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.
Robert William Service | |
As home from church we two did plod,
"Grandpa," said Rosy, "What is God?"
Seeking an answer to her mind,
This is the best that I could find.
God is the Iz-ness of our Cosmic Biz;
The high, the low, the near, the far,
The atom and the evening star;
The lark, the shark, the cloud, the clod,
The whole darned Universe - that's God.
Some deem that others there be,
And to them humbly bend the knee;
To Mumbo Jumbo and to Joss,
To Bud and Allah - but the Boss
Is mine .
While there are suns and seas
MY timeless God shall dwell in these.
In every glowing leaf He lives;
When roses die His life he gives;
God is not outside and apart
From Nature, but her very heart;
No Architect (as I of verse)
He is Himself the Universe.
Said Rosy-kins: "Grandpa, how odd
Is your imagining of God.
To me he's always just appeared
A huge Grandfather with a beard.
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.
More great poems below...
Robert William Service | |
Great Grandfather was ninety-nine
And so it was our one dread,
That though his health was superfine
He'd fail to make the hundred.
Though he was not a rolling stone
No moss he seemed to gather:
A patriarch of brawn and bone
Was Great Grandfather.
He should have been senile and frail
Instead of hale and hearty;
But no, he loved a mug of ale,
A boisterous old party.
'As frisky as a cold,' said he,
'A man's allotted span
I've lived but now I plan to be
Then one night when I called on him
Oh what a change I saw!
His head was bowed, his eye was dim,
Down-fallen was his jaw.
Said he: 'Leave me to die, I pray;
I'm no more bloody use .
For in my mouth I found today--
A tooth that's loose.
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?
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.
Ellis Parker Butler | |
Just as the sun was setting
Back of the Western hills
Grandfather stood by the window
Eating the last of his pills.
And Grandmother, by the cupboard,
Knitting, heard him say:
“I ought to have went to the village
To fetch some more pills today.
Then Grandmother snuffled a teardrop
“It is jest like I suz
T’ th’ parson—Grandfather’s liver
Ain’t what it used to was:
“It’s gittin’ torpid and dormant,
It don’t function like of old,
And even them pills he swallers
Don’t seem no more t’ catch hold;
“They used to grab it and shake it
And joggle it up and down
And turn dear Grandfather yaller
Except when they turned him brown;
“I remember when we was married
His liver was lively and gay,
A kickin’ an’ rippin’ an’ givin’
Dear Ezry new pains ev’ry day;
“It used to turn clear over backwards
An’ palpitate wuss’n a pump
An’ give him the janders and yallers
An’ bounce around thumpty-thump;
“But now it is torpid and dormant
And painless and quiet and cold;
Ah, me! all’s so peaceful an’ quiet
Since Grandfather’s liver ’s grown old!
Then Grandmother wiped a new teardrop
And sighed: “It is just like I suz
T’ th’ parson: Grandfather’s liver
Ain’t what it used to was.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
"What will you do when you come to die,
If all your life long you have rejected Jesus,
And know as you lie there, He is not your friend?"
Over and over I said, I, the revivalist.
Ah, yes! but there are friends and friends.
And blessed are you, say I, who know all now,
You who have lost, ere you pass,
A father or mother, or old grandfather or mother
Some beautiful soul that lived life strongly,
And knew you all through, and loved you ever,
Who would not fail to speak for you,
And give God an intimate view of your soul,
As only one of your flesh could do it.
That is the hand your hand will reach for,
To lead you along the corridor
To the court where you are a stranger!
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.
Philip Levine | |
A man roams the streets with a basket
of freestone peaches hollering, "Peaches,
peaches, yellow freestone peaches for sale.
My grandfather in his prime could outshout
the Tigers of Wrath or the factory whistles
along the river.
for yellow freestone peaches, downriver
wakened from a dream of work, Zug Island danced
into the bright day glad to be alive.
Full-figured women in their negligees
streamed into the streets from the dark doorways
to demand in Polish or Armenian
the ripened offerings of this new world.
Josef Prisckulnick out of Dubrovitsa
to Detroit by way of Ellis Island
raised himself regally to his full height
of five feet two and transacted until
the fruit was gone into those eager hands.
Thus would there be a letter sent across
an ocean and a continent, and thus
would Sadie waken to the news of wealth
without limit in the bright and distant land,
and thus bags were packed and she set sail
Some of this is true.
The women were gaunt.
All day the kids dug
in the back lots searching for anything.
The place was Russia with another name.
Joe was five feet two.
to gray ashes the west wind carried off,
then Rovno went, then the Dnieper turned to dust.
We sat around the table telling lies
while the late light filled an empty glass.
