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Best Famous Wedding Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Wedding poems. This is a select list of the best famous Wedding poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Wedding poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of wedding poems.

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Written by Edgar Allan Poe |

The Bells

 I

Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
II Hear the mellow wedding bells, Golden bells! What a world of happiness their harmony foretells! Through the balmy air of night How they ring out their delight! From the molten-golden notes, And an in tune, What a liquid ditty floats To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats On the moon! Oh, from out the sounding cells, What a gush of euphony voluminously wells! How it swells! How it dwells On the Future! how it tells Of the rapture that impels To the swinging and the ringing Of the bells, bells, bells, Of the bells, bells, bells,bells, Bells, bells, bells- To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells! III Hear the loud alarum bells- Brazen bells! What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells! In the startled ear of night How they scream out their affright! Too much horrified to speak, They can only shriek, shriek, Out of tune, In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire, In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire, Leaping higher, higher, higher, With a desperate desire, And a resolute endeavor, Now- now to sit or never, By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells! What a tale their terror tells Of Despair! How they clang, and clash, and roar! What a horror they outpour On the bosom of the palpitating air! Yet the ear it fully knows, By the twanging, And the clanging, How the danger ebbs and flows: Yet the ear distinctly tells, In the jangling, And the wrangling, How the danger sinks and swells, By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells- Of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells,bells, Bells, bells, bells- In the clamor and the clangor of the bells! IV Hear the tolling of the bells- Iron Bells! What a world of solemn thought their monody compels! In the silence of the night, How we shiver with affright At the melancholy menace of their tone! For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people- They that dwell up in the steeple, All Alone And who, tolling, tolling, tolling, In that muffled monotone, Feel a glory in so rolling On the human heart a stone- They are neither man nor woman- They are neither brute nor human- They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; And he rolls, rolls, rolls, Rolls A paean from the bells! And his merry bosom swells With the paean of the bells! And he dances, and he yells; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the paean of the bells- Of the bells: Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the throbbing of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells- To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time, As he knells, knells, knells, In a happy Runic rhyme, To the rolling of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells: To the tolling of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, bells- Bells, bells, bells- To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Written by Carol Ann Duffy |

Valentine

 Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light like the careful undressing of love.
Here.
It will blind you with tears like a lover.
It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are.
Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring, if you like.
Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.

