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Written by Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard 'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I've got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise I rise I rise.
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 Fleda Brown | Create an image from this poem

I Write My Mother a Poem

Sometimes I feel her easing further into her grave, 
resigned, as always, and I have to come to her rescue.
Like now, when I have so much else to do.
Not that she'd want a poem.
She would have been proud, of course, of all its mystery, involving her, but scared a little.
Her eyes would have filled with tears.
It always comes to that, I don't know why I bother.
One gesture and she's gone down a well of raw feeling, and I'm left alone again.
I avert my eyes, to keep from scaring her.
On her dresser is one of those old glass bottles of Jergen's Lotion with the black label, a little round bottle of Mum deodorant, a white plastic tray with Avon necklaces and earrings, pennies, paper clips, and a large black coat button.
I appear to be very interested in these objects, even interested in the sun through the blinds.
It falls across her face, and not, as she changes the bed.
She would rather have clean sheets than my poem, but as long as I don't bother her, she's glad to know I care.
She's talked my father into taking a drive later, stopping for an A & W root beer.
She is dreaming of foam on the glass, the tray propped on the car window.
And trees, farmhouses, the expanse of the world as seen from inside the car.
It is no use to try to get her out to watch airplanes take off, or walk a trail, or hear this poem and offer anything more than "Isn't that sweet!" Right now bombs are exploding in Kosovo, students shot in Colorado, and my mother is wearing a root beer mustache.
Her eyes are unfocused, everything's root beer.
I write root beer, root beer, to make her happy.
from Breathing In, Breathing Out, Anhinga Press, 2002 © 2000, Fleda Brown (first published in The Southern Review, 36 [2000])
Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | Create an image from this poem

The Deserted Garden

I MIND me in the days departed, 
How often underneath the sun 
With childish bounds I used to run 
To a garden long deserted.
The beds and walks were vanish'd quite; 5 And wheresoe'er had struck the spade, The greenest grasses Nature laid, To sanctify her right.
I call'd the place my wilderness, For no one enter'd there but I.
10 The sheep look'd in, the grass to espy, And pass'd it ne'ertheless.
The trees were interwoven wild, And spread their boughs enough about To keep both sheep and shepherd out, 15 But not a happy child.
Adventurous joy it was for me! I crept beneath the boughs, and found A circle smooth of mossy ground Beneath a poplar-tree.
20 Old garden rose-trees hedged it in, Bedropt with roses waxen-white, Well satisfied with dew and light, And careless to be seen.
Long years ago, it might befall, 25 When all the garden flowers were trim, The grave old gardener prided him On these the most of all.
Some Lady, stately overmuch, Here moving with a silken noise, 30 Has blush'd beside them at the voice That liken'd her to such.
Or these, to make a diadem, She often may have pluck'd and twined; Half-smiling as it came to mind, 35 That few would look at them.
O, little thought that Lady proud, A child would watch her fair white rose, When buried lay her whiter brows, And silk was changed for shroud!¡ª 40 Nor thought that gardener (full of scorns For men unlearn'd and simple phrase) A child would bring it all its praise, By creeping through the thorns! To me upon my low moss seat, 45 Though never a dream the roses sent Of science or love's compliment, I ween they smelt as sweet.
It did not move my grief to see The trace of human step departed: 50 Because the garden was deserted, The blither place for me! Friends, blame me not! a narrow ken Hath childhood 'twixt the sun and sward: We draw the moral afterward¡ª 55 We feel the gladness then.
And gladdest hours for me did glide In silence at the rose-tree wall: A thrush made gladness musical Upon the other side.
60 Nor he nor I did e'er incline To peck or pluck the blossoms white:¡ª How should I know but that they might Lead lives as glad as mine? To make my hermit-home complete, 65 I brought clear water from the spring Praised in its own low murmuring, And cresses glossy wet.
And so, I thought, my likeness grew (Without the melancholy tale) 70 To 'gentle hermit of the dale,' And Angelina too.
For oft I read within my nook Such minstrel stories; till the breeze Made sounds poetic in the trees, 75 And then I shut the book.
If I shut this wherein I write, I hear no more the wind athwart Those trees, nor feel that childish heart Delighting in delight.
80 My childhood from my life is parted, My footstep from the moss which drew Its fairy circle round: anew The garden is deserted.
Another thrush may there rehearse 85 The madrigals which sweetest are; No more for me!¡ªmyself afar Do sing a sadder verse.
Ah me! ah me! when erst I lay In that child's-nest so greenly wrought, 90 I laugh'd unto myself and thought, 'The time will pass away.
' And still I laugh'd, and did not fear But that, whene'er was pass'd away The childish time, some happier play 95 My womanhood would cheer.
I knew the time would pass away; And yet, beside the rose-tree wall, Dear God, how seldom, if at all, Did I look up to pray! 100 The time is past: and now that grows The cypress high among the trees, And I behold white sepulchres As well as the white rose,¡ª When wiser, meeker thoughts are given, 105 And I have learnt to lift my face, Reminded how earth's greenest place The colour draws from heaven,¡ª It something saith for earthly pain, But more for heavenly promise free, 110 That I who was, would shrink to be That happy child again.
Written by Langston Hughes | Create an image from this poem

