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Best Famous Sister Poems

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Written by Edna St Vincent Millay | Create an image from this poem

Ode To Silence

 Aye, but she?
Your other sister and my other soul
Grave Silence, lovelier
Than the three loveliest maidens, what of her?
Clio, not you,
Not you, Calliope,
Nor all your wanton line,
Not Beauty's perfect self shall comfort me
For Silence once departed,
For her the cool-tongued, her the tranquil-hearted,
Whom evermore I follow wistfully,
Wandering Heaven and Earth and Hell and the four seasons through;
Thalia, not you,
Not you, Melpomene,
Not your incomparable feet, O thin Terpsichore, I seek in this great hall,
But one more pale, more pensive, most beloved of you all.
I seek her from afar, I come from temples where her altars are, From groves that bear her name, Noisy with stricken victims now and sacrificial flame, And cymbals struck on high and strident faces Obstreperous in her praise They neither love nor know, A goddess of gone days, Departed long ago, Abandoning the invaded shrines and fanes Of her old sanctuary, A deity obscure and legendary, Of whom there now remains, For sages to decipher and priests to garble, Only and for a little while her letters wedged in marble, Which even now, behold, the friendly mumbling rain erases, And the inarticulate snow, Leaving at last of her least signs and traces None whatsoever, nor whither she is vanished from these places.
"She will love well," I said, "If love be of that heart inhabiter, The flowers of the dead; The red anemone that with no sound Moves in the wind, and from another wound That sprang, the heavily-sweet blue hyacinth, That blossoms underground, And sallow poppies, will be dear to her.
And will not Silence know In the black shade of what obsidian steep Stiffens the white narcissus numb with sleep? (Seed which Demeter's daughter bore from home, Uptorn by desperate fingers long ago, Reluctant even as she, Undone Persephone, And even as she set out again to grow In twilight, in perdition's lean and inauspicious loam).
She will love well," I said, "The flowers of the dead; Where dark Persephone the winter round, Uncomforted for home, uncomforted, Lacking a sunny southern slope in northern Sicily, With sullen pupils focussed on a dream, Stares on the stagnant stream That moats the unequivocable battlements of Hell, There, there will she be found, She that is Beauty veiled from men and Music in a swound.
" "I long for Silence as they long for breath Whose helpless nostrils drink the bitter sea; What thing can be So stout, what so redoubtable, in Death What fury, what considerable rage, if only she, Upon whose icy breast, Unquestioned, uncaressed, One time I lay, And whom always I lack, Even to this day, Being by no means from that frigid bosom weaned away, If only she therewith be given me back?" I sought her down that dolorous labyrinth, Wherein no shaft of sunlight ever fell, And in among the bloodless everywhere I sought her, but the air, Breathed many times and spent, Was fretful with a whispering discontent, And questioning me, importuning me to tell Some slightest tidings of the light of day they know no more, Plucking my sleeve, the eager shades were with me where I went.
I paused at every grievous door, And harked a moment, holding up my hand,—and for a space A hush was on them, while they watched my face; And then they fell a-whispering as before; So that I smiled at them and left them, seeing she was not there.
I sought her, too, Among the upper gods, although I knew She was not like to be where feasting is, Nor near to Heaven's lord, Being a thing abhorred And shunned of him, although a child of his, (Not yours, not yours; to you she owes not breath, Mother of Song, being sown of Zeus upon a dream of Death).
Fearing to pass unvisited some place And later learn, too late, how all the while, With her still face, She had been standing there and seen me pass, without a smile, I sought her even to the sagging board whereat The stout immortals sat; But such a laughter shook the mighty hall No one could hear me say: Had she been seen upon the Hill that day? And no one knew at all How long I stood, or when at last I sighed and went away.
There is a garden lying in a lull Between the mountains and the mountainous sea, I know not where, but which a dream diurnal Paints on my lids a moment till the hull Be lifted from the kernel And Slumber fed to me.
Your foot-print is not there, Mnemosene, Though it would seem a ruined place and after Your lichenous heart, being full Of broken columns, caryatides Thrown to the earth and fallen forward on their jointless knees, And urns funereal altered into dust Minuter than the ashes of the dead, And Psyche's lamp out of the earth up-thrust, Dripping itself in marble wax on what was once the bed Of Love, and his young body asleep, but now is dust instead.
There twists the bitter-sweet, the white wisteria Fastens its fingers in the strangling wall, And the wide crannies quicken with bright weeds; There dumbly like a worm all day the still white orchid feeds; But never an echo of your daughters' laughter Is there, nor any sign of you at all Swells fungous from the rotten bough, grey mother of Pieria! Only her shadow once upon a stone I saw,—and, lo, the shadow and the garden, too, were gone.
I tell you you have done her body an ill, You chatterers, you noisy crew! She is not anywhere! I sought her in deep Hell; And through the world as well; I thought of Heaven and I sought her there; Above nor under ground Is Silence to be found, That was the very warp and woof of you, Lovely before your songs began and after they were through! Oh, say if on this hill Somewhere your sister's body lies in death, So I may follow there, and make a wreath Of my locked hands, that on her quiet breast Shall lie till age has withered them! (Ah, sweetly from the rest I see Turn and consider me Compassionate Euterpe!) "There is a gate beyond the gate of Death, Beyond the gate of everlasting Life, Beyond the gates of Heaven and Hell," she saith, "Whereon but to believe is horror! Whereon to meditate engendereth Even in deathless spirits such as I A tumult in the breath, A chilling of the inexhaustible blood Even in my veins that never will be dry, And in the austere, divine monotony That is my being, the madness of an unaccustomed mood.
This is her province whom you lack and seek; And seek her not elsewhere.
Hell is a thoroughfare For pilgrims,—Herakles, And he that loved Euridice too well, Have walked therein; and many more than these; And witnessed the desire and the despair Of souls that passed reluctantly and sicken for the air; You, too, have entered Hell, And issued thence; but thence whereof I speak None has returned;—for thither fury brings Only the driven ghosts of them that flee before all things.
Oblivion is the name of this abode: and she is there.
" Oh, radiant Song! Oh, gracious Memory! Be long upon this height I shall not climb again! I know the way you mean,—the little night, And the long empty day,—never to see Again the angry light, Or hear the hungry noises cry my brain! Ah, but she, Your other sister and my other soul, She shall again be mine; And I shall drink her from a silver bowl, A chilly thin green wine, Not bitter to the taste, Not sweet, Not of your press, oh, restless, clamorous nine,— To foam beneath the frantic hoofs of mirth— But savoring faintly of the acid earth, And trod by pensive feet From perfect clusters ripened without haste Out of the urgent heat In some clear glimmering vaulted twilight under the odorous vine .
Lift up your lyres! Sing on! But as for me, I seek your sister whither she is gone.
Written by Billy Collins | Create an image from this poem