Written by Lascelles Abercrombie |

Emblems of Love

She

ONLY to be twin elements of joy
In this extravagance of Being, Love,
Were our divided natures shaped in twain;
And to this hour the whole world must consent.
Is it not very marvellous, our lives Can only come to this out of a long Strange sundering, with the years of the world between us? He Shall life do more than God? for hath not God Striven with himself, when into known delight His unaccomplisht joy he would put forth,— This mystery of a world sign of his striving? Else wherefore this, a thing to break the mind With labouring in the wonder of it, that here Being—the world and we—is suffered to be!— But, lying on thy breast one notable day, Sudden exceeding agony of love Made my mind a trance of infinite knowledge.
I was not: yet I saw the will of God As light unfashion’d, unendurable flame, Interminable, not to be supposed; And there was no more creature except light,— The dreadful burning of the lonely God’s Unutter’d joy.
And then, past telling, came Shuddering and division in the light: Therein, like trembling, was desire to know Its own perfect beauty; and it became A cloven fire, a double flaming, each Adorable to each; against itself Waging a burning love, which was the world;— A moment satisfied in that love-strife I knew the world!—And when I fell from there, Then knew I also what this life would do In being twin,—in being man and woman! For it would do even as its endless Master, Making the world, had done; yea, with itself Would strive, and for the strife would into sex Be cloven, double burning, made thereby Desirable to itself.
Contrivèd joy Is sex in life; and by no other thing Than by a perfect sundering, could life Change the dark stream of unappointed joy To perfect praise of itself, the glee that loves And worships its own Being.
This is ours! Yet only for that we have been so long Sundered desire: thence is our life all praise.
— But we, well knowing by our strength of joy There is no sundering more, how far we love From those sad lives that know a half-love only, Alone thereby knowing themselves for ever Sealed in division of love, and therefore made To pour their strength always into their love’s Fierceness, as green wood bleeds its hissing sap Into red heat of a fire! Not so do we: The cloven anger, life, hath left to wage Its flame against itself, here turned to one Self-adoration.
—Ah, what comes of this? The joy falters a moment, with closed wings Wearying in its upward journey, ere Again it goes on high, bearing its song, Its delight breathing and its vigour beating The highest height of the air above the world.
She What hast thou done to me!—I would have soul, Before I knew thee, Love, a captive held By flesh.
Now, inly delighted with desire, My body knows itself to be nought else But thy heart’s worship of me; and my soul Therein is sunlight held by warm gold air.
Nay, all my body is become a song Upon the breath of spirit, a love-song.
He And mine is all like one rapt faculty, As it were listening to the love in thee, My whole mortality trembling to take Thy body like heard singing of thy spirit.
She Surely by this, Beloved, we must know Our love is perfect here,—that not as holds The common dullard thought, we are things lost In an amazement that is all unware; But wonderfully knowing what we are! Lo, now that body is the song whereof Spirit is mood, knoweth not our delight? Knoweth not beautifully now our love, That Life, here to this festival bid come Clad in his splendour of worldly day and night, Filled and empower’d by heavenly lust, is all The glad imagination of the Spirit? He Were it not so, Love could not be at all: Nought could be, but a yearning to fulfil Desire of beauty, by vain reaching forth Of sense to hold and understand the vision Made by impassion’d body,—vision of thee! But music mixt with music are, in love, Bodily senses; and as flame hath light, Spirit this nature hath imagined round it, No way concealed therein, when love comes near, Nor in the perfect wedding of desires Suffering any hindrance.
She Ah, but now, Now am I given love’s eternal secret! Yea, thou and I who speak, are but the joy Of our for ever mated spirits; but now The wisdom of my gladness even through Spirit Looks, divinely elate.
Who hath for joy Our Spirits? Who hath imagined them Round him in fashion’d radiance of desire, As into light of these exulting bodies Flaming Spirit is uttered? He Yea, here the end Of love’s astonishment! Now know we Spirit, And Who, for ease of joy, contriveth Spirit.
Now all life’s loveliness and power we have Dissolved in this one moment, and our burning Carries all shining upward, till in us Life is not life, but the desire of God, Himself desiring and himself accepting.
Now what was prophecy in us is made Fulfilment: we are the hour and we are the joy, We in our marvellousness of single knowledge, Of Spirit breaking down the room of fate And drawing into his light the greeting fire Of God,—God known in ecstasy of love Wedding himself to utterance of himself

Written by John Davidson |

A Ballad of Hell

 'A letter from my love to-day!
Oh, unexpected, dear appeal!'
She struck a happy tear away,
And broke the crimson seal.
'My love, there is no help on earth, No help in heaven; the dead-man's bell Must toll our wedding; our first hearth Must be the well-paved floor of hell.
' The colour died from out her face, Her eyes like ghostly candles shone; She cast dread looks about the place, Then clenched her teeth and read right on.
'I may not pass the prison door; Here must I rot from day to day, Unless I wed whom I abhor, My cousin, Blanche of Valencay.
'At midnight with my dagger keen, I'll take my life; it must be so.
Meet me in hell to-night, my queen, For weal and woe.
' She laughed although her face was wan, She girded on her golden belt, She took her jewelled ivory fan, And at her glowing missal knelt.
Then rose, 'And am I mad?' she said: She broke her fan, her belt untied; With leather girt herself instead, And stuck a dagger at her side.
She waited, shuddering in her room, Till sleep had fallen on all the house.
She never flinched; she faced her doom: They two must sin to keep their vows.
Then out into the night she went, And, stooping, crept by hedge and tree; Her rose-bush flung a snare of scent, And caught a happy memory.
She fell, and lay a minute's space; She tore the sward in her distress; The dewy grass refreshed her face; She rose and ran with lifted dress.
She started like a morn-caught ghost Once when the moon came out and stood To watch; the naked road she crossed, And dived into the murmuring wood.
The branches snatched her streaming cloak; A live thing shrieked; she made no stay! She hurried to the trysting-oak— Right well she knew the way.
Without a pause she bared her breast, And drove her dagger home and fell, And lay like one that takes her rest, And died and wakened up in hell.
She bathed her spirit in the flame, And near the centre took her post; From all sides to her ears there came The dreary anguish of the lost.
The devil started at her side, Comely, and tall, and black as jet.
'I am young Malespina's bride; Has he come hither yet?' 'My poppet, welcome to your bed.
' 'Is Malespina here?' 'Not he! To-morrow he must wed His cousin Blanche, my dear!' 'You lie, he died with me to-night.
' 'Not he! it was a plot' .
.
.
'You lie.
' 'My dear, I never lie outright.
' 'We died at midnight, he and I.
' The devil went.
Without a groan She, gathered up in one fierce prayer, Took root in hell's midst all alone, And waited for him there.
She dared to make herself at home Amidst the wail, the uneasy stir.
The blood-stained flame that filled the dome, Scentless and silent, shrouded her.
How long she stayed I cannot tell; But when she felt his perfidy, She marched across the floor of hell; And all the damned stood up to see.
The devil stopped her at the brink: She shook him off; she cried, 'Away!' 'My dear, you have gone mad, I think.
' 'I was betrayed: I will not stay.
' Across the weltering deep she ran; A stranger thing was never seen: The damned stood silent to a man; They saw the great gulf set between.
To her it seemed a meadow fair; And flowers sprang up about her feet She entered heaven; she climbed the stair And knelt down at the mercy-seat.
Seraphs and saints with one great voice Welcomed that soul that knew not fear.
Amazed to find it could rejoice, Hell raised a hoarse, half-human cheer.