Freedoms Plow

 When a man starts out with nothing,
 When a man starts out with his hands
 Empty, but clean,
 When a man starts to build a world,
He starts first with himself
And the faith that is in his heart-
The strength there,
The will there to build.
First in the heart is the dream- Then the mind starts seeking a way.
His eyes look out on the world, On the great wooded world, On the rich soil of the world, On the rivers of the world.
The eyes see there materials for building, See the difficulties, too, and the obstacles.
The mind seeks a way to overcome these obstacles.
The hand seeks tools to cut the wood, To till the soil, and harness the power of the waters.
Then the hand seeks other hands to help, A community of hands to help- Thus the dream becomes not one man's dream alone, But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone, But your world and my world, Belonging to all the hands who build.
A long time ago, but not too long ago, Ships came from across the sea Bringing the Pilgrims and prayer-makers, Adventurers and booty seekers, Free men and indentured servants, Slave men and slave masters, all new- To a new world, America! With billowing sails the galleons came Bringing men and dreams, women and dreams.
In little bands together, Heart reaching out to heart, Hand reaching out to hand, They began to build our land.
Some were free hands Seeking a greater freedom, Some were indentured hands Hoping to find their freedom, Some were slave hands Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom, But the word was there always: Freedom.
Down into the earth went the plow In the free hands and the slave hands, In indentured hands and adventurous hands, Turning the rich soil went the plow in many hands That planted and harvested the food that fed And the cotton that clothed America.
Clang against the trees went the ax into many hands That hewed and shaped the rooftops of America.
Splash into the rivers and the seas went the boat-hulls That moved and transported America.
Crack went the whips that drove the horses Across the plains of America.
Free hands and slave hands, Indentured hands, adventurous hands, White hands and black hands Held the plow handles, Ax handles, hammer handles, Launched the boats and whipped the horses That fed and housed and moved America.
Thus together through labor, All these hands made America.
Labor! Out of labor came villages And the towns that grew cities.
Labor! Out of labor came the rowboats And the sailboats and the steamboats, Came the wagons, and the coaches, Covered wagons, stage coaches, Out of labor came the factories, Came the foundries, came the railroads.
Came the marts and markets, shops and stores, Came the mighty products moulded, manufactured, Sold in shops, piled in warehouses, Shipped the wide world over: Out of labor-white hands and black hands- Came the dream, the strength, the will, And the way to build America.
Now it is Me here, and You there.
Now it's Manhattan, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Boston and El Paso- Now it's the U.
S.
A.
A long time ago, but not too long ago, a man said: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL-- ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS-- AMONG THESE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
His name was Jefferson.
There were slaves then, But in their hearts the slaves believed him, too, And silently too for granted That what he said was also meant for them.
It was a long time ago, But not so long ago at that, Lincoln said: NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN WITHOUT THAT OTHER'S CONSENT.
There were slaves then, too, But in their hearts the slaves knew What he said must be meant for every human being- Else it had no meaning for anyone.
Then a man said: BETTER TO DIE FREE THAN TO LIVE SLAVES He was a colored man who had been a slave But had run away to freedom.
And the slaves knew What Frederick Douglass said was true.
With John Brown at Harper's Ferry, Negroes died.
John Brown was hung.
Before the Civil War, days were dark, And nobody knew for sure When freedom would triumph "Or if it would," thought some.
But others new it had to triumph.
In those dark days of slavery, Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom, The slaves made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! That song meant just what it said: Hold On! Freedom will come! Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! Out of war it came, bloody and terrible! But it came! Some there were, as always, Who doubted that the war would end right, That the slaves would be free, Or that the union would stand, But now we know how it all came out.
Out of the darkest days for people and a nation, We know now how it came out.
There was light when the battle clouds rolled away.
There was a great wooded land, And men united as a nation.
America is a dream.
The poet says it was promises.
The people say it is promises-that will come true.
The people do not always say things out loud, Nor write them down on paper.
The people often hold Great thoughts in their deepest hearts And sometimes only blunderingly express them, Haltingly and stumblingly say them, And faultily put them into practice.
The people do not always understand each other.
But there is, somewhere there, Always the trying to understand, And the trying to say, "You are a man.
Together we are building our land.
" America! Land created in common, Dream nourished in common, Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on! If the house is not yet finished, Don't be discouraged, builder! If the fight is not yet won, Don't be weary, soldier! The plan and the pattern is here, Woven from the beginning Into the warp and woof of America: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN WITHOUT HIS CONSENT.
BETTER DIE FREE, THAN TO LIVE SLAVES.
Who said those things? Americans! Who owns those words? America! Who is America? You, me! We are America! To the enemy who would conquer us from without, We say, NO! To the enemy who would divide And conquer us from within, We say, NO! FREEDOM! BROTHERHOOD! DEMOCRACY! To all the enemies of these great words: We say, NO! A long time ago, An enslaved people heading toward freedom Made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! The plow plowed a new furrow Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.
That tree is for everybody, For all America, for all the world.
May its branches spread and shelter grow Until all races and all peoples know its shade.
KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!
Written by Alexander Pushkin | Create an image from this poem

