Wallace Stevens | |
A sunny day's complete Poussiniana
Divide it from itself.
It is this or that
And it is not.
By metaphor you paint
Thus, the pineapple was a leather fruit,
A fruit for pewter, thorned and palmed and blue,
To be served by men of ice.
The senses paint
The juice was fragranter
Than wettest cinnamon.
It was cribled pears
Dripping a morning sap.
The truth must be
That you do not see, you experience, you feel,
That the buxom eye brings merely its element
To the total thing, a shapeless giant forced
Green were the curls upon that head.
Omer Tarin | |
Once before I've heard this
A long-drawn note of many-lettered woe,
The great open beak straining
against the roar of raging surf;
Head, thrown back, taut
against the distant sails
Anger flickering in eyes flecked with amber,
rolling in lonely knowledge,
this bond servant of the sea,
tied by its giant wingspan
to the torturous flight of sainthood
in its terrible existence
by the yellow fog of banality
to the squalor of urban beachfronts ,
snuffed out in the face of its own metaphor
screaming curses unto heaven,
proud to the very last;
''Once before'', I said,
''I've heard this cry''.
(from ''Burnt Offerings'', 1996)
Margaret Atwood | |
My daughter plays on the floor
with plastic letters,
red, blue & hard yellow,
learning how to spell,
how to make spells.
I wonder how many women
denied themselves daughters,
closed themselves in rooms,
drew the curtains
so they could mainline words.
A child is not a poem,
a poem is not a child.
There is no either / or.
I return to the story
of the woman caught in the war
& in labour, her thighs tied
together by the enemy
so she could not give birth.
Ancestress: the burning witch,
her mouth covered by leather
to strangle words.
A word after a word
after a word is power.
At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite
when the bones know
they are hollow & the word
splits & doubles & speaks
the truth & the body
itself becomes a mouth.
This is a metaphor.
How do you learn to spell?
Blood, sky & the sun,
your own name first,
your first naming, your first name,
your first word.
More great poems below...
Jorge Luis Borges | |
We are the time.
We are the famous
metaphor from Heraclitus the Obscure.
We are the water, not the hard diamond,
the one that is lost, not the one that stands still.
We are the river and we are that greek
that looks himself into the river.
changes into the waters of the changing mirror,
into the crystal that changes like the fire.
We are the vain predetermined river,
in his travel to his sea.
The shadows have surrounded him.
Everything said goodbye to us, everything goes away.
Memory does not stamp his own coin.
However, there is something that stays
however, there is something that bemoans.
Craig Raine | |
(for Rona, Jeremy, Sam & Grace)
All the lizards are asleep--
perched pagodas with tiny triangular tiles,
each milky lid a steamed-up window.
Inside, the heart repeats itself like a sleepy gong,
summoning nothing to nothing.
In winter time, the zoo reverts to metaphor,
God's poetry of boredom:
the cobra knits her Fair-Isle skin,
rattlers titter over the same joke.
All of them endlessly finish spaghetti.
The python runs down like a spring,
and time stops on some ancient Sabbath.
Pythagorean bees are shut inside the hive,
which hymns and hums like Sunday chapel--
drowsy thoughts in a wrinkled brain.
The fire's gone out--
crocodiles lie like wet beams,
cross-hatched by flames that no one can remember.
Grasshoppers shiver, chafe their limbs
and try to keep warm,
crouching on their marks perpetually.
The African cricket is trussed like a cold chicken:
the sneeze of movement returns it to the same position,
in the same body.
There is no change.
The rumple-headed lion has nowhere to go
and snoozes in his grimy combinations.
A chaise lounge with missing castors,
the walrus is stuck forever on his rock.
Sleepily, the seals play crib,
scoring on their upper lips.
The chimps kill fleas and time,
sewing nothing to nothing
Vultures in their shabby Sunday suits
fidget with broken umbrellas,
while the ape beats his breast
and yodels out repentance.
Their feet are an awful dream of bunions--
but the buffalo's brazil nut bugle-horns
can never sound reveille.
Adrienne Rich | |
My swirling wants.
Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.
They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.
I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control
A red plant in a cemetary of plastic wreaths.
A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.
To do something very common, in my own way.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
Oh many times did Ernest Hyde and I
Argue about the freedom of the will.