Bread, onions, the smell of burning butter,
small white potatoes we shared with no one
because the hour was wrong, the guest was late,
and this was Michigan in 1928.
Philip Levine | |
Along the strand stones,
busted shells, wood scraps,
bottle tops, dimpled
and stainless beer cans.
Something began here
a century ago,
a nameless disaster,
perhaps a voyage
to the lost continent
where I was born.
Now the cold winds
of March dimple
the gray, incoming
on the wet earth
looking for a sign,
maybe an old coin,
and find my face
blackened in a pool
of oil and water.
My grandfather crossed
this sea in '04
and never returned,
so I've come alone
to thank creation
as he would never
for bringing him home
to work, defeat,
and death, those three
faithful to the end.
I bless your laughter
thrown in the wind's face,
your gall, your rages,
your abiding love
for women and money
and all that money
for what the sea taught
you and you taught me:
that the waves go out
and nothing comes back.
Philip Levine | |
When the Lieutenant of the Guardia de Asalto
heard the automatic go off, he turned
and took the second shot just above
the sternum, the third tore away
the right shoulder of his uniform,
the fourth perforated his cheek.
slid out of his comrade's hold
toward the gray cement of the Ramblas
he lost count and knew only
that he would not die and that the blue sky
smudged with clouds was not heaven
for heaven was nowhere and in his eyes
slowly filling with their own light.
The pigeons that spotted the cold floor
of Barcelona rose as he sank below
the waves of silence crashing
on the far shores of his legs, growing
faint and watery.
His hands opened
a last time to receive the benedictions
of automobile exhaust and rain
and the rain of soot.
that would never again say "I am afraid,"
closed on nothing.
The old grandfather
hawking daisies at his stand pressed
a handkerchief against his lips
and turned his eyes away before they held
the eyes of a gunman.
The shepherd dogs
on sale howled in their cages
and turned in circles.
There is more
to be said, but by someone who has suffered
and died for his sister the earth
and his brothers the beasts and the trees.
The Lieutenant can hear it, the prayer
that comes on the voices of water, today
or yesterday, form Chicago or Valladolid,
and hands like smoke above this street
he won't walk as a man ever again.
Anne Sexton | |
Sing me a thrush, bone.
Sing me a nest of cup and pestle.
Sing me a sweetbread fr an old grandfather.
Sing me a foot and a doorknob, for you are my love.
Oh sing, bone bag man, sing.
Your head is what I remember that Augusty
you were in love with another woman but
taht didn't matter.
I was the gury of your
bones, your fingers long and nubby, your
forehead a beacon, bare as marble and I worried
you like an odor because you had not quite forgotten,
bone bag man, garlic in the North End,
the book you dedicated, naked as a fish,
naked as someone drowning into his own mouth.
I wonder, Mr.
Bone man, what you're thinking
of your fury now, gone sour as a sinking whale,
crawling up the alphabet on her own bones.
Am I in your ear still singing songs in the rain,
me of the death rattle, me of the magnolias,
me of the sawdust tavern at the city's edge.
Women have lovely bones, arms, neck, thigh
and I admire them also, but your bones
They are the tough
ones that get broken and reset.
I just can't
answer for you, only for your bones,
round rulers, round nudgers, round poles,
numb nubkins, the sword of sugar.
I feel the skull, Mr.
Skeleton, living its
own life in its own skin.
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.
Elizabeth Bishop | |
For a Child of 1918
My grandfather said to me
as we sat on the wagon seat,
"Be sure to remember to always
speak to everyone you meet.
We met a stranger on foot.
My grandfather's whip tapped his hat.
"Good day, sir.
A fine day.
And I said it and bowed where I sat.
Then we overtook a boy we knew
with his big pet crow on his shoulder.
"Always offer everyone a ride;
don't forget that when you get older,"
my grandfather said.
climbed up with us, but the crow
gave a "Caw!" and flew off.
I was worried.
How would he know where to go?
But he flew a little way at a time
from fence post to fence post, ahead;
and when Willy whistled he answered.
"A fine bird," my grandfather said,
"and he's well brought up.
See, he answers
nicely when he's spoken to.
Man or beast, that's good manners.
Be sure that you both always do.
When automobiles went by,
the dust hid the people's faces,
but we shouted "Good day! Good day!
Fine day!" at the top of our voices.
When we came to Hustler Hill,
he said that the mare was tired,
so we all got down and walked,
as our good manners required.
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.
Stephen Dunn | |
This is not the way I am.
Really, I am much taller in person,
the hairline I conceal reaches back
to my grandfather, and the shyness my wife
will not believe in has always been why
I was bold on first dates.