The Drowned Man

 Children running into izba,
Calling father, dripping sweat:
"Daddy, daddy! come -- there is a
Deadman caught inside our net.
" "Fancy, fancy fabrication.
.
.
" Grumbled off their weary Pa, "Have these imps imagination! Deadman, really! ya-ha-ha.
.
.
"Well.
.
.
the court may come to bother - What'll I say before the judge? Hey you brats, go have your mother Bring my coat; I better trudge.
.
.
Show me, where?" -- "Right there, Dad, farther!" On the sand where netting ropes Lay spread out, the peasant father Saw the veritable corpse.
Badly mangled, ugly, frightening, Blue and swollen on each side.
.
.
Has he fished in storm and lightning, Or committed suicide? Could this be a careless drunkard, Or a mermaid-seeking monk, Or a merchandizer, conquered By some bandits, robbed and sunk? To the peasant, what's it matter! Quick: he grabs the dead man's hair, Drags his body to the water, Looks around: nobody's there: Good.
.
.
relieved of the concern he Shoves his paddle at a loss, While the stiff resumes his journey Down the stream for grave and cross.
Long the dead man as one living Rocked on waves amid the foam.
.
.
Surly as he watched him leaving, Soon our peasant headed home.
"Come you pups! let's go, don't scatter.
Each of you will get his bun.
But remember: just you chatter -- And I'll whip you, every one.
" Dark and stormy it was turning.
High the river ran in gloom.
Now the torch has finished burning In the peasant's smoky room.
Kids asleep, the wife aslumber, He lies listening to the rain.
.
.
Bang! he hears a sudden comer Knocking on the window-pane.
"What the.
.
.
" -- "Let me in there, master!" "Damn, you found the time to roam! Well, what is it, your disaster? Let you in? It's dark at home, Dark and crowded.
.
.
What a pest you are! Where'd I put you in my cot.
.
.
" Slowly, with a lazy gesture, He lifts up the pane and - what? Through the clouds, the moon was showing.
.
.
Well? the naked man was there, Down his hair the water flowing, Wide his eyes, unmoved the stare; Numb the dreadful-looking body, Arms were hanging feeble, thin; Crabs and cancers, black and bloody, Sucked into the swollen skin.
As the peasant slammed the shutter (Recognized his visitant) Horror-struck he could but mutter "Blast you!" and began to pant.
He was shuddering, awful chaos All night through stirred in his brain, While the knocking shook the house By the gates and at the pane.
People tell a dreadful rumor: Every year the peasant, say, Waiting in the worst of humor For his visitor that day; As the rainstorm is increasing, Nightfall brings a hurricane - And the drowned man knocks, unceasing, By the gates and at the pane.
Translated by: Genia Gurarie, 11/95 Copyright retained by Genia Gurarie.
email: egurarie@princeton.
edu http://www.
princeton.
edu/~egurarie/ For permission to reproduce, write personally to the translator.
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

Why Do Birds Sing?

 Let poets piece prismatic words,
Give me the jewelled joy of birds!

What ecstasy moves them to sing?
Is it the lyric glee of Spring,
The dewy rapture of the rose?
Is it the worship born in those
Who are of Nature's self a part,
The adoration of the heart?