Nostalgia

 Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade, and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular, the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon, and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow.
" Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.
Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet marathons were the rage.
We used to dress up in the flags of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent a badly broken code.
The 1790's will never come again.
Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.
I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment, time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps, or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me recapture the serenity of last month when we picked berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.
Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.
As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past, letting my memory rush over them like water rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine, a dance whose name we can only guess.
Written by Aleister Crowley | Create an image from this poem

A Birthday

 "Aug.
" 10, 1911.
Full moon to-night; and six and twenty years Since my full moon first broke from angel spheres! A year of infinite love unwearying --- No circling seasons, but perennial spring! A year of triumph trampling through defeat, The first made holy and the last made sweet By this same love; a year of wealth and woe, Joy, poverty, health, sickness --- all one glow In the pure light that filled our firmament Of supreme silence and unbarred extent, Wherein one sacrament was ours, one Lord, One resurrection, one recurrent chord, One incarnation, one descending dove, All these being one, and that one being Love! You sent your spirit into tunes; my soul Yearned in a thousand melodies to enscroll Its happiness: I left no flower unplucked That might have graced your garland.
I induct Tragedy, comedy, farce, fable, song, Each longing a little, each a little long, But each aspiring only to express Your excellence and my unworthiness --- Nay! but my worthiness, since I was sense And spirit too of that same excellence.
So thus we solved the earth's revolving riddle: I could write verse, and you could play the fiddle, While, as for love, the sun went through the signs, And not a star but told him how love twines A wreath for every decanate, degree, Minute and second, linked eternally In chains of flowers that never fading are, Each one as sempiternal as a star.
Let me go back to your last birthday.
Then I was already your one man of men Appointed to complete you, and fulfil From everlasting the eternal will.
We lay within the flood of crimson light In my own balcony that August night, And conjuring the aright and the averse Created yet another universe.
We worked together; dance and rite and spell Arousing heaven and constraining hell.
We lived together; every hour of rest Was honied from your tiger-lily breast.
We --- oh what lingering doubt or fear betrayed My life to fate! --- we parted.
Was I afraid? I was afraid, afraid to live my love, Afraid you played the serpent, I the dove, Afraid of what I know not.
I am glad Of all the shame and wretchedness I had, Since those six weeks have taught me not to doubt you, And also that I cannot live without you.
Then I came back to you; black treasons rear Their heads, blind hates, deaf agonies of fear, Cruelty, cowardice, falsehood, broken pledges, The temple soiled with senseless sacrileges, Sickness and poverty, a thousand evils, Concerted malice of a million devils; --- You never swerved; your high-pooped galleon Went marvellously, majestically on Full-sailed, while every other braver bark Drove on the rocks, or foundered in the dark.
Then Easter, and the days of all delight! God's sun lit noontide and his moon midnight, While above all, true centre of our world, True source of light, our great love passion-pearled Gave all its life and splendour to the sea Above whose tides stood our stability.
Then sudden and fierce, no monitory moan, Smote the mad mischief of the great cyclone.
How far below us all its fury rolled! How vainly sulphur tries to tarnish gold! We lived together: all its malice meant Nothing but freedom of a continent! It was the forest and the river that knew The fact that one and one do not make two.
We worked, we walked, we slept, we were at ease, We cried, we quarrelled; all the rocks and trees For twenty miles could tell how lovers played, And we could count a kiss for every glade.
Worry, starvation, illness and distress? Each moment was a mine of happiness.
Then we grew tired of being country mice, Came up to Paris, lived our sacrifice There, giving holy berries to the moon, July's thanksgiving for the joys of June.
And you are gone away --- and how shall I Make August sing the raptures of July? And you are gone away --- what evil star Makes you so competent and popular? How have I raised this harpy-hag of Hell's Malice --- that you are wanted somewhere else? I wish you were like me a man forbid, Banned, outcast, nice society well rid Of the pair of us --- then who would interfere With us? --- my darling, you would now be here! But no! we must fight on, win through, succeed, Earn the grudged praise that never comes to meed, Lash dogs to kennel, trample snakes, put bit In the mule-mouths that have such need of it, Until the world there's so much to forgive in Becomes a little possible to live in.
God alone knows if battle or surrender Be the true courage; either has its splendour.
But since we chose the first, God aid the right, And damn me if I fail you in the fight! God join again the ways that lie apart, And bless the love of loyal heart to heart! God keep us every hour in every thought, And bring the vessel of our love to port! These are my birthday wishes.
Dawn's at hand, And you're an exile in a lonely land.
But what were magic if it could not give My thought enough vitality to live? Do not then dream this night has been a loss! All night I have hung, a god, upon the cross; All night I have offered incense at the shrine; All night you have been unutterably mine, Miner in the memory of the first wild hour When my rough grasp tore the unwilling flower From your closed garden, mine in every mood, In every tense, in every attitude, In every possibility, still mine While the sun's pomp and pageant, sign to sign, Stately proceeded, mine not only so In the glamour of memory and austral glow Of ardour, but by image of my brow Stronger than sense, you are even here and now Miner, utterly mine, my sister and my wife, Mother of my children, mistress of my life! O wild swan winging through the morning mist! The thousand thousand kisses that we kissed, The infinite device our love devised If by some chance its truth might be surprised, Are these all past? Are these to come? Believe me, There is no parting; they can never leave me.
I have built you up into my heart and brain So fast that we can never part again.
Why should I sing you these fantastic psalms When all the time I have you in my arms? Why? 'tis the murmur of our love that swells Earth's dithyrambs and ocean's oracles.
But this is dawn; my soul shall make its nest Where your sighs swing from rapture into rest Love's thurible, your tiger-lily breast.
Written by William Wordsworth | Create an image from this poem