Written by Anne Sexton |

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 Charlotte Bronte |

Mementos

 ARRANGING long-locked drawers and shelves 
Of cabinets, shut up for years, 
What a strange task we've set ourselves ! 
How still the lonely room appears ! 
How strange this mass of ancient treasures, 
Mementos of past pains and pleasures; 
These volumes, clasped with costly stone, 
With print all faded, gilding gone; 

These fans of leaves, from Indian trees­ 
These crimson shells, from Indian seas­ 
These tiny portraits, set in rings­ 
Once, doubtless, deemed such precious things; 
Keepsakes bestowed by Love on Faith, 
And worn till the receiver's death, 
Now stored with cameos, china, shells, 
In this old closet's dusty cells.
I scarcely think, for ten long years, A hand has touched these relics old; And, coating each, slow-formed, appears, The growth of green and antique mould.
All in this house is mossing over; All is unused, and dim, and damp; Nor light, nor warmth, the rooms discover­ Bereft for years of fire and lamp.
The sun, sometimes in summer, enters The casements, with reviving ray; But the long rains of many winters Moulder the very walls away.
And outside all is ivy, clinging To chimney, lattice, gable grey; Scarcely one little red rose springing Through the green moss can force its way.
Unscared, the daw, and starling nestle, Where the tall turret rises high, And winds alone come near to rustle The thick leaves where their cradles lie.
I sometimes think, when late at even I climb the stair reluctantly, Some shape that should be well in heaven, Or ill elsewhere, will pass by me.
I fear to see the very faces, Familiar thirty years ago, Even in the old accustomed places Which look so cold and gloomy now.
I've come, to close the window, hither, At twilight, when the sun was down, And Fear, my very soul would wither, Lest something should be dimly shown.
Too much the buried form resembling, Of her who once was mistress here; Lest doubtful shade, or moonbeam trembling, Might take her aspect, once so dear.
Hers was this chamber; in her time It seemed to me a pleasant room, For then no cloud of grief or crime Had cursed it with a settled gloom; I had not seen death's image laid In shroud and sheet, on yonder bed.
Before she married, she was blest­ Blest in her youth, blest in her worth; Her mind was calm, its sunny rest Shone in her eyes more clear than mirth.
And when attired in rich array, Light, lustrous hair about her brow, She yonder sat­a kind of day Lit up­what seems so gloomy now.
These grim oak walls, even then were grim; That old carved chair, was then antique; But what around looked dusk and dim Served as a foil to her fresh cheek; Her neck, and arms, of hue so fair, Eyes of unclouded, smiling, light; Her soft, and curled, and floating hair, Gems and attire, as rainbow bright.
Reclined in yonder deep recess, Ofttimes she would, at evening, lie Watching the sun; she seemed to bless With happy glance the glorious sky.
She loved such scenes, and as she gazed, Her face evinced her spirit's mood; Beauty or grandeur ever raised In her, a deep-felt gratitude.
But of all lovely things, she loved A cloudless moon, on summer night; Full oft have I impatience proved To see how long, her still delight Would find a theme in reverie.
Out on the lawn, or where the trees Let in the lustre fitfully, As their boughs parted momently, To the soft, languid, summer breeze.
Alas ! that she should e'er have flung Those pure, though lonely joys away­ Deceived by false and guileful tongue, She gave her hand, then suffered wrong; Oppressed, ill-used, she faded young, And died of grief by slow decay.
Open that casket­look how bright Those jewels flash upon the sight; The brilliants have not lost a ray Of lustre, since her wedding day.
But see­upon that pearly chain­ How dim lies time's discolouring stain ! I've seen that by her daughter worn: For, e'er she died, a child was born; A child that ne'er its mother knew, That lone, and almost friendless grew; For, ever, when its step drew nigh, Averted was the father's eye; And then, a life impure and wild Made him a stranger to his child; Absorbed in vice, he little cared On what she did, or how she fared.
The love withheld, she never sought, She grew uncherished­learnt untaught; To her the inward life of thought Full soon was open laid.
I know not if her friendlessness Did sometimes on her spirit press, But plaint she never made.
The book-shelves were her darling treasure, She rarely seemed the time to measure While she could read alone.