Is it the mating mood in them
That makes each crystal note a gem?
Oh mocking bird and nightingale,
Oh mavis, lark and robin - hail!
Tell me what perfect passion glows
In your inspired arpeggios?

A thrush is thrilling as I write
Its obligato of delight;
And in its fervour, as in mine,
I fathom tenderness divine,
And pity those of earthy ear
Who cannot hear .
.
.
who cannot hear.
Let poets pattern pretty words: For lovely largesse - bless you, Birds!
Written by Ben Jonson | Create an image from this poem

His Excuse for Loving

Let it not your wonder move, 
Less your laughter, that I love.
Though I now write fifty years, I have had, and have, my peers.
Poets, though divine, are men; Some have loved as old again.
And it is not always face, Clothes, or fortune gives the grace, Or the feature, or the youth; But the language and the truth, With the ardor and the passion, Gives the lover weight and fashion.
If you then would hear the story, First, prepare you to be sorry That you never knew till now Either whom to love or how; But be glad as soon with me When you hear that this is she Of whose beauty it was sung, She shall make the old man young, Keep the middle age at stay, And let nothing hide decay, Till she be the reason why All the world for love may die.
Written by Langston Hughes | Create an image from this poem

The Negro Mother

 Children, I come back today 
To tell you a story of the long dark way 
That I had to climb, that I had to know 
In order that the race might live and grow.
Look at my face -- dark as the night -- Yet shining like the sun with love's true light.
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea Carrying in my body the seed of the free.
I am the woman who worked in the field Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.
I am the one who labored as a slave, Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave -- Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too.
No safety , no love, no respect was I due.
Three hundred years in the deepest South: But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth .
God put a dream like steel in my soul.
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal.
Now, through my children, young and free, I realized the blessing deed to me.
I couldn't read then.
I couldn't write.
I had nothing, back there in the night.
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears, But I kept trudging on through the lonely years.
Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun, But I had to keep on till my work was done: I had to keep on! No stopping for me -- I was the seed of the coming Free.
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother Deep in my breast -- the Negro mother.
I had only hope then , but now through you, Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true: All you dark children in the world out there, Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair.
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow -- And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.
Make of my pass a road to the light Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night.
Lift high my banner out of the dust.
Stand like free men supporting my trust.
Believe in the right, let none push you back.
Remember the whip and the slaver's track.
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife Still bar you the way, and deny you life -- But march ever forward, breaking down bars.
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars.
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers Impel you forever up the great stairs -- For I will be with you till no white brother Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