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey

Five years have passed; five summers, with the length 
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.
Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, That on a wild secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose Here, under this dark sycamore, and view These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, Which at this season, with their unripe fruits, Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves 'Mid groves and copses.
Once again I see These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms, Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke Sent up, in silence, from among the trees! With some uncertain notice, as might seem Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire The Hermit sits alone.
These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man's eye; But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; And passing even into my purer mind With tranquil restoration—feelings too Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps, As have no slight or trivial influence On that best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered, acts Of kindness and of love.
Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world, Is lightened—that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on— Until, the breath of this corporeal frame And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul; While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things.
If this Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft— In darkness and amid the many shapes Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, Have hung upon the beatings of my heart— How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee, O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer through the woods, How often has my spirit turned to thee! And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought, With many recognitions dim and faint, And somewhat of a sad perplexity, The picture of the mind revives again; While here I stand, not only with the sense Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts That in this moment there is life and food For future years.
And so I dare to hope, Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first I came among these hills; when like a roe I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, Wherever nature led—more like a man Flying from something that he dreads than one Who sought the thing he loved.
For nature then (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days And their glad animal movements all gone by) To me was all in all.
—I cannot paint What then I was.
The sounding cataract Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock, The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, Their colors and their forms, were then to me An appetite; a feeling and a love, That had no need of a remoter charm, By thought supplied, not any interest Unborrowed from the eye.
—That time is past, And all its aching joys are now no more, And all its dizzy raptures.
Not for this Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts Have followed; for such loss, I would believe, Abundant recompense.
For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes The still sad music of humanity, Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power To chasten and subdue.
And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man: A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.
Therefore am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods, And mountains; and of all that we behold From this green earth; of all the mighty world Of eye, and ear—both what they half create, And what perceive; well pleased to recognize In nature and the language of the sense The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul Of all my moral being.
Nor perchance, If I were not thus taught, should I the more Suffer my genial spirits to decay: For thou art with me here upon the banks Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend, My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart, and read My former pleasures in the shooting lights Of thy wild eyes.
Oh! yet a little while May I behold in thee what I was once, My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make, Knowing that Nature never did betray The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege, Through all the years of this our life, to lead From joy to joy: for she can so inform The mind that is within us, so impress With quietness and beauty, and so feed With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues, Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all The dreary intercourse of daily life, Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold Is full of blessings.
Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk; And let the misty mountain winds be free To blow against thee: and, in after years, When these wild ecstasies shall be matured Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms, Thy memory be as a dwelling place For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then, If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts Of tender joy wilt thou remember me, And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance— If I should be where I no more can hear Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams Of past existence—wilt thou then forget That on the banks of this delightful stream We stood together; and that I, so long A worshipper of Nature, hither came Unwearied in that service; rather say With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal Of holier love.
Nor wilt thou then forget, That after many wanderings, many years Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, And this green pastoral landscape, were to me More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!
Written by William Wordsworth | Create an image from this poem

WE ARE SEVEN

  A simple child, dear brother Jim,
  That lightly draws its breath,
  And feels its life in every limb,
  What should it know of death?

  I met a little cottage girl,
  She was eight years old, she said;
  Her hair was thick with many a curl
  That cluster'd round her head.

  She had a rustic, woodland air,
  And she was wildly clad;
  Her eyes were fair, and very fair,
  —Her beauty made me glad.

  "Sisters and brothers, little maid,
  How many may you be?"
  "How many? seven in all," she said,
  And wondering looked at me.

  "And where are they, I pray you tell?"
  She answered, "Seven are we,
  And two of us at Conway dwell,
  And two are gone to sea.
"

  "Two of us in the church-yard lie,
  My sister and my brother,
  And in the church-yard cottage, I
  Dwell near them with my mother.
"

  "You say that two at Conway dwell,
  And two are gone to sea,
  Yet you are seven; I pray you tell
  Sweet Maid, how this may be?"

  Then did the little Maid reply,
  "Seven boys and girls are we;
  Two of us in the church-yard lie,
  Beneath the church-yard tree.
"

  "You run about, my little maid,
  Your limbs they are alive;
  If two are in the church-yard laid,
  Then ye are only five.
"

  "Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
  The little Maid replied,
  "Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
  And they are side by side.
"

  "My stockings there I often knit,
  My 'kerchief there I hem;
  And there upon the ground I sit—
  I sit and sing to them.
"

  "And often after sunset, Sir,
  When it is light and fair,
  I take my little porringer,
  And eat my supper there.
"

  "The first that died was little Jane;
  In bed she moaning lay,
  Till God released her of her pain,
  And then she went away.
"

  "So in the church-yard she was laid,
  And all the summer dry,
  Together round her grave we played,
  My brother John and I.
"

  "And when the ground was white with snow,
  And I could run and slide,
  My brother John was forced to go,
  And he lies by her side.
"

  "How many are you then," said I,
  "If they two are in Heaven?"
  The little Maiden did reply,
  "O Master! we are seven.
"

  "But they are dead; those two are dead!
  Their spirits are in heaven!"
  'Twas throwing words away; for still
  The little Maid would have her will,
  And said, "Nay, we are seven!"

ANECDOTE for FATHERS,
   Shewing how the practice of Lying may be taught.

  I have a boy of five years old,
  His face is fair and fresh to see;
  His limbs are cast in beauty's mould,
  And dearly he loves me.

  One morn we stroll'd on our dry walk,
  Our quiet house all full in view,
  And held such intermitted talk
  As we are wont to do.

  My thoughts on former pleasures ran;
  I thought of Kilve's delightful shore,
  My pleasant home, when Spring began,
  A long, long year before.

  A day it was when I could bear
  To think, and think, and think again;
  With so much happiness to spare,
  I could not feel a pain.

  My boy was by my side, so slim
  And graceful in his rustic dress!
  And oftentimes I talked to him
  In very idleness.