And she too loved the twilight wood, And often, in her mother's mood, Away to yonder hill would hie, Like her, to watch the setting sun, Or see the stars born, one by one, Out of the darkening sky.
Nor would she leave that hill till night Trembled from pole to pole with light; Even then, upon her homeward way, Long­long her wandering steps delayed To quit the sombre forest shade, Through which her eerie pathway lay.
You ask if she had beauty's grace ? I know not­but a nobler face My eyes have seldom seen; A keen and fine intelligence, And, better still, the truest sense Were in her speaking mien.
But bloom or lustre was there none, Only at moments, fitful shone An ardour in her eye, That kindled on her cheek a flush, Warm as a red sky's passing blush And quick with energy.
Her speech, too, was not common speech, No wish to shine, or aim to teach, Was in her words displayed: She still began with quiet sense, But oft the force of eloquence Came to her lips in aid; Language and voice unconscious changed, And thoughts, in other words arranged, Her fervid soul transfused Into the hearts of those who heard, And transient strength and ardour stirred, In minds to strength unused.
Yet in gay crowd or festal glare, Grave and retiring was her air; 'Twas seldom, save with me alone, That fire of feeling freely shone; She loved not awe's nor wonder's gaze, Nor even exaggerated praise, Nor even notice, if too keen The curious gazer searched her mien.
Nature's own green expanse revealed The world, the pleasures, she could prize; On free hill-side, in sunny field, In quiet spots by woods concealed, Grew wild and fresh her chosen joys, Yet Nature's feelings deeply lay In that endowed and youthful frame; Shrined in her heart and hid from day, They burned unseen with silent flame; In youth's first search for mental light, She lived but to reflect and learn, But soon her mind's maturer might For stronger task did pant and yearn; And stronger task did fate assign, Task that a giant's strength might strain; To suffer long and ne'er repine, Be calm in frenzy, smile at pain.
Pale with the secret war of feeling, Sustained with courage, mute, yet high; The wounds at which she bled, revealing Only by altered cheek and eye; She bore in silence­but when passion Surged in her soul with ceaseless foam, The storm at last brought desolation, And drove her exiled from her home.
And silent still, she straight assembled The wrecks of strength her soul retained; For though the wasted body trembled, The unconquered mind, to quail, disdained.
She crossed the sea­now lone she wanders By Seine's, or Rhine's, or Arno's flow; Fain would I know if distance renders Relief or comfort to her woe.
Fain would I know if, henceforth, ever, These eyes shall read in hers again, That light of love which faded never, Though dimmed so long with secret pain.
She will return, but cold and altered, Like all whose hopes too soon depart; Like all on whom have beat, unsheltered, The bitter blasts that blight the heart.
No more shall I behold her lying Calm on a pillow, smoothed by me; No more that spirit, worn with sighing, Will know the rest of infancy.
If still the paths of lore she follow, 'Twill be with tired and goaded will; She'll only toil, the aching hollow, The joyless blank of life to fill.
And oh ! full oft, quite spent and weary, Her hand will pause, her head decline; That labour seems so hard and dreary, On which no ray of hope may shine.
Thus the pale blight of time and sorrow Will shade with grey her soft, dark hair Then comes the day that knows no morrow, And death succeeds to long despair.
So speaks experience, sage and hoary; I see it plainly, know it well, Like one who, having read a story, Each incident therein can tell.
Touch not that ring, 'twas his, the sire Of that forsaken child; And nought his relics can inspire Save memories, sin-defiled.
I, who sat by his wife's death-bed, I, who his daughter loved, Could almost curse the guilty dead, For woes, the guiltless proved.
And heaven did curse­they found him laid, When crime for wrath was rife, Cold­with the suicidal blade Clutched in his desperate gripe.
'Twas near that long deserted hut, Which in the wood decays, Death's axe, self-wielded, struck his root, And lopped his desperate days.
You know the spot, where three black trees, Lift up their branches fell, And moaning, ceaseless as the seas, Still seem, in every passing breeze, The deed of blood to tell.
They named him mad, and laid his bones Where holier ashes lie; Yet doubt not that his spirit groans, In hell's eternity.
But, lo ! night, closing o'er the earth, Infects our thoughts with gloom; Come, let us strive to rally mirth, Where glows a clear and tranquil hearth In some more cheerful room.