Marriage

 This institution,
perhaps one should say enterprise
out of respect for which
one says one need not change one's mind
about a thing one has believed in,
requiring public promises
of one's intention
to fulfill a private obligation:
I wonder what Adam and Eve
think of it by this time,
this firegilt steel
alive with goldenness;
how bright it shows --
"of circular traditions and impostures,
committing many spoils,"
requiring all one's criminal ingenuity
to avoid!
Psychology which explains everything
explains nothing
and we are still in doubt.
Eve: beautiful woman -- I have seen her when she was so handsome she gave me a start, able to write simultaneously in three languages -- English, German and French and talk in the meantime; equally positive in demanding a commotion and in stipulating quiet: "I should like to be alone;" to which the visitor replies, "I should like to be alone; why not be alone together?" Below the incandescent stars below the incandescent fruit, the strange experience of beauty; its existence is too much; it tears one to pieces and each fresh wave of consciousness is poison.
"See her, see her in this common world," the central flaw in that first crystal-fine experiment, this amalgamation which can never be more than an interesting possibility, describing it as "that strange paradise unlike flesh, gold, or stately buildings, the choicest piece of my life: the heart rising in its estate of peace as a boat rises with the rising of the water;" constrained in speaking of the serpent -- that shed snakeskin in the history of politeness not to be returned to again -- that invaluable accident exonerating Adam.
And he has beauty also; it's distressing -- the O thou to whom, from whom, without whom nothing -- Adam; "something feline, something colubrine" -- how true! a crouching mythological monster in that Persian miniature of emerald mines, raw silk -- ivory white, snow white, oyster white and six others -- that paddock full of leopards and giraffes -- long lemonyellow bodies sown with trapezoids of blue.
Alive with words, vibrating like a cymbal touched before it has been struck, he has prophesied correctly -- the industrious waterfall, "the speedy stream which violently bears all before it, at one time silent as the air and now as powerful as the wind.
" "Treading chasms on the uncertain footing of a spear," forgetting that there is in woman a quality of mind which is an instinctive manifestation is unsafe, he goes on speaking in a formal, customary strain of "past states," the present state, seals, promises, the evil one suffered, the good one enjoys, hell, heaven, everything convenient to promote one's joy.
" There is in him a state of mind by force of which, perceiving what it was not intended that he should, "he experiences a solemn joy in seeing that he has become an idol.
" Plagued by the nightingale in the new leaves, with its silence -- not its silence but its silences, he says of it: "It clothes me with a shirt of fire.
" "He dares not clap his hands to make it go on lest it should fly off; if he does nothing, it will sleep; if he cries out, it will not understand.
" Unnerved by the nightingale and dazzled by the apple, impelled by "the illusion of a fire effectual to extinguish fire," compared with which the shining of the earth is but deformity -- a fire "as high as deep as bright as broad as long as life itself," he stumbles over marriage, "a very trivial object indeed" to have destroyed the attitude in which he stood -- the ease of the philosopher unfathered by a woman.
Unhelpful Hymen! "a kind of overgrown cupid" reduced to insignificance by the mechanical advertising parading as involuntary comment, by that experiment of Adam's with ways out but no way in -- the ritual of marriage, augmenting all its lavishness; its fiddle-head ferns, lotus flowers, opuntias, white dromedaries, its hippopotamus -- nose and mouth combined in one magnificent hopper, "the crested screamer -- that huge bird almost a lizard," its snake and the potent apple.
He tells us that "for love that will gaze an eagle blind, that is like a Hercules climbing the trees in the garden of the Hesperides, from forty-five to seventy is the best age," commending it as a fine art, as an experiment, a duty or as merely recreation.
One must not call him ruffian nor friction a calamity -- the fight to be affectionate: "no truth can be fully known until it has been tried by the tooth of disputation.
" The blue panther with black eyes, the basalt panther with blue eyes, entirely graceful -- one must give them the path -- the black obsidian Diana who "darkeneth her countenance as a bear doth, causing her husband to sigh," the spiked hand that has an affection for one and proves it to the bone, impatient to assure you that impatience is the mark of independence not of bondage.
"Married people often look that way" -- "seldom and cold, up and down, mixed and malarial with a good day and bad.
" "When do we feed?" We occidentals are so unemotional, we quarrel as we feed; one's self is quite lost, the irony preserved in "the Ahasuerus t?te ? t?te banquet" with its "good monster, lead the way," with little laughter and munificence of humor in that quixotic atmosphere of frankness in which "Four o'clock does not exist but at five o'clock the ladies in their imperious humility are ready to receive you"; in which experience attests that men have power and sometimes one is made to feel it.
He says, "what monarch would not blush to have a wife with hair like a shaving-brush? The fact of woman is not `the sound of the flute but every poison.
'" She says, "`Men are monopolists of stars, garters, buttons and other shining baubles' -- unfit to be the guardians of another person's happiness.
" He says, "These mummies must be handled carefully -- `the crumbs from a lion's meal, a couple of shins and the bit of an ear'; turn to the letter M and you will find that `a wife is a coffin,' that severe object with the pleasing geometry stipulating space and not people, refusing to be buried and uniquely disappointing, revengefully wrought in the attitude of an adoring child to a distinguished parent.
" She says, "This butterfly, this waterfly, this nomad that has `proposed to settle on my hand for life.
' -- What can one do with it? There must have been more time in Shakespeare's day to sit and watch a play.
You know so many artists are fools.
" He says, "You know so many fools who are not artists.
" The fact forgot that "some have merely rights while some have obligations," he loves himself so much, he can permit himself no rival in that love.
She loves herself so much, she cannot see herself enough -- a statuette of ivory on ivory, the logical last touch to an expansive splendor earned as wages for work done: one is not rich but poor when one can always seem so right.
What can one do for them -- these savages condemned to disaffect all those who are not visionaries alert to undertake the silly task of making people noble? This model of petrine fidelity who "leaves her peaceful husband only because she has seen enough of him" -- that orator reminding you, "I am yours to command.
" "Everything to do with love is mystery; it is more than a day's work to investigate this science.
" One sees that it is rare -- that striking grasp of opposites opposed each to the other, not to unity, which in cycloid inclusiveness has dwarfed the demonstration of Columbus with the egg -- a triumph of simplicity -- that charitive Euroclydon of frightening disinterestedness which the world hates, admitting: "I am such a cow, if I had a sorrow, I should feel it a long time; I am not one of those who have a great sorrow in the morning and a great joy at noon;" which says: "I have encountered it among those unpretentious proteg?s of wisdom, where seeming to parade as the debater and the Roman, the statesmanship of an archaic Daniel Webster persists to their simplicity of temper as the essence of the matter: `Liberty and union now and forever;' the book on the writing-table; the hand in the breast-pocket.
"
Written by Emanuel Xavier | Create an image from this poem