My favorite metaphor was Prickett's cow
Roped out to grass, and free you know as far
As the length of the rope.
One day while arguing so, watching the cow
Pull at the rope to get beyond the circle
Which she had eaten bare,
Out came the stake, and tossing up her head,
She ran for us.
"What's that, free-will or what?" said Ernest, running.
I fell just as she gored me to my death.
David Lehman | |
Remember when Khrushchev said
"We will bury you!"
on the cover
I thought he was
employing a metaphor
as in "Braves Scalp Giants!"
on the back page
of the Daily News
I pictured the Russians
burying us under a mound
of all the rubble
that rubles could buy
when what he meant was
he had come not to praise Caesar
but to bury him
Vernon Scannell | |
That one small boy with a face like pallid cheese
And burnt-out little eyes could make a blaze
As brazen, fierce and huge, as red and gold
And zany yellow as the one that spoiled
Three thousand guineas' worth of property
And crops at Godwin's Farm on Saturday
Is frightening---as fact and metaphor:
An ordinary match intended for
The lighting of a pipe or kitchen fire
Misused may set a whole menagerie
Of flame-fanged tigers roaring hungrily.
And frightening, too, that one small boy should set
The sky on fire and choke the stars to heat
Such skinny limbs and such a little heart
Which would have been content with one warm kiss
Had there been anyone to offer this.
Anne Sexton | |
For months my hand was sealed off
in a tin box.
Nothing was there but the subway railings.
Perhaps it is bruised, I thought,
and that is why they have locked it up.
You could tell time by this, I thought,
like a clock, by its five knuckles
and the thin underground veins.
It lay there like an unconscious woman
fed by tubes she knew not of.
The hand had collapse,
a small wood pigeon
that had gone into seclusion.
I turned it over and the palm was old,
its lines traced like fine needlepoint
and stitched up into fingers.
It was fat and soft and blind in places.
Nothing but vulnerable.
And all this is metaphor.
An ordinary hand -- just lonely
for something to touch
that touches back.
The dog won't do it.
Her tail wags in the swamp for a frog.
I'm no better than a case of dog food.
She owns her own hunger.
My sisters won't do it.
They live in school except for buttons
and tears running down like lemonade.
My father won't do it.
He comes in the house and even at night
he lives in a machine made by my mother
and well oiled by his job, his job.
The trouble is
that I'd let my gestures freeze.
The trouble was not
in the kitchen or the tulips
but only in my head, my head.
Then all this became history.
Your hand found mine.
Life rushed to my fingers like a blood clot.
Oh, my carpenter,
the fingers are rebuilt.
They dance with yours.
They dance in the attic and in Vienna.
My hand is alive all over America.
Not even death will stop it,
death shedding her blood.
Nothing will stop it, for this is the kingdom
and the kingdom come.
Nick Flynn | |
He reads my latest attempt at a poem
and is silent for a long time, until it feels
like that night we waited for Apollo,
my mother wandering in and out of her bedroom, asking,
Haven't they landed yet? At last
Dugan throws it on the table and says,
This reads like a cheap detective novel
and I've got nothing to say about it.
naked and white, with everyone's eyes
running over it.
The week before
he'd said I had a problem with time,
that in my poems everything
kept happening at once.
the voice of Mission Control
told a man named Buzz
that there was a bunch of guys turning blue
down here on Earth, and now I can understand
it was with anticipation, not sickness.
Dugan says, Let's move on.
The attempted poem
was about butterflies and my recurring desire
to return to a place I've never been.
It was inspired by reading this
in a National Geographic: monarchs
stream northward from winter roosts in Mexico,
laying their eggs atop milkweed
to foster new generations along the way.
With the old monarchs gone (I took this line as the title)
and all ties to the past ostensibly cut
the unimaginable happens--butterflies
that have never been to that plateau in Mexico
roost there the next winter.
I saw this
as a metaphor for a childhood I never had,
until Dugan pointed out
that metaphor has been dead for a hundred years.
A woman, new to the workshop, leans
behind his back and whispers, I like it,
but the silence is seamless, as deep
as outer space.
That night in 1969
I could turn my head from the television and see
filling the one pane over the bed completely
as we waited for Neil Armstrong
to leave his footprints all over it.