Written by Emily Bronte |

A Day Dream

 On a sunny brae, alone I lay
One summer afternoon;
It was the marriage-time of May
With her young lover, June.
From her mother's heart, seemed loath to part That queen of bridal charms, But her father smiled on the fairest child He ever held in his arms.
The trees did wave their plumy crests, The glad birds caroled clear; And I, of all the wedding guests, Was only sullen there! There was not one, but wished to shun My aspect void of cheer; The very grey rocks, looking on, Asked, "What do you here?" And I could utter no reply; In sooth, I did not know Why I had brought a clouded eye To greet the general glow.
So, resting on a heathy bank, I took my heart to me; And we together sadly sank Into a reverie.
We thought, "When winter comes again, Where will these bright things be? All vanished, like a vision vain, An unreal mockery! The birds that now so blithely sing, Through deserts, frozen dry, Poor spectres of the perished spring, In famished troops, will fly.
And why should we be glad at all? The leaf is hardly green, Before a token of its fall Is on the surface seen!" Now, whether it were really so, I never could be sure; But as in fit of peevish woe, I stretched me on the moor.
A thousand thousand gleaming fires Seemed kindling in the air; A thousand thousand silvery lyres Resounded far and near: Methought, the very breath I breathed Was full of sparks divine, And all my heather-couch was wreathed By that celestial shine! And, while the wide earth echoing rung To their strange minstrelsy, The little glittering spirits sung, Or seemed to sing, to me.
"O mortal! mortal! let them die; Let time and tears destroy, That we may overflow the sky With universal joy! Let grief distract the sufferer's breast, And night obscure his way; They hasten him to endless rest, And everlasting day.
To thee the world is like a tomb, A desert's naked shore; To us, in unimagined bloom, It brightens more and more! And could we lift the veil, and give One brief glimpse to thine eye, Thou wouldst rejoice for those that live, Because they live to die.
" The music ceased; the noonday dream, Like dream of night, withdrew; But Fancy, still, will sometimes deem Her fond creation true.

Written by Sylvia Plath |

Lady Lazarus

I have done it again.
One year in every ten I manage it_____ A sort of walking miracle, my skin Bright as a Nazi lampshade, My right foot A paperweight, My face featureless, fine Jew linen.
Peel off the napkin O my enemy.
Do I terrify?------- The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth? The sour breath Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh The grave cave ate will be At home on me And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.
What a trash To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.
The Peanut-crunching crowd Shoves in to see Them unwrap me hand in foot ------ The big strip tease.
Gentleman , ladies These are my hands My knees.
I may be skin and bone, Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut As a seashell.
They had to call and call And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Dying Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.
It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical Comeback in broad day To the same place, the same face, the same brute Amused shout: 'A miracle!' That knocks me out.
There is a charge For the eyeing my scars, there is a charge For the hearing of my heart--- It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge For a word or a touch Or a bit of blood Or a piece of my hair on my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus, I am your valuable, The pure gold baby That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
Ash, ash--- You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there---- A cake of soap, A wedding ring, A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer Beware Beware.
Out of the ash I rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.
(1962)