THE DEATH OF ART

 “Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.
” -critic Harold Bloom, who first called slam poetry "the death of art.
” I am not a poet.
I want to be rich and buy things for my family.
Besides, I am sort of popular and can honestly say I’ve had a great sex life.
I am not a poet.
Georgia O' Keefe paintings do absolutely nothing for me.
I do not feel oppressed or depressed and no longer have anything to say about the President.
I am not a poet.
I do not like being called an "activist" because it takes away from those that are out on the streets protesting and fighting for our rights.
I am not a poet.
I eat poultry and fish and suck way too much dick to be considered a vegetarian.
I am not a poet.
I would most likely give my ass up in prison before trying to save it with poetry .
.
.
and I’d like it! Heck, I’d probably be inspired.
I am not a poet.
I may value peace but I will not simply use a pen to unleash my anger.
I would fuck somebody up if I had to.
I am not a poet.
I may have been abused and had a difficult life but I don’t want pity.
I believe laughter and love heals.
I am not a poet.
I am not dying.
I write a lot about AIDS and how it has affected my life but, despite the rumors, I am not positive.
Believe it or not, weight loss amongst sexually active gay men could still be a choice.
I am not a poet.
I do not get Kerouac or honestly care much for Bukowski.
I am not a poet.
I don’t spend my weekends reading and writing.
I like to go out and party.
I like to have a few cocktails but I do not have a drinking problem regardless of what borough, city or state I may wake up in.
I am not a poet.
I don’t need drugs to open up my imagination.
I've been a dealer and had a really bad habit but that was long before I started writing.
I am not a poet.
I can seriously only tolerate about half an hour of spoken word before I start tuning out and thinking about my grocery list or what my cats are up to.
I am not a poet.
I only do poetry events if I know there will be cute guys there and I always carry business cards.
I am not a poet according to the scholars and academics and Harold Bloom.
I only write to masturbate my mind.
After all, fucking yourself is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.
I am not a poet.
I am only trying to get attention and convince myself that poetry can save lives when my words simply and proudly contribute to “the death of art.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

The Negatives

 On March 1, 1958, four deserters from the French Army of North Africa, 
August Rein, Henri Bruette, Jack Dauville, & Thomas Delain, robbed a 
government pay station at Orleansville.
Because of the subsequent confession of Dauville the other three were captured or shot.
Dauville was given his freedom and returned to the land of his birth, the U.
S.
A.
AUGUST REIN: from a last camp near St.
Remy I dig in the soft earth all afternoon, spacing the holes a foot or so from the wall.
Tonight we eat potatoes, tomorrow rice and carrots.
The earth here is like the earth nowhere, ancient with wood rot.
How can anything come forth, I wonder; and the days are all alike, if there is more than one day.
If there is more of this I will not endure.
I have grown so used to being watched I can no longer sleep without my watcher.
The thing I fought against, the dark cape, crimsoned with terror that I so hated comforts me now.
Thomas is dead; insanity, prison, cowardice, or slow inner capitulation has found us all, and all men turn from us, knowing our pain is not theirs or caused by them.
HENRI BRUETTE: from a hospital in Algiers Dear Suzanne: this letter will not reach you because I can't write it; I have no pencil, no paper, only the blunt end of my anger.
My dear, if I had words how could I report the imperfect failure for which I began to die? I might begin by saying that it was for clarity, though I did not find it in terror: dubiously entered each act, unsure of who I was and what I did, touching my face for fear I was another inside my head I played back pictures of my childhood, of my wife even, for it was in her I found myself beaten, safe, and furthest from the present.
It is her face I see now though all I say is meant for you, her face in the slow agony of sexual release.
I cannot see you.
The dark wall ribbed with spittle on which I play my childhood brings me to this bed, mastered by what I was, betrayed by those I trusted.
The one word my mouth must open to is why.
JACK DAUVILLE: from a hotel in Tampa, Florida From Orleansville we drove south until we reached the hills, then east until the road stopped.
I was nervous and couldn't eat.
Thomas took over, told us when to think and when to shit.
We turned north and reached Blida by first dawn and the City by morning, having dumped our weapons beside an empty road.
We were free.
We parted, and to this hour I haven't seen them, except in photographs: the black hair and torn features of Thomas Delain captured a moment before his death on the pages of the world, smeared in the act.
I tortured myself with their betrayal: alone I hurled them into freedom, inner freedom which I can't find nor ever will until they are dead.
In my mind Delain stands against the wall precise in detail, steadied for the betrayal.
"La France C'Est Moi," he cried, but the irony was lost.
Since I returned to the U.
S.
nothing goes well.
I stay up too late, don't sleep, and am losing weight.
Thomas, I say, is dead, but what use telling myself what I won't believe.
The hotel quiets early at night, the aged brace themselves for another sleep, and offshore the sea quickens its pace.
I am suddenly old, caught in a strange country for which no man would die.
THOMAS DELAIN: from a journal found on his person At night wakened by the freight trains boring through the suburbs of Lyon, I watched first light corrode the darkness, disturb what little wildlife was left in the alleys: birds moved from branch to branch, and the dogs leapt at the garbage.
Winter numbed even the hearts of the young who had only their hearts.
We heard the war coming; the long wait was over, and we moved along the crowded roads south not looking for what lost loves fell by the roadsides.
To flee at all cost, that was my youth.
Here in the African night wakened by what I do not know and shivering in the heat, listen as the men fight with sleep.
Loosed from their weapons they cry out, frightened and young, who have never been children.
Once merely to be strong, to live, was moral.
Within these uniforms we accept the evil we were chosen to deliver, and no act human or benign can free us from ourselves.
Wait, sleep, blind soldiers of a blind will, and listen for that old command dreaming of authority.
Written by Emanuel Xavier | Create an image from this poem