  The young lambs ran a pretty race;
  The morning sun shone bright and warm;
  "Kilve," said I, "was a pleasant place,
  And so is Liswyn farm.
"

  "My little boy, which like you more,"
  I said and took him by the arm—
  "Our home by Kilve's delightful shore,
  Or here at Liswyn farm?"

  "And tell me, had you rather be,"
  I said and held-him by the arm,
  "At Kilve's smooth shore by the green sea,
  Or here at Liswyn farm?"

  In careless mood he looked at me,
  While still I held him by the arm,
  And said, "At Kilve I'd rather be
  Than here at Liswyn farm.
"

  "Now, little Edward, say why so;
  My little Edward, tell me why;"
  "I cannot tell, I do not know.
"
  "Why this is strange," said I.

  "For, here are woods and green hills warm:
  There surely must some reason be
  Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm,
  For Kilve by the green sea.
"

  At this, my boy hung down his head,
  He blush'd with shame, nor made reply;
  And five times to the child I said,
  "Why, Edward, tell me, why?"

  His head he raised—there was in sight,
  It caught his eye, he saw it plain—
  Upon the house-top, glittering bright,
  A broad and gilded vane.

  Then did the boy his tongue unlock,
  And thus to me he made reply;
  "At Kilve there was no weather-cock,
  And that's the reason why.
"

  Oh dearest, dearest boy! my heart
  For better lore would seldom yearn
  Could I but teach the hundredth part
  Of what from thee I learn.

LINES
  Written at a small distance from my House, and sent by
  my little boy to the person to whom they are addressed.

  It is the first mild day of March:
  Each minute sweeter than before,
  The red-breast sings from the tall larch
  That stands beside our door.

  There is a blessing in the air,
  Which seems a sense of joy to yield
  To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
  And grass in the green field.

  My Sister! ('tis a wish of mine)
  Now that our morning meal is done,
  Make haste, your morning task resign;
  Come forth and feel the sun.

  Edward will come with you, and pray,
  Put on with speed your woodland dress,
  And bring no book, for this one day
  We'll give to idleness.

  No joyless forms shall regulate
  Our living Calendar:
  We from to-day, my friend, will date
  The opening of the year.

  Love, now an universal birth,
  From heart to heart is stealing,
  From earth to man, from man to earth,
  —It is the hour of feeling.

  One moment now may give us more
  Than fifty years of reason;
  Our minds shall drink at every pore
  The spirit of the season.

  Some silent laws our hearts may make,
  Which they shall long obey;
  We for the year to come may take
  Our temper from to-day.

  And from the blessed power that rolls
  About, below, above;
  We'll frame the measure of our souls,
  They shall be tuned to love.

  Then come, my sister I come, I pray,
  With speed put on your woodland dress,
  And bring no book; for this one day
  We'll give to idleness.

Written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge | Create an image from this poem

Frost at Midnight

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind.
The owlet's cry Came loud---and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest, Have left me to that solitude, which suits Abstruser musings: save that at my side My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
`Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs And vexes meditation with its strange And extreme silentness.
Sea, hill, and wood, This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood, With all the numberless goings-on of life, Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not; Only that film, which fluttered on the grate, Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature Gives it dim sympathies with me who live, Making it a companionable form, Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit By its own moods interprets, every where Echo or mirror seeking of itself, And makes a toy of Thought.
But O! how oft, How oft, at school, with most believing mind, Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars, To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower, Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang >From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day, So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear Most like articulate sounds of things to come! So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt, Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams! And so I brooded all the following morn, Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye Fixed with mock study on my swimming book: Save if the door half opened, and I snatched A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up, For still I hoped to see the stranger's face, Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved, My play-mate when we both were clothed alike! Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side, Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm, Fill up the interspersed vacancies And momentary pauses of the thought! My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart With tender gladness, thus to look at thee, And think that thou shall learn far other lore, And in far other scenes! For I was reared In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim, And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds, Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible Of that eternal language, which thy God Utters, who from eternity doth teach Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.
Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee, Whether the summer clothe the general earth With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall Heard only in the trances of the blast, Or if the secret ministry of frost Shall hang them up in silent icicles, Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.
Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

Cinderella

 You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
That story.
Or the nursemaid, some luscious sweet from Denmark who captures the oldest son's heart.
from diapers to Dior.
That story.
Or a milkman who serves the wealthy, eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk, the white truck like an ambulance who goes into real estate and makes a pile.
From homogenized to martinis at lunch.
Or the charwoman who is on the bus when it cracks up and collects enough from the insurance.
From mops to Bonwit Teller.
That story.
Once the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed and she said to her daughter Cinderella: Be devout.
Be good.
Then I will smile down from heaven in the seam of a cloud.
The man took another wife who had two daughters, pretty enough but with hearts like blackjacks.
Cinderella was their maid.
She slept on the sooty hearth each night and walked around looking like Al Jolson.
Her father brought presents home from town, jewels and gowns for the other women but the twig of a tree for Cinderella.
She planted that twig on her mother's grave and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat.
Whenever she wished for anything the dove would drop it like an egg upon the ground.
The bird is important, my dears, so heed him.
Next came the ball, as you all know.
It was a marriage market.
The prince was looking for a wife.
All but Cinderella were preparing and gussying up for the event.
Cinderella begged to go too.
Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils into the cinders and said: Pick them up in an hour and you shall go.
The white dove brought all his friends; all the warm wings of the fatherland came, and picked up the lentils in a jiffy.
No, Cinderella, said the stepmother, you have no clothes and cannot dance.
That's the way with stepmothers.
Cinderella went to the tree at the grave and cried forth like a gospel singer: Mama! Mama! My turtledove, send me to the prince's ball! The bird dropped down a golden dress and delicate little slippers.
Rather a large package for a simple bird.
So she went.
Which is no surprise.
Her stepmother and sisters didn't recognize her without her cinder face and the prince took her hand on the spot and danced with no other the whole day.
As nightfall came she thought she'd better get home.
The prince walked her home and she disappeared into the pigeon house and although the prince took an axe and broke it open she was gone.
Back to her cinders.
These events repeated themselves for three days.
However on the third day the prince covered the palace steps with cobbler's wax and Cinderella's gold shoe stuck upon it.
Now he would find whom the shoe fit and find his strange dancing girl for keeps.
He went to their house and the two sisters were delighted because they had lovely feet.
The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on but her big toe got in the way so she simply sliced it off and put on the slipper.
The prince rode away with her until the white dove told him to look at the blood pouring forth.
That is the way with amputations.
They just don't heal up like a wish.
The other sister cut off her heel but the blood told as blood will.
The prince was getting tired.
He began to feel like a shoe salesman.
But he gave it one last try.
This time Cinderella fit into the shoe like a love letter into its envelope.
At the wedding ceremony the two sisters came to curry favor and the white dove pecked their eyes out.
Two hollow spots were left like soup spoons.
Cinderella and the prince lived, they say, happily ever after, like two dolls in a museum case never bothered by diapers or dust, never arguing over the timing of an egg, never telling the same story twice, never getting a middle-aged spread, their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
That story.
Written by Allen Ginsberg | Create an image from this poem