My father a crack salesman.
I've saved his pines, the small acclamations
I used to show my friends.
And the billyclub
I keep by my bed was his, too; an heirloom.
I am somewhat older than you can tell.
The early deaths have decomposed
behind my eyes, leaving lines apparently caused
My voice still reflects the time
I believed in prayer as a way of getting
what I wanted.
I am none of my clothes.
My poems are approximately true.
The games I play and how I play them
are the arrows you should follow: they'll take you
to the enormous body of a child.
It is not
At parties I have been known to remove
from the bookshelf the kind of book
that goes best with my beard.
My habits in bed are so perverse that they differentiate me
from no one.
And I prefer soda, the bubbles just after
it's opened, to anyone who just lies there.
I would like to make you believe in me.
When I come home at night after teaching myself
to students, I want to search the phone book
for their numbers, call them, and pick their brains.
Oh, I am much less flamboyant than this.
If you ever meet me, I'll be the one with the lapel
full of carnations.
Russell Edson | |
We bought an electric monkey, experimenting rather
recklessly with funds carefully gathered since
grandfather's time for the purchase of a steam monkey.
We had either, by this time, the choice of an electric
or gas monkey.
The steam monkey is no longer being made, said the monkey
But the family always planned on a steam monkey.
Well, said the monkey merchant, just as the wind-up monkey
gave way to the steam monkey, the steam monkey has given way
to the gas and electric monkeys.
Is that like the grandfather clock being replaced by the
Sort of, said the monkey merchant.
So we bought the electric monkey, and plugged its umbilical
cord into the wall.
The smoke coming out of its fur told us something was wrong.
We had electrocuted the family monkey.
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!
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.
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.
Robert Desnos | |
be the father of the bride
of the blacksmith who forged the iron for the axe
with which the woodsman hacked down the oak
from which the bed was carved
in which was conceived the great-grandfather
of the man who was driving the carriage
in which your mother met your father.
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!
Carl Sandburg | |
(Handbook for Quarreling Lovers)I THOUGHT of offering you apothegms.
I might have said, “Dogs bark and the wind carries it away.
I might have said, “He who would make a door of gold must knock a nail in every day.
So easy, so easy it would have been to inaugurate a high impetuous moment for you to look on before the final farewells were spoken.
You who assumed the farewells in the manner of people buying newspapers and reading the headlines—and all peddlers of gossip who buttonhole each other and wag their heads saying, “Yes, I heard all about it last Wednesday.
I considered several apothegms.
“There is no love but service,” of course, would only initiate a quarrel over who has served and how and when.
“Love stands against fire and flood and much bitterness,” would only initiate a second misunderstanding, and bickerings with lapses of silence.
What is there in the Bible to cover our case, or Shakespere? What poetry can help? Is there any left but Epictetus?
Since you have already chosen to interpret silence for language and silence for despair and silence for contempt and silence for all things but love,
Since you have already chosen to read ashes where God knows there was something else than ashes,
Since silence and ashes are two identical findings for your eyes and there are no apothegms worth handing out like a hung jury’s verdict for a record in our own hearts as well as the community at large,
I can only remember a Russian peasant who told me his grandfather warned him: If you ride too good a horse you will not take the straight road to town.
It will always come back to me in the blur of that hokku: The heart of a woman of thirty is like the red ball of the sun seen through a mist.
Or I will remember the witchery in the eyes of a girl at a barn dance one winter night in Illinois saying: Put off the wedding five times and nobody comes to it.
William Butler Yeats | |
My great-grandfather spoke to Edmund Burke
In Grattan's house.
My great-grandfather shared
A pot-house bench with Oliver Goldsmith once.
My great-grandfather's father talked of music,
Drank tar-water with the Bishop of Cloyne.
But mine saw Stella once.
Whence came our thought?
From four great minds that hated Whiggery.
Burke was a Whig.
Whether they knew or not,
Goldsmith and Burke, Swift and the Bishop of Cloyne
All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
That never looked out of the eye of a saint
Or out of drunkard's eye.
All's Whiggery now,
But we old men are massed against the world.
American colonies, Ireland, France and India
Harried, and Burke's great melody against it.
Oliver Goldsmith sang what he had seen,
Roads full of beggars, cattle in the fields,
But never saw the trefoil stained with blood,
The avenging leaf those fields raised up against it.
The tomb of Swift wears it away.
Soft as the rustle of a reed from Cloyne
That gathers volume; now a thunder-clap.
What schooling had these four?
They walked the roads
Mimicking what they heard, as children mimic;
They understood that wisdom comes of beggary.