Written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe |

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 Pablo Neruda |

Ode To Tomatoes

 The street
filled with tomatoes,
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December, unabated, the tomato invades the kitchen, it enters at lunchtime, takes its ease on countertops, among glasses, butter dishes, blue saltcellars.
It sheds its own light, benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must murder it: the knife sinks into living flesh, red viscera a cool sun, profound, inexhaustible, populates the salads of Chile, happily, it is wed to the clear onion, and to celebrate the union we pour oil, essential child of the olive, onto its halved hemispheres, pepper adds its fragrance, salt, its magnetism; it is the wedding of the day, parsley hoists its flag, potatoes bubble vigorously, the aroma of the roast knocks at the door, it's time! come on! and, on the table, at the midpoint of summer, the tomato, star of earth, recurrent and fertile star, displays its convolutions, its canals, its remarkable amplitude and abundance, no pit, no husk, no leaves or thorns, the tomato offers its gift of fiery color and cool completeness.

Written by Sylvia Plath |

Berck-Plage

(1)

This is the sea, then, this great abeyance.
How the sun's poultice draws on my inflammation.
Electrifyingly-colored sherbets, scooped from the freeze By pale girls, travel the air in scorched hands.
Why is it so quiet, what are they hiding? I have two legs, and I move smilingly.
.
A sandy damper kills the vibrations; It stretches for miles, the shrunk voices Waving and crutchless, half their old size.
The lines of the eye, scalded by these bald surfaces, Boomerang like anchored elastics, hurting the owner.
Is it any wonder he puts on dark glasses? Is it any wonder he affects a black cassock? Here he comes now, among the mackerel gatherers Who wall up their backs against him.
They are handling the black and green lozenges like the parts of a body.
The sea, that crystallized these, Creeps away, many-snaked, with a long hiss of distress.
(2) This black boot has no mercy for anybody.
Why should it, it is the hearse of a dad foot, The high, dead, toeless foot of this priest Who plumbs the well of his book, The bent print bulging before him like scenery.
Obscene bikinis hid in the dunes, Breasts and hips a confectioner's sugar Of little crystals, titillating the light, While a green pool opens its eye, Sick with what it has swallowed---- Limbs, images, shrieks.
Behind the concrete bunkers Two lovers unstick themselves.
O white sea-crockery, What cupped sighs, what salt in the throat.
.
.
.
And the onlooker, trembling, Drawn like a long material Through a still virulence, And a weed, hairy as privates.
(3) On the balconies of the hotel, things are glittering.
Things, things---- Tubular steel wheelchairs, aluminum crutches.
Such salt-sweetness.
Why should I walk Beyond the breakwater, spotty with barnacles? I am not a nurse, white and attendant, I am not a smile.
These children are after something, with hooks and cries, And my heart too small to bandage their terrible faults.
This is the side of a man: his red ribs, The nerves bursting like trees, and this is the surgeon: One mirrory eye---- A facet of knowledge.
On a striped mattress in one room An old man is vanishing.
There is no help in his weeping wife.
Where are the eye-stones, yellow and vvaluable, And the tongue, sapphire of ash.
(4) A wedding-cake face in a paper frill.
How superior he is now.
It is like possessing a saint.
The nurses in their wing-caps are no longer so beautiful; They are browning, like touched gardenias.
The bed is rolled from the wall.
This is what it is to be complete.
It is horrible.
Is he wearing pajamas or an evening suit Under the glued sheet from which his powdery beak Rises so whitely unbuffeted? They propped his jaw with a book until it stiffened And folded his hands, that were shaking: goodbye, goodbye.
Now the washed sheets fly in the sun, The pillow cases are sweetening.
It is a blessing, it is a blessing: The long coffin of soap-colored oak, The curious bearers and the raw date Engraving itself in silver with marvelous calm.
(5) The gray sky lowers, the hills like a green sea Run fold upon fold far off, concealing their hollows, The hollows in which rock the thoughts of the wife---- Blunt, practical boats Full of dresses and hats and china and married daughters.
In the parlor of the stone house One curtain is flickering from the open window, Flickering and pouring, a pitiful candle.
This is the tongue of the dead man: remember, remember.
How far he is now, his actions Around him like livingroom furniture, like a décor.
As the pallors gather---- The pallors of hands and neighborly faces, The elate pallors of flying iris.
They are flying off into nothing: remember us.
The empty benches of memory look over stones, Marble facades with blue veins, and jelly-glassfuls of daffodils.
It is so beautiful up here: it is a stopping place.
(6) The natural fatness of these lime leaves!---- Pollarded green balls, the trees march to church.
The voice of the priest, in thin air, Meets the corpse at the gate, Addressing it, while the hills roll the notes of the dead bell; A glittler of wheat and crude earth.
What is the name of that color?---- Old blood of caked walls the sun heals, Old blood of limb stumps, burnt hearts.
The widow with her black pocketbook and three daughters, Necessary among the flowers, Enfolds her lace like fine linen, Not to be spread again.
While a sky, wormy with put-by smiles, Passes cloud after cloud.
And the bride flowers expend a fershness, And the soul is a bride In a still place, and the groom is red and forgetful, he is featureless.
(7) Behind the glass of this car The world purrs, shut-off and gentle.
And I am dark-suited and stil, a member of the party, Gliding up in low gear behind the cart.
And the priest is a vessel, A tarred fabric,sorry and dull, Following the coffin on its flowery cart like a beautiful woman, A crest of breasts, eyelids and lips Storming the hilltop.
Then, from the barred yard, the children Smell the melt of shoe-blacking, Their faces turning, wordless and slow, Their eyes opening On a wonderful thing---- Six round black hats in the grass and a lozenge of wood, And a naked mouth, red and awkward.
For a minute the sky pours into the hole like plasma.
There is no hope, it is given up.