Death and Fame

 When I die
I don't care what happens to my body
throw ashes in the air, scatter 'em in East River
bury an urn in Elizabeth New Jersey, B'nai Israel Cemetery
But l want a big funeral
St.
Patrick's Cathedral, St.
Mark's Church, the largest synagogue in Manhattan First, there's family, brother, nephews, spry aged Edith stepmother 96, Aunt Honey from old Newark, Doctor Joel, cousin Mindy, brother Gene one eyed one ear'd, sister- in-law blonde Connie, five nephews, stepbrothers & sisters their grandchildren, companion Peter Orlovsky, caretakers Rosenthal & Hale, Bill Morgan-- Next, teacher Trungpa Vajracharya's ghost mind, Gelek Rinpoche, there Sakyong Mipham, Dalai Lama alert, chance visiting America, Satchitananda Swami Shivananda, Dehorahava Baba, Karmapa XVI, Dudjom Rinpoche, Katagiri & Suzuki Roshi's phantoms Baker, Whalen, Daido Loorie, Qwong, Frail White-haired Kapleau Roshis, Lama Tarchen -- Then, most important, lovers over half-century Dozens, a hundred, more, older fellows bald & rich young boys met naked recently in bed, crowds surprised to see each other, innumerable, intimate, exchanging memories "He taught me to meditate, now I'm an old veteran of the thousand day retreat --" "I played music on subway platforms, I'm straight but loved him he loved me" "I felt more love from him at 19 than ever from anyone" "We'd lie under covers gossip, read my poetry, hug & kiss belly to belly arms round each other" "I'd always get into his bed with underwear on & by morning my skivvies would be on the floor" "Japanese, always wanted take it up my bum with a master" "We'd talk all night about Kerouac & Cassady sit Buddhalike then sleep in his captain's bed.
" "He seemed to need so much affection, a shame not to make him happy" "I was lonely never in bed nude with anyone before, he was so gentle my stomach shuddered when he traced his finger along my abdomen nipple to hips-- " "All I did was lay back eyes closed, he'd bring me to come with mouth & fingers along my waist" "He gave great head" So there be gossip from loves of 1948, ghost of Neal Cassady commin- gling with flesh and youthful blood of 1997 and surprise -- "You too? But I thought you were straight!" "I am but Ginsberg an exception, for some reason he pleased me.
" "I forgot whether I was straight gay queer or funny, was myself, tender and affectionate to be kissed on the top of my head, my forehead throat heart & solar plexus, mid-belly.
on my prick, tickled with his tongue my behind" "I loved the way he'd recite 'But at my back allways hear/ time's winged chariot hurrying near,' heads together, eye to eye, on a pillow --" Among lovers one handsome youth straggling the rear "I studied his poetry class, 17 year-old kid, ran some errands to his walk-up flat, seduced me didn't want to, made me come, went home, never saw him again never wanted to.
.
.
" "He couldn't get it up but loved me," "A clean old man.
" "He made sure I came first" This the crowd most surprised proud at ceremonial place of honor-- Then poets & musicians -- college boys' grunge bands -- age-old rock star Beatles, faithful guitar accompanists, gay classical con- ductors, unknown high Jazz music composers, funky trum- peters, bowed bass & french horn black geniuses, folksinger fiddlers with dobro tamborine harmonica mandolin auto- harp pennywhistles & kazoos Next, artist Italian romantic realists schooled in mystic 60's India, Late fauve Tuscan painter-poets, Classic draftsman Massa- chusets surreal jackanapes with continental wives, poverty sketchbook gesso oil watercolor masters from American provinces Then highschool teachers, lonely Irish librarians, delicate biblio- philes, sex liberation troops nay armies, ladies of either sex "I met him dozens of times he never remembered my name I loved him anyway, true artist" "Nervous breakdown after menopause, his poetry humor saved me from suicide hospitals" "Charmant, genius with modest manners, washed sink, dishes my studio guest a week in Budapest" Thousands of readers, "Howl changed my life in Libertyville Illinois" "I saw him read Montclair State Teachers College decided be a poet-- " "He turned me on, I started with garage rock sang my songs in Kansas City" "Kaddish made me weep for myself & father alive in Nevada City" "Father Death comforted me when my sister died Boston l982" "I read what he said in a newsmagazine, blew my mind, realized others like me out there" Deaf & Dumb bards with hand signing quick brilliant gestures Then Journalists, editors's secretaries, agents, portraitists & photo- graphy aficionados, rock critics, cultured laborors, cultural historians come to witness the historic funeral Super-fans, poetasters, aging Beatnicks & Deadheads, autograph- hunters, distinguished paparazzi, intelligent gawkers Everyone knew they were part of 'History" except the deceased who never knew exactly what was happening even when I was alive February 22, 1997
Written by Cornelius Eady | Create an image from this poem

Im A Fool To Love You

 Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could, About her life with my father, A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices A young black woman faces.
Is falling in love with some man A deal with the devil In blue terms, the tongue we use When we don't want nuance To get in the way, When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father After choosing a man Who was, as we sing it, Of no account.
This man made my father look good, That's how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island In the middle of a stormy sea, He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize You exist in a stacked deck, You look in a mirror at your young face, The face my sister carries, And you know it's the only leverage You've got.
Does this create a hurt that whispers How you going to do? Is the blues the moment You shrug your shoulders And agree, a girl without money Is nothing, dust To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this, My father seems, briefly, To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works Its sorry wonders, Makes trouble look like A feather bed, Makes the wrong man's kisses A healing.
Written by Sidney Lanier | Create an image from this poem