Robinson Jeffers | |
The universe expands and contracts like a great heart.
It is expanding, the farthest nebulae
Rush with the speed of light into empty space.
It will contract, the immense navies of stars and galaxies,
dust clouds and nebulae
Are recalled home, they crush against each other in one
harbor, they stick in one lump
And then explode it, nothing can hold them down; there is no
way to express that explosion; all that exists
Roars into flame, the tortured fragments rush away from each
other into all the sky, new universes
Jewel the black breast of night; and far off the outer nebulae
like charging spearmen again
No wonder we are so fascinated with
And our huge bombs: it is a kind of homesickness perhaps for
the howling fireblast that we were born from.
But the whole sum of the energies
That made and contain the giant atom survives.
gather again and pile up, the power and the glory--
And no doubt it will burst again; diastole and systole: the
whole universe beats like a heart.
Peace in our time was never one of God's promises; but back
and forth, live and die, burn and be damned,
The great heart beating, pumping into our arteries His
He is beautiful beyond belief.
And we, God's apes--or tragic children--share in the beauty.
We see it above our torment, that's what life's for.
He is no God of love, no justice of a little city like Dante's
Florence, no anthropoid God
Making commandments,: this is the God who does not care
and will never cease.
Look at the seas there
Flashing against this rock in the darkness--look at the
tide-stream stars--and the fall of nations--and dawn
Wandering with wet white feet down the Caramel Valley to
meet the sea.
These are real and we see their beauty.
The great explosion is probably only a metaphor--I know not
--of faceless violence, the root of all things.
Elizabeth Jennings | |
When the gardener has gone this garden
Looks wistful and seems waiting an event.
It is so spruce, a metaphor of Eden
And even more so since the gardener went,
Quietly godlike, but of course, he had
Not made me promise anything and I
Had no one tempting me to make the bad
Yet I still felt lost and wonder why.
Even the beech tree from next door which shares
Its shadow with me, seemed a kind of threat.
Everything was too neat, and someone cares
In the wrong way.
I need not have stood long
Mocked by the smell of a mown lawn, and yet
Sickness for Eden was so strong.
Thomas Blackburn | |
By your unnumbered charities
A miracle disclose,
Lord of the Images, whose love
The eyelids and the rose
Takes for a language, and today
Tell to me what is said
By these men in a turnip field
And their unleavened bread.
For all things seem to figure out
The stirrings of your heart,
And two men pick the turnips up
And two men pull the cart;
And yet between the four of them
No word is ever said
Because the yeast was not put in
Which makes the human bread.
But three men stare on vacancy
And one man strokes his knees;
What is the meaning to be found
In such dark vowels as these?
Lord of the Images, whose love
The eyelid and the rose
Takes for a metaphor, today,
Beneath the warder's blows,
The unleavened man did not cry out
Or turn his face away;
Through such men in a turnip field
What is it that you say?
William Carlos (WCW) Williams | |
Let the snake wait under
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
—through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
William Butler Yeats | |
The heron-billed pale cattle-birds
That feed on some foul parasite
Of the Moroccan flocks and herds
Cross the narrow Straits to light
In the rich midnight of the garden trees
Till the dawn break upon those mingled seas.
Often at evening when a boy
Would I carry to a friend -
Hoping more substantial joy
Did an older mind commend -
Not such as are in Newton's metaphor,
But actual shells of Rosses' level shore.
Greater glory in the Sun,
An evening chill upon the air,
Bid imagination run
Much on the Great Questioner;
What He can question, what if questioned I
Can with a fitting confidence reply.
William Butler Yeats | |
Processions that lack high stilts have nothing that
catches the eye.
What if my great-granddad had a pair that were
twenty foot high,
And mine were but fifteen foot, no modern Stalks
Some rogue of the world stole them to patch up a fence
or a fire.
Because piebald ponies, led bears, caged lions, ake
but poor shows,
Because children demand Daddy-long-legs upon This
Because women in the upper storeys demand a face at
That patching old heels they may shriek, I take to
chisel and plane.
Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run wild,
From collar to collar, from stilt to stilt, from father to child.
All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all.
A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the
dawn breaks loose;
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.