Written by Charles Simic |

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 Jackie Kay |

The Mother Poem (two)

 I always wanted to give birth
Do that incredible natural thing
That women do-I nearly broke down
When I heard we couldn't
And then my man said to me
Well there's always adoption
(we didn't have test tubes and the rest
then) and well even in the early sixties there was something
Scandalous about adopting
Telling the world your secret failure
Bringing up an alien child
Who knew what it would turn out to be?

But I wanted a baby badly
Didn't need to come from my womb
Or his seed for me to love it
And I had sisters who looked just like me
Didn't need carbon copy features
Blueprints for generations
It was my baby a baby a baby I wanted

So I watched my child grow
Always the first to hear her in the night
All this umbilical knot business is
Nonsense-the men can afford deeper sleeps
That's all.
I listened to hear her talk And when she did I heard my voice under hers And now some of her mannerisms Crack me up All them stories could have really had me Believing unless you are breast fed You'll never be close and the rest My daughter's warmth spills over me Leaves a gap When she's gone I think of her mother.
She remembers how I read her All those newspaper and magazine Cuttings about adoption She says her head's an encyclopedia Of sob stories: the ones that were never Told and committed suicide on their wedding nights I always believed in the telling anyhow You can't keep something like that secret I wanted her to think of her other mother Out there thinking that child I had will be Eight today nine today all the way up to God knows when.
I told my daughter; I bet your mother's never missed your birthday How could she Now when people say ah but It's not like having your own child though is it I say of course it is what else is it She's my child I have brought her up Told her stories wept at losses Laughed at her pleasures she is mine.
Yes.
Well maybe that is why I don't Like all this talk about her being black I brought her up as my own As I would any other child Colour matters to the nuttters But she says my daughter says It matters to her.
I suppose there would have been things I couldn't have understood with any child We knew she was coloured They told us they had no babies at first And I chanced to say it didn't matter What colour it was and then they Said oh well are you sure in that case We have a baby for you To think she wasn't even thought of as a baby! My baby my baby.

Written by Marge Piercy |

What Are Big Girls Made Of?