A SIMPLE POEM

 I want you to continue writing
because I will not always be around

With lips that will never touch mine
read your poems out loud
so that the words are left engraved 
on the wall
make me feel your voice rush through me
like a breeze from Oyá

I want to hear about Puerto Rico
about sisters with names like La Bruja
about educating youth about AIDS
I want to hear about life 
in the Boogie Down Bronx
surviving on the Down Low
don't leave out stories about men
you have loved and still love

I want you to write poems that you 
will never read
press hard on the paper 
so that the ink runs deep
hold the pen tight 
so that you control the details
prove to me that I inspire you
reveal yourself between the lines
hear my praise 
with each flicker of the candle
Write a poem for me

Do not choose a fresh page 
from a brand new journal
use paper that has been crumbled and tossed
thrown out by a spineless father 
only to be recycled
Save a tree for future poets to write under

Rewrite me into someone more attractive
stronger than life has made me
make me tough and sexy, 
aggressive like a tiger
stain the pages with cum, 
lube, the arousal you find
at the sight of naked boys, draw me sketches
bring the words to life with images
make me a man with this poem

Read it in front of the audience
with hidden messages just for me
be real and tell me why
I am only worth a haiku

Your epics are meant for others
I already know,
use red ink to match the blood 
from these wounds
with brutal honesty
let me die with your last sentence

Then resurrect me with rhyme
read from your gut
let me hear the wisdom of mi abuelo 
in your voice
let me find my father in you
remind me of all the men 
that left me broken promises

In your eyes I want to see a poem
when you bring me to tears
with painful memories
buried beneath your thick skin

Between teeth gapped like divas,
I want to hear quotes from books
I never read

Make me believe you want to be a poet

Make my heart break,
tell me why you could never love me
with just a few words
leave me lost and insecure
feel the admiration of others
bask in their desire
forget that I am there

Pound your fists in the air with passion
go off about politics, poverty, 
machismo and hate
scream poems that don't give a fuck
about traditions, slamming or scores
save your whispers 
for those who make love to you

Write a poem for me 
that makes me want to puff a joint

A poem that loses control
unafraid to be vulnerable
for once just make me believe
it is all worth letting go
when the smoke clears
I will understand
the reason 
I am just another face 
in the crowd

I want you to continue writing
because I will not always be around
Written by Mark Strand | Create an image from this poem