Night

 A pale enchanted moon is sinking low
Behind the dunes that fringe the shadowy lea, 
And there is haunted starlight on the flow
Of immemorial sea.
I am alone and need no more pretend Laughter or smile to hide a hungry heart; I walk with solitude as with a friend Enfolded and apart.
We tread an eerie road across the moor Where shadows weave upon their ghostly looms, And winds sing an old lyric that might lure Sad queens from ancient tombs.
I am a sister to the loveliness Of cool far hill and long-remembered shore, Finding in it a sweet forgetfulness Of all that hurt before.
The world of day, its bitterness and cark, No longer have the power to make me weep; I welcome this communion of the dark As toilers welcome sleep.
Written by Jack Prelutsky | Create an image from this poem

The Visitor

 it came today to visit
and moved into the house
it was smaller than an elephant
but larger than a mouse

first it slapped my sister
then it kicked my dad
then it pushed my mother
oh! that really made me mad

it went and tickled rover
and terrified the cat
it sliced apart my necktie
and rudely crushed my hat

it smeared my head with honey
and filled the tub with rocks
and when i yelled in anger
it stole my shoes and socks

that's just the way it happened
it happened all today
before it bowed politely
and softly went away
Written by Adrienne Rich | Create an image from this poem

Victory

 Something spreading underground won't speak to us
under skin won't declare itself
not all life-forms want dialogue with the
machine-gods in their drama hogging down
the deep bush clear-cutting refugees
from ancient or transient villages into
our opportunistic fervor to search
 crazily for a host a lifeboat

Suddenly instead of art we're eyeing
organisms traced and stained on cathedral transparencies
cruel blues embroidered purples succinct yellows
a beautiful tumor

•

I guess you're not alone I fear you're alone
There's, of course, poetry:
awful bridge rising over naked air: I first
took it as just a continuation of the road: 
"a masterpiece of engineering
praised, etc.
" then on the radio: "incline too steep for ease of, etc.
" Drove it nonetheless because I had to this being how— So this is how I find you: alive and more • As if (how many conditionals must we suffer?) I'm driving to your side —an intimate collusion— packed in the trunk my bag of foils for fencing with pain glasses of varying spectrum for sun or fog or sun-struck rain or bitterest night my sack of hidden poetries, old glue shredding from their spines my time exposure of the Leonids over Joshua Tree As if we're going to win this O because • If you have a sister I am not she nor your mother nor you my daughter nor are we lovers or any kind of couple except in the intensive care of poetry and death's master plan architecture-in-progress draft elevations of a black-and-white mosaic dome the master left on your doorstep with a white card in black calligraphy: Make what you will of this As if leaving purple roses • If (how many conditionals must we suffer?) I tell you a letter from the master is lying on my own doorstep glued there with leaves and rain and I haven't bent to it yet if I tell you I surmise he writes differently to me: Do as you will, you have had your life many have not signing it in his olden script: Meister aus Deutschland • In coldest Europe end of that war frozen domes iron railings frozen stoves lit in the streets memory banks of cold the Nike of Samothrace on a staircase wings in blazing backdraft said to me : : to everyone she met Displaced, amputated never discount me Victory indented in disaster striding at the head of stairs for Tory Dent
Written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | Create an image from this poem

