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Best Famous Marianne Moore Poems

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12
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 Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

A Grave

 Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as
 you have to it yourself,
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,
but you cannot stand in the middle of this;
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession, each with an emerald turkey— foot at the top, reserved as their contours, saying nothing; repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea; the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have worn that look— whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer investigate them for their bones have not lasted: men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating a grave, and row quickly away-the blades of the oars moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress among themselves in a phalanx— beautiful under networks of foam, and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed; the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls as heretofore— the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath them; and the ocean, under the pulsation of lighthouses and noise of bell-bouys, advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which dropped things are bound to sink— in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor consciousness.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

The Past is the Present

 If external action is effete
and rhyme is outmoded,
I shall revert to you,
Habakkuk, as when in a Bible class
the teacher was speaking of unrhymed verse.
He said - and I think I repeat his exact words - "Hebrew poetry is prose with a sort of heightened consciousness.
" Ecstasy affords the occasion and expediency determines the form.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

The Pangolin

 Another armored animal--scale
 lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
 tail-row! This near artichoke with head and legs and grit-equipped
 gizzard,
the night miniature artist engineer is,
 yes, Leonardo da Vinci's replica--
 impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.
Armor seems extra.
But for him, the closing ear-ridge-- or bare ear lacking even this small eminence and similarly safe contracting nose and eye apertures impenetrably closable, are not; a true ant-eater, not cockroach eater, who endures exhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night, returning before sunrise, stepping in the moonlight, on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outside edges of his hands may bear the weight and save the claws for digging.
Serpentined about the tree, he draws away from danger unpugnaciously, with no sound but a harmless hiss; keeping the fragile grace of the Thomas- of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron vine, or rolls himself into a ball that has power to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neat head for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in-feet.
Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nest of rocks closed with earth from inside, which can thus darken.
Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast each with a splendor which man in all his vileness cannot set aside; each with an excellence! "Fearfull yet to be feared," the armored ant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but engulfs what he can, the flattened sword- edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg- and body-plates quivering violently when it retaliates and swarms on him.
Compact like the furled fringed frill on the hat-brim of Gargallo's hollow iron head of a matador, he will drop and will then walk away unhurt, although if unintruded on, he cautiously works down the tree, helped by his tail.
The giant-pangolin- tail, graceful tool, as a prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like an elephant's trunkwith special skin, is not lost on this ant- and stone-swallowing uninjurable artichoke which simpletons thought a living fable whom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had done so.
Pangolins are not aggressive animals; between dusk and day they have not unchain-like machine-like form and frictionless creep of a thing made graceful by adversities, con- versities.
To explain grace requires a curious hand.
If that which is at all were not forever, why would those who graced the spires with animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxurious low stone seats--a monk and monk and monk--between the thus ingenious roof supports, have slaved to confuse grace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a debt, the cure for sins, a graceful use of what are yet approved stone mullions branching out across the perpendiculars? A sailboat was the first machine.
Pangolins, made for moving quietly also, are models of exactness, on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade, with certain postures of a man.
Beneath sun and moon, man slaving to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth having, needing to choose wisely how to use his strength; a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs, like the ant; spidering a length of web from bluffs above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked like the pangolin; capsizing in disheartenment.
Bedizened or stark naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing- masters to this world, griffons a dark "Like does not like like that is abnoxious"; and writes error with four r's.
Among animals, one has sense of humor.
Humor saves a few steps, it saves years.
Unignorant, modest and unemotional, and all emotion, he has everlasting vigor, power to grow, though there are few creatures who can make one breathe faster and make one erecter.
Not afraid of anything is he, and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle at every step.
Consistent with the formula--warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few hairs-- that is a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat, serge-clad, strong-shod.
The prey of fear, he, always curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partly done, says to the alternating blaze, "Again the sun! anew each day; and new and new and new, that comes into and steadies my soul.
"
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

Baseball and Writing

 Fanaticism?No.
Writing is exciting and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either how it will go or what you will do; generating excitement-- a fever in the victim-- pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
Victim in what category? Owlman watching from the press box? To whom does it apply? Who is excited?Might it be I? It's a pitcher's battle all the way--a duel-- a catcher's, as, with cruel puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly back to plate.
(His spring de-winged a bat swing.
) They have that killer instinct; yet Elston--whose catching arm has hurt them all with the bat-- when questioned, says, unenviously, "I'm very satisfied.
We won.
" Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We"; robbed by a technicality.
When three players on a side play three positions and modify conditions, the massive run need not be everything.
"Going, going .
.
.
"Is it?Roger Maris has it, running fast.
You will never see a finer catch.
Well .
.
.
"Mickey, leaping like the devil"--why gild it, although deer sounds better-- snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest, one-handing the souvenir-to-be meant to be caught by you or me.
Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral; he could handle any missile.
He is no feather.
"Strike! .
.
.
Strike two!" Fouled back.
A blur.
It's gone.
You would infer that the bat had eyes.
He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
I think I helped a little bit.
" All business, each, and modesty.
Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
In that galaxy of nine, say which won the pennant?Each.
It was he.
Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws by Boyer, finesses in twos-- like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre- diagnosis with pick-off psychosis.
Pitching is a large subject.
Your arm, too true at first, can learn to catch your corners--even trouble Mickey Mantle.
("Grazed a Yankee! My baby pitcher, Montejo!" With some pedagogy, you'll be tough, premature prodigy.
) They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees.
Trying indeed!The secret implying: "I can stand here, bat held steady.
" One may suit him; none has hit him.
Imponderables smite him.
Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds require food, rest, respite from ruffians.
(Drat it! Celebrity costs privacy!) Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice, brewer's yeast (high-potency-- concentrates presage victory sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez-- deadly in a pinch.
And "Yes, it's work; I want you to bear down, but enjoy it while you're doing it.
" Mr.
Houk and Mr.
Sain, if you have a rummage sale, don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
Studded with stars in belt and crown, the Stadium is an adastrium.
O flashing Orion, your stars are muscled like the lion.
Written by David Lehman | Create an image from this poem