The Story Of Our Lives

 1
We are reading the story of our lives
which takes place in a room.
The room looks out on a street.
There is no one there, no sound of anything.
The tress are heavy with leaves, the parked cars never move.
We keep turning the pages, hoping for something, something like mercy or change, a black line that would bind us or keep us apart.
The way it is, it would seem the book of our lives is empty.
The furniture in the room is never shifted, and the rugs become darker each time our shadows pass over them.
It is almost as if the room were the world.
We sit beside each other on the couch, reading about the couch.
We say it is ideal.
It is ideal.
2 We are reading the story of our lives, as though we were in it, as though we had written it.
This comes up again and again.
In one of the chapters I lean back and push the book aside because the book says it is what I am doing.
I lean back and begin to write about the book.
I write that I wish to move beyond the book.
Beyond my life into another life.
I put the pen down.
The book says: "He put the pen down and turned and watched her reading the part about herself falling in love.
" The book is more accurate than we can imagine.
I lean back and watch you read about the man across the street.
They built a house there, and one day a man walked out of it.
You fell in love with him because you knew that he would never visit you, would never know you were waiting.
Night after night you would say that he was like me.
I lean back and watch you grow older without me.
Sunlight falls on your silver hair.
The rugs, the furniture, seem almost imaginary now.
"She continued to read.
She seemed to consider his absence of no special importance, as someone on a perfect day will consider the weather a failure because it did not change his mind.
" You narrow your eyes.
You have the impulse to close the book which describes my resistance: how when I lean back I imagine my life without you, imagine moving into another life, another book.
It describes your dependence on desire, how the momentary disclosures of purpose make you afraid.
The book describes much more than it should.
It wants to divide us.
3 This morning I woke and believed there was no more to to our lives than the story of our lives.
When you disagreed, I pointed to the place in the book where you disagreed.
You fell back to sleep and I began to read those mysterious parts you used to guess at while they were being written and lose interest in after they became part of the story.
In one of them cold dresses of moonlight are draped over the chairs in a man's room.
He dreams of a woman whose dresses are lost, who sits in a garden and waits.
She believes that love is a sacrifice.
The part describes her death and she is never named, which is one of the things you could not stand about her.
A little later we learn that the dreaming man lives in the new house across the street.
This morning after you fell back to sleep I began to turn the pages early in the book: it was like dreaming of childhood, so much seemed to vanish, so much seemed to come to life again.
I did not know what to do.
The book said: "In those moments it was his book.
A bleak crown rested uneasily on his head.
He was the brief ruler of inner and outer discord, anxious in his own kingdom.
" 4 Before you woke I read another part that described your absence and told how you sleep to reverse the progress of your life.
I was touched by my own loneliness as I read, knowing that what I feel is often the crude and unsuccessful form of a story that may never be told.
"He wanted to see her naked and vulnerable, to see her in the refuse, the discarded plots of old dreams, the costumes and masks of unattainable states.
It was as if he were drawn irresistably to failure.
" It was hard to keep reading.
I was tired and wanted to give up.
The book seemed aware of this.
It hinted at changing the subject.
I waited for you to wake not knowing how long I waited, and it seemed that I was no longer reading.
I heard the wind passing like a stream of sighs and I heard the shiver of leaves in the trees outside the window.
It would be in the book.
Everything would be there.
I looked at your face and I read the eyes, the nose, the mouth .
.
.
5 If only there were a perfect moment in the book; if only we could live in that moment, we could being the book again as if we had not written it, as if we were not in it.
But the dark approaches to any page are too numerous and the escapes are too narrow.
We read through the day.
Each page turning is like a candle moving through the mind.
Each moment is like a hopeless cause.
If only we could stop reading.
"He never wanted to read another book and she kept staring into the street.
The cars were still there, the deep shade of trees covered them.
The shades were drawn in the new house.
Maybe the man who lived there, the man she loved, was reading the story of another life.
She imagine a bare parlor, a cold fireplace, a man sitting writing a letter to a woman who has sacrificed her life for love.
" If there were a perfect moment in the book, it would be the last.
The book never discusses the causes of love.
It claims confusion is a necessary good.
It never explains.
It only reveals.
6 The day goes on.
We study what we remember.
We look into the mirror across the room.
We cannot bear to be alone.
The book goes on.
"They became silent and did not know how to begin the dialogue which was necessary.
It was words that created divisions in the first place, that created loneliness.
They waited they would turn the pages, hoping something would happen.
They would patch up their lives in secret: each defeat forgiven because it could not be tested, each pain rewarded because it was unreal.
They did nothing.
" 7 The book will not survive.
We are the living proof of that.
It is dark outside, in the room it is darker.
I hear your breathing.
You are asking me if I am tired, if I want to keep reading.
Yes, I am tired.
Yes, I want to keep reading.
I say yes to everything.
You cannot hear me.
"They sat beside each other on the couch.
They were the copies, the tired phantoms of something they had been before.
The attitudes they took were jaded.
They stared into the book and were horrified by their innocence, their reluctance to give up.
They sat beside each other on the couch.
They were determined to accept the truth.
Whatever it was they would accept it.
The book would have to be written and would have to be read.
They are the book and they are nothing else.