THE BRIDE OF CORINTH

 [First published in Schiller's Horen, in connection 
with a
friendly contest in the art of ballad-writing between the two
great poets, to which many of their finest works are owing.
] ONCE a stranger youth to Corinth came, Who in Athens lived, but hoped that he From a certain townsman there might claim, As his father's friend, kind courtesy.
Son and daughter, they Had been wont to say Should thereafter bride and bridegroom be.
But can he that boon so highly prized, Save tis dearly bought, now hope to get? They are Christians and have been baptized, He and all of his are heathens yet.
For a newborn creed, Like some loathsome weed, Love and truth to root out oft will threat.
Father, daughter, all had gone to rest, And the mother only watches late; She receives with courtesy the guest, And conducts him to the room of state.
Wine and food are brought, Ere by him besought; Bidding him good night.
she leaves him straight.
But he feels no relish now, in truth, For the dainties so profusely spread; Meat and drink forgets the wearied youth, And, still dress'd, he lays him on the bed.
Scarce are closed his eyes, When a form in-hies Through the open door with silent tread.
By his glimmering lamp discerns he now How, in veil and garment white array'd, With a black and gold band round her brow, Glides into the room a bashful maid.
But she, at his sight, Lifts her hand so white, And appears as though full sore afraid.
"Am I," cries she, "such a stranger here, That the guest's approach they could not name? Ah, they keep me in my cloister drear, Well nigh feel I vanquish'd by my shame.
On thy soft couch now Slumber calmly thou! I'll return as swiftly as I came.
" "Stay, thou fairest maiden!" cries the boy, Starting from his couch with eager haste: "Here are Ceres', Bacchus' gifts of joy; Amor bringest thou, with beauty grac'd! Thou art pale with fear! Loved one let us here Prove the raptures the Immortals taste.
" "Draw not nigh, O Youth! afar remain! Rapture now can never smile on me; For the fatal step, alas! is ta'en, Through my mother's sick-bed phantasy.
Cured, she made this oath: 'Youth and nature both Shall henceforth to Heav'n devoted be.
' "From the house, so silent now, are driven All the gods who reign'd supreme of yore; One Invisible now rules in heaven, On the cross a Saviour they adore.
Victims slay they here, Neither lamb nor steer, But the altars reek with human gore.
" And he lists, and ev'ry word he weighs, While his eager soul drinks in each sound: "Can it be that now before my gaze Stands my loved one on this silent ground? Pledge to me thy troth! Through our father's oath: With Heav'ns blessing will our love be crown'd.
" "Kindly youth, I never can be thine! 'Tis my sister they intend for thee.
When I in the silent cloister pine, Ah, within her arms remember me! Thee alone I love, While love's pangs I prove; Soon the earth will veil my misery.
" "No! for by this glowing flame I swear, Hymen hath himself propitious shown: Let us to my fathers house repair, And thoult find that joy is not yet flown, Sweetest, here then stay, And without delay Hold we now our wedding feast alone!" Then exchange they tokens of their truth; She gives him a golden chain to wear, And a silver chalice would the youth Give her in return of beauty rare.
"That is not for me; Yet I beg of thee, One lock only give me of thy hair.
" Now the ghostly hour of midnight knell'd, And she seem'd right joyous at the sign; To her pallid lips the cup she held, But she drank of nought but blood-red wine.
For to taste the bread There before them spread, Nought he spoke could make the maid incline.
To the youth the goblet then she brought,-- He too quaff'd with eager joy the bowl.
Love to crown the silent feast he sought, Ah! full love-sick was the stripling's soul.
From his prayer she shrinks, Till at length he sinks On the bed and weeps without control.
And she comes, and lays her near the boy: "How I grieve to see thee sorrowing so! If thou think'st to clasp my form with joy, Thou must learn this secret sad to know; Yes! the maid, whom thou Call'st thy loved one now, Is as cold as ice, though white as snow.
" Then he clasps her madly in his arm, While love's youthful might pervades his frame: "Thou might'st hope, when with me, to grow warm, E'en if from the grave thy spirit came! Breath for breath, and kiss! Overflow of bliss! Dost not thou, like me, feel passion's flame?" Love still closer rivets now their lips, Tears they mingle with their rapture blest, From his mouth the flame she wildly sips, Each is with the other's thought possess'd.
His hot ardour's flood Warms her chilly blood, But no heart is beating in her breast.
In her care to see that nought went wrong, Now the mother happen'd to draw near; At the door long hearkens she, full long, Wond'ring at the sounds that greet her ear.
Tones of joy and sadness, And love's blissful madness, As of bride and bridegroom they appear, From the door she will not now remove 'Till she gains full certainty of this; And with anger hears she vows of love, Soft caressing words of mutual bliss.
"Hush! the cock's loud strain! But thoult come again, When the night returns!"--then kiss on kiss.
Then her wrath the mother cannot hold, But unfastens straight the lock with ease "In this house are girls become so bold, As to seek e'en strangers' lusts to please?" By her lamp's clear glow Looks she in,--and oh! Sight of horror!--'tis her child she sees.
Fain the youth would, in his first alarm, With the veil that o'er her had been spread, With the carpet, shield his love from harm; But she casts them from her, void of dread, And with spirit's strength, In its spectre length, Lifts her figure slowly from the bed.
"Mother! mother!"--Thus her wan lips say: "May not I one night of rapture share? From the warm couch am I chased away? Do I waken only to despair? It contents not thee To have driven me An untimely shroud of death to wear? "But from out my coffin's prison-bounds By a wond'rous fate I'm forced to rove, While the blessings and the chaunting sounds That your priests delight in, useless prove.
Water, salt, are vain Fervent youth to chain, Ah, e'en Earth can never cool down love! "When that infant vow of love was spoken, Venus' radiant temple smiled on both.
Mother! thou that promise since hast broken, Fetter'd by a strange, deceitful oath.
Gods, though, hearken ne'er, Should a mother swear To deny her daughter's plighted troth.
From my grave to wander I am forc'd, Still to seek The Good's long-sever'd link, Still to love the bridegroom I have lost, And the life-blood of his heart to drink; When his race is run, I must hasten on, And the young must 'neath my vengeance sink, "Beauteous youth! no longer mayst thou live; Here must shrivel up thy form so fair; Did not I to thee a token give, Taking in return this lock of hair? View it to thy sorrow! Grey thoult be to-morrow, Only to grow brown again when there.
"Mother, to this final prayer give ear! Let a funeral pile be straightway dress'd; Open then my cell so sad and drear, That the flames may give the lovers rest! When ascends the fire From the glowing pyre, To the gods of old we'll hasten, blest.
" 1797.
Written by Charles Simic | Create an image from this poem

White

 A New Version: 1980

 What is that little black thing I see there
 in the white?
 Walt Whitman


One

Out of poverty
To begin again: 

