aphorisms
from Montaigne, Juvenal, Voltaire, and perhaps a few
of his own: "He who looks for answers finds questions.
Three times he wrote, "I was meant to be someone else,"
and went on to describe the perfumes of the damp fields.
"It all starts with seeds," and a pencil drawing
of young apple trees he saw somewhere or else dreamed.
I inherited the book when I was almost seventy
and with it the need to return to who we were.
In the Detroit airport I rented a Taurus;
the woman at the counter was bored or crazy:
Did I want company? she asked; she knew every road
from here to Chicago.
She had a slight accent,
Dutch or German, long black hair, and one frozen eye.
I considered but decided to go alone,
determined to find what he had never found.
Slowly the autumn morning warmed, flocks of starlings
rose above the vacant fields and blotted out the sun.
I drove on until I found the grove of apple trees
heavy with fruit, and left the car, the motor running,
beside a sagging fence, and entered his life
on my own for maybe the first time.
A crow welcomed
me home, the sun rode above, austere and silent,
the early afternoon was cloudless, perfect.
When the crow dragged itself off to another world,
the shade deepened slowly in pools that darkened around
the trees; for a moment everything in sight stopped.
The wind hummed in my good ear, not words exactly,
not nonsense either, nor what I spoke to myself,
just the language creation once wakened to.
I took off my hat, a mistake in the presence
of my father's God, wiped my brow with what I had,
the back of my hand, and marveled at what was here:
nothing at all except the stubbornness of things.
Aleksandr Blok |
We waited commonly for sleep or even death.
The instances were wearisome as ages.
But suddenly the wind's refreshing breath
Touched through the window the Holy Bible's pages:
An old man goes there - who's now all white-haired -
With rapid steps and merry eyes, alone,
He smiles to us, and often calls with hand,
And leaves us with a gait, that is well-known.
And suddenly we all, who watched the old man's track,
Well recognized just him who now lay before us,
And turning in a sudden rapture back,
Beheld a corpse with eyes forever closed .
And it was good for us the soul's way to trace,
And, in the leaving one, to find the glee it's forming.
The time had come.
Recall and love in grace,
And celebrate another house-warming!
Robert William Service |
In all the pubs from Troon to Ayr
Grandfather's father would repair
With Bobby Burns, a drouthy pair,
The glass to clink;
And oftenwhiles, when not too "fou,"
They'd roar a bawdy stave or two,
From midnight muk to morning dew,
And drink and drink.
And Grandfather, with eye aglow
And proper pride, would often show
An old armchair where long ago
The Bard would sit;
Reciting there with pawky glee
"The Lass that Made the Bed for Me;"
Or whiles a rhyme about the flea
That ne'er was writ.
Then I would seek the Poet's chair
And plant my kilted buttocks there,
And read with joy the Bard of Ayr
In my own tongue;
The Diel, the Daisy and the Louse
The Hare, the Haggis and the Mouse,
(What fornication and carouse!)
When I was young.
Though Kipling, Hardy, Stevenson
Have each my admiration won,
Today, my rhyme-race almost run,
My fancy turns
To him who did Pegasus prod
For me, Bard of my native sod,
The sinner best-loved of God -
Rare Robbie Burns.
Etheridge Knight |
Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews.
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk.
their dark eyes, they know mine.
I know their style,
they know mine.
I am all of them, they are all of me;
they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.
I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins.
I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).
I have the same name as 1 grandfather, 3 cousins, 3 nephews,
and 1 uncle.
The uncle disappeared when he was 15, just took
off and caught a freight (they say).
He's discussed each year
when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in
the clan, he is an empty space.
My father's mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everbody's birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him.
There is no
place in her Bible for "whereabouts unknown.
Robert William Service |
This morning on my pensive walk
I saw a fisher on a rock,
Who watched his ruby float careen
In waters bluely crystalline,
While silver fishes nosed his bait,
Yet hesitated ere they ate.
Nearby I saw a mother mid
Who knitted by her naked child,
And watched him as he romped with glee,
In golden sand, in singing sea,
Her eyes so blissfully love-lit
She gazed and gazed and ceased to knit.
And then I watched a painter chap,
Grey-haired, a grandfather, mayhap,
Who daubed with delicate caress
As if in love with loveliness,
And looked at me with vague surmise,
The joy of beauty in his eyes.
Yet in my Morning Rag I read
Of paniked peoples, dark with dread,
Of flame and famine near and far,
Of revolution, pest and war;
The fall of this, the rise of that,
The writhing proletariat.
I saw the fisher from his hook
Take off a shiny perch to cook;
The mother garbed her laughing boy,
And sang a silver lilt of joy;
The artist, packing up his paint,
Went serenely as a saint.
The sky was gentleness and love,
The sea soft-crooning as a dove;
Peace reigned so brilliantly profound
In every sight, in every sound.
Alas, what mockery for me!
Can peace be mine till Man be free?
Robert Francis |
A wind's word, the Hebrew Hallelujah.
I wonder they never gave it to a boy
(Hal for short) boy with wind-wild hair.
It means Praise God, as well it should since praise
Is what God's for.
Why didn't they call my father
Hallelujah instead of Ebenezer?
Eben, of course, but christened Ebenezer,
Product of Nova Scotia (hallelujah).
Daniel, a country doctor, was his father
And my father his tenth and final boy.
A baby and last, he had a baby's praise:
Red petticoats, red cheeks, and crow-black hair.
A boy has little to say about his hair
And little about a name like Ebenezer
Except that you can shorten either.
God for that, for that shout Hallelujah.
Shout Hallelujah for everything a boy
Can be that is not his father or grandfather.
But then, before you know it, he is a father
Too and passing on his brand of hair
To one more perfectly defenseless boy,
Dubbing him John or James or Ebenezer
But never, so far as I know, Hallelujah,
As if God didn't need quite that much praise.
But what I'm coming to - Could I ever praise
My father half enough for being a father
Who let me be myself? Sing Hallelujah.
Preacher he was with a prophet's head of hair
And what but a prophet's name was Ebenezer,
However little I guessed it as a boy?
Outlandish names of course are never a boy's
And it takes some time to learn to praise.
Stone of Help is the meaning of Ebenezer.
Stone of Help - what fitter name for my father?
Always the Stone of Help however his hair
Might graduate from black to Hallelujah.
Such is the old drama of boy and father.
Praise from a grayhead now with thinning hair.
Sing Ebenezer, Robert, sing Hallelujah!
Seamus Heaney |
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging.
I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper.
He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.