Sestina

 for Jim Cummins 

In Iowa, Jim dreamed that Della Street was Anne Sexton's
twin.
Dave drew a comic strip called the "Adventures of Whitman," about a bearded beer-guzzler in Superman uniform.
Donna dressed like Wallace Stevens in a seersucker summer suit.
To town came Ted Berrigan, saying, "My idea of a bad poet is Marvin Bell.
" But no one has won as many prizes as Philip Levine.
At the restaurant, people were talking about Philip Levine's latest: the Pulitzer.
A toast was proposed by Anne Sexton.
No one saw the stranger, who said his name was Marvin Bell, pour something into Donna's drink.
"In the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, there you feel free," said Ted Berrigan, pulling on a Chesterfield.
Everyone laughed, except T.
S.
Eliot.
I asked for directions.
"You turn right on Gertrude Stein, then bear left.
Three streetlights down you hang a Phil Levine and you're there," Jim said.
When I arrived I saw Ted Berrigan with cigarette ash in his beard.
Graffiti about Anne Sexton decorated the men's room walls.
Beth had bought a quart of Walt Whitman.
Donna looked blank.
"Walt who?" The name didn't ring a Marvin Bell.
You laugh, yet there is nothing inherently funny about Marvin Bell.
You cry, yet there is nothing inherently scary about Robert Lowell.
You drink a bottle of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, as thirsty as Walt Whitman.
You bring in your car for an oil change, thinking, this place has the aura of Philip Levine.
Then you go home and write: "He kissed her Anne Sexton, and she returned the favor, caressing his Ted Berrigan.
" Donna was candid.
"When the spirit of Ted Berrigan comes over me, I can't resist," she told Marvin Bell, while he stood dejected at the xerox machine.
Anne Sexton came by to circulate the rumor that Robert Duncan had flung his drink on a student who had called him Philip Levine.
The cop read him the riot act.
"I don't care," he said, "if you're Walt Whitman.
" Donna told Beth about her affair with Walt Whitman.
"He was indefatigable, but he wasn't Ted Berrigan.
" The Dow Jones industrials finished higher, led by Philip Levine, up a point and a half on strong earnings.
Marvin Bell ended the day unchanged.
Analyst Richard Howard recommended buying May Swenson and selling Anne Sexton.
In the old days, you liked either Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton, not both.
Ted Berrigan changed that just by going to a ballgame with Marianne Moore.
And one day Philip Levine looked in the mirror and saw Marvin Bell.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

To a Steam Roller

 The illustration
is nothing to you without the application.
You lack half wit.
You crush all the particles down into close conformity, and then walk back and forth on them.
Sparkling chips of rock are crushed down to the level of the parent block.
Were not 'impersonal judment in aesthetic matters, a metaphysical impossibility,' you might fairly achieve it.
As for butterflies, I can hardly conceive of one's attending upon you, but to question the congruence of the complement is vain, if it exists.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

Rosemary

 Beauty and Beauty's son and rosemary - 
Venus and Love, her son, to speak plainly -
born of the sea supposedly, 
at Christmas each, in company, 
braids a garland of festivity.
Not always rosemary - since the flight to Egypt, blooming indifferently.
With lancelike leaf, green but silver underneath, its flowers - white originally - turned blue.
The herb of memory, imitating the blue robe of Mary, is not too legendary to flower both as symbol and as pungency.
Springing from stones beside the sea, the height of Christ when he was thirty-three, it feeds on dew and to the bee "hath a dumb language"; is in reality a kind of Christmas tree.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

Poetry

 I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all 
 this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes that can dilate, hair that can rise if it must, these things are important not because a high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are useful.
When they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the same thing may be said for all of us, that we do not admire what we cannot understand: the bat holding on upside down or in quest of something to eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base- ball fan, the statistician-- nor is it valid to discriminate against 'business documents and school-books'; all these phenomena are important.
One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the poets among us can be 'literalists of the imagination'--above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall we have it.
In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, the raw material of poetry in all its rawness and that which is on the other hand genuine, you are interested in poetry.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

Nevertheless

 you've seen a strawberry
that's had a struggle; yet
was, where the fragments met,

a hedgehog or a star-
fish for the multitude
of seeds.
What better food than apple seeds - the fruit within the fruit - locked in like counter-curved twin hazelnuts? Frost that kills the little rubber-plant - leaves of kok-sagyyz-stalks, can't harm the roots; they still grow in frozen ground.
Once where there was a prickley-pear - leaf clinging to a barbed wire, a root shot down to grow in earth two feet below; as carrots from mandrakes or a ram's-horn root some- times.
Victory won't come to me unless I go to it; a grape tendril ties a knot in knots till knotted thirty times - so the bound twig that's under- gone and over-gone, can't stir.
The weak overcomes its menace, the strong over- comes itself.
What is there like fortitude! What sap went through that little thread to make the cherry red!
12