With the color of the bride
And that of blindness,

Touch what I can
Of the quick,

Speak and then wait,
As if this light

Will continue to linger
On the threshold.
All that is near, I no longer give it a name.
Once a stone hard of hearing, Once sharpened into a knife.
.
.
Now only a chill Slipping through.
Enough glow to kneel by and ask To be tied to its tail When it goes marrying Its cousins, the stars.
Is it a cloud? If it's a cloud it will move on.
The true shape of this thought, Migrant, waning.
Something seeks someone, It bears him a gift Of himself, a bit Of snow to taste, Glimpse of his own nakedness By which to imagine the face.
On a late afternoon of snow In a dim badly-aired grocery, Where a door has just rung With a short, shrill echo, A little boy hands the old, Hard-faced woman Bending low over the counter, A shiny nickel for a cupcake.
Now only that shine, now Only that lull abides.
That your gaze Be merciful, Sister, bride Of my first hopeless insomnia.
Kind nurse, show me The place of salves.
Teach me the song That makes a man rise His glass at dusk Until a star dances in it.
Who are you? Are you anybody A moonrock would recognize? There are words I need.
They are not near men.
I went searching.
Is this a deathmarch? You bend me, bend me, Oh toward what flower! Little-known vowel, Noose big for us all.
As strange as a shepherd In the Arctic Circle.
Someone like Bo-peep.
All his sheep are white And he can't get any sleep Over lost sheep.
And he's got a flute Which says Bo-peep, Which says Poor boy, Take care of your snow-sheep.
to A.
S.
Hamilton Then all's well and white, And no more than white.
Illinois snowbound.
Indiana with one bare tree.
Michigan a storm-cloud.
Wisconsin empty of men.
There's a trap on the ice Laid there centuries ago.
The bait is still fresh.
The metal glitters as the night descends.
Woe, woe, it sings from the bough.
Our Lady, etc.
.
.
You had me hoodwinked.
I see your brand new claws.
Praying, what do I betray By desiring your purity? There are old men and women, All bandaged up, waiting At the spiked, wrought-iron gate Of the Great Eye and Ear Infirmery.
We haven't gone far.
.
.
Fear lives there too.
Five ears of my fingertips Against the white page.
What do you hear? We hear holy nothing Blindfolding itself.
It touched you once, twice, And tore like a stitch Out of a new wound.
Two What are you up to son of a gun? I roast on my heart's dark side.
What do you use as a skewer sweetheart? I use my own crooked backbone.
What do you salt yourself with loverboy? I grind the words out of my spittle.
And how will you know when you're done chump? When the half-moons on my fingernails set.
With what knife will you carve yourself smartass? The one I hide in my tongue's black boot.
Well, you can't call me a wrestler If my own dead weight has me pinned down.
Well, you can't call me a cook If the pot's got me under its cover.
Well, you can't call me a king if the flies hang their hats in my mouth.
Well, you can't call me smart, When the rain's falling my cup's in the cupboard.
Nor can you call me a saint, If I didn't err, there wouldn't be these smudges.
One has to manage as best as one can.
The poppies ate the sunset for supper.
One has to manage as best as one can.
Who stole my blue thread, the one I tied around my pinky to remember? One has to manage as best as one can.
The flea I was standing on, jumped.
One has to manage as best as one can.
I think my head went out for a walk.
One has to manage as best as one can.
This is breath, only breath, Think it over midnight! A fly weighs twice as much.
The struck match nods as it passes, But when I shout, Its true name sticks in my throat.
It has to be cold So the breath turns white, And then mother, who's fast enough To write his life on it? A song in prison And for prisoners, Made of what the condemned Have hidden from the jailers.
White--let me step aside So that the future may see you, For when this sheet is blown away, What else is left But to set the food on the table, To cut oneself a slice of bread? In an unknown year Of an algebraic century, An obscure widow Wrapped in the colors of widowhood, Met a true-blue orphan On an indeterminate street-corner.
She offered him A tiny sugar cube In the hand so wizened All the lines said: fate.
Do you take this line Stretching to infinity? I take this chipped tooth On which to cut it in half.
Do you take this circle Bounded by a single curved line? I take this breath That it cannot capture.
Then you may kiss the spot Where her bridal train last rustled.
Winter can come now, The earth narrow to a ditch-- And the sky with its castles and stone lions Above the empty plains.
The snow can fall.
.
.
What other perennials would you plant, My prodigals, my explorers Tossing and turning in the dark For those remote, finely honed bees, The December stars? Had to get through me elsewhere.
Woe to bone That stood in their way.
Woe to each morsel of flesh.
White ants In a white anthill.
The rustle of their many feet Scurrying--tiptoing too.
Gravedigger ants.
Village-idiot ants.
This is the last summoning.
Solitude--as in the beginning.
A zero burped by a bigger zero-- It's an awful licking I got.
And fear--that dead letter office.
And doubt--that Chinese shadow play.
Does anyone still say a prayer Before going to bed? White sleeplessness.
No one knows its weight.
What The White Had To Say For how could anything white be distinct from or divided from whiteness? Meister Eckhart Because I am the bullet That has gone through everyone already, I thought of you long before you thought of me.
Each one of you still keeps a blood-stained handkerchief In which to swaddle me, but it stays empty And even the wind won't remain in it long.
Cleverly you've invented name after name for me, Mixed the riddles, garbled the proverbs, Shook you loaded dice in a tin cup, But I do not answer back even to your curses, For I am nearer to you than your breath.
One sun shines on us both through a crack in the roof.
A spoon brings me through the window at dawn.
A plate shows me off to the four walls While with my tail I swing at the flies.
But there's no tail and the flies are your thoughts.
Steadily, patiently I life your arms.
I arrange them in the posture of someone drowning, And yet the sea in which you are sinking, And even this night above it, is myself.
Because I am the bullet That has baptized each one of your senses, Poems are made of our lusty wedding nights.
.
.
The joy of words as they are written.
The ear that got up at four in the morning To hear the grass grow inside a word.
Still, the most beautiful riddle has no answer.
I am the emptiness that tucks you in like a mockingbird's nest, The fingernail that scratched on your sleep's blackboard.
Take a letter: From cloud to onion.
Say: There was never any real choice.
One gaunt shadowy mother wiped our asses, The same old orphanage taught us loneliness.
Street-organ full of blue notes, I am the monkey dancing to your grinding-- And still you are afraid-and so, It's as if we had not budged from the beginning.
Time slopes.
We are falling head over heels At the speed of night.
That milk tooth You left under the pillow, it's grinning.
1970-1980 This currently out-of-print edition: Copyright ©1980 Logbridge-Rhodes, Inc.
An earlier version of White was first published by New Rivers Press in 1972.
Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

How a Little Girl Danced

 DEDICATED TO LUCY BATES

(Being a reminiscence of certain private theatricals.
) Oh, cabaret dancer, I know a dancer, Whose eyes have not looked on the feasts that are vain.
I know a dancer, I know a dancer, Whose soul has no bond with the beasts of the plain: Judith the dancer, Judith the dancer, With foot like the snow, and with step like the rain.
Oh, thrice-painted dancer, vaudeville dancer, Sad in your spangles, with soul all astrain, I know a dancer, I know a dancer, Whose laughter and weeping are spiritual gain, A pure-hearted, high-hearted maiden evangel, With strength the dark cynical earth to disdain.
Flowers of bright Broadway, you of the chorus, Who sing in the hope of forgetting your pain: I turn to a sister of Sainted Cecilia, A white bird escaping the earth's tangled skein:— The music of God is her innermost brooding, The whispering angels her footsteps sustain.
Oh, proud Russian dancer: praise for your dancing.
No clean human passion my rhyme would arraign.
You dance for Apollo with noble devotion, A high cleansing revel to make the heart sane.
But Judith the dancer prays to a spirit More white than Apollo and all of his train.
I know a dancer who finds the true Godhead, Who bends o'er a brazier in Heaven's clear plain.
I know a dancer, I know a dancer, Who lifts us toward peace, from this earth that is vain: Judith the dancer, Judith the dancer, With foot like the snow, and with step like the rain.