 The construction of a woman:
a woman is not made of flesh 
of bone and sinew 
belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe.
She is manufactured like a sports sedan.
She is retooled, refitted and redesigned every decade.
Cecile had been seduction itself in college.
She wriggled through bars like a satin eel, her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed in the dark red lipstick of desire.
She visited in '68 still wearing skirts tight to the knees, dark red lipstick, while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt, lipstick pale as apricot milk, hair loose as a horse's mane.
Oh dear, I thought in my superiority of the moment, whatever has happened to poor Cecile? She was out of fashion, out of the game, disqualified, disdained, dis- membered from the club of desire.
Look at pictures in French fashion magazines of the 18th century: century of the ultimate lady fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
Paniers bring her hips out three feet each way, while the waist is pinched and the belly flattened under wood.
The breasts are stuffed up and out offered like apples in a bowl.
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper never meant for walking.
On top is a grandiose headache: hair like a museum piece, daily ornamented with ribbons, vases, grottoes, mountains, frigates in full sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy of a hairdresser turned loose.
The hats were rococo wedding cakes that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
Here is a woman forced into shape rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh: a woman made of pain.
How superior we are now: see the modern woman thin as a blade of scissors.
She runs on a treadmill every morning, fits herself into machines of weights and pulleys to heave and grunt, an image in her mind she can never approximate, a body of rosy glass that never wrinkles, never grows, never fades.
She sits at the table closing her eyes to food hungry, always hungry: a woman made of pain.
A cat or dog approaches another, they sniff noses.
They sniff asses.
They bristle or lick.
They fall in love as often as we do, as passionately.
But they fall in love or lust with furry flesh, not hoop skirts or push up bras rib removal or liposuction.
It is not for male or female dogs that poodles are clipped to topiary hedges.
If only we could like each other raw.
If only we could love ourselves like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed to need what is sold us.
Why should we want to live inside ads? Why should we want to scourge our softness to straight lines like a Mondrian painting? Why should we punish each other with scorn as if to have a large ass were worse than being greedy or mean? When will women not be compelled to view their bodies as science projects, gardens to be weeded, dogs to be trained? When will a woman cease to be made of pain?

Written by John Ashbery |

My Philosophy of Life

 Just when I thought there wasn't room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea--
call it a philosophy of life, if you will.
Briefly, it involved living the way philosophers live, according to a set of principles.
OK, but which ones? That was the hardest part, I admit, but I had a kind of dark foreknowledge of what it would be like.
Everything, from eating watermelon or going to the bathroom or just standing on a subway platform, lost in thought for a few minutes, or worrying about rain forests, would be affected, or more precisely, inflected by my new attitude.
I wouldn't be preachy, or worry about children and old people, except in the general way prescribed by our clockwork universe.
Instead I'd sort of let things be what they are while injecting them with the serum of the new moral climate I thought I'd stumbled into, as a stranger accidentally presses against a panel and a bookcase slides back, revealing a winding staircase with greenish light somewhere down below, and he automatically steps inside and the bookcase slides shut, as is customary on such occasions.
At once a fragrance overwhelms him--not saffron, not lavender, but something in between.
He thinks of cushions, like the one his uncle's Boston bull terrier used to lie on watching him quizzically, pointed ear-tips folded over.
And then the great rush is on.
Not a single idea emerges from it.
It's enough to disgust you with thought.
But then you remember something William James wrote in some book of his you never read--it was fine, it had the fineness, the powder of life dusted over it, by chance, of course, yet still looking for evidence of fingerprints.
Someone had handled it even before he formulated it, though the thought was his and his alone.
It's fine, in summer, to visit the seashore.
There are lots of little trips to be made.
A grove of fledgling aspens welcomes the traveler.
Nearby are the public toilets where weary pilgrims have carved their names and addresses, and perhaps messages as well, messages to the world, as they sat and thought about what they'd do after using the toilet and washing their hands at the sink, prior to stepping out into the open again.
Had they been coaxed in by principles, and were their words philosophy, of however crude a sort? I confess I can move no farther along this train of thought-- something's blocking it.
Something I'm not big enough to see over.
Or maybe I'm frankly scared.
What was the matter with how I acted before? But maybe I can come up with a compromise--I'll let things be what they are, sort of.
In the autumn I'll put up jellies and preserves, against the winter cold and futility, and that will be a human thing, and intelligent as well.
I won't be embarrassed by my friends' dumb remarks, or even my own, though admittedly that's the hardest part, as when you are in a crowded theater and something you say riles the spectator in front of you, who doesn't even like the idea of two people near him talking together.
Well he's got to be flushed out so the hunters can have a crack at him-- this thing works both ways, you know.
You can't always be worrying about others and keeping track of yourself at the same time.
That would be abusive, and about as much fun as attending the wedding of two people you don't know.
Still, there's a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.
That's what they're made for!Now I want you to go out there and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life, too.
They don't come along every day.
Look out!There's a big one.
.
.