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Best Famous Abuse Poems

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12
Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

TO SOME BIRDS FLOWN AWAY

 ("Enfants! Oh! revenez!") 
 
 {XXII, April, 1837} 


 Children, come back—come back, I say— 
 You whom my folly chased away 
 A moment since, from this my room, 
 With bristling wrath and words of doom! 
 What had you done, you bandits small, 
 With lips as red as roses all? 
 What crime?—what wild and hapless deed? 
 What porcelain vase by you was split 
 To thousand pieces? Did you need 
 For pastime, as you handled it, 
 Some Gothic missal to enrich 
 With your designs fantastical? 
 Or did your tearing fingers fall 
 On some old picture? Which, oh, which 
 Your dreadful fault? Not one of these; 
 Only when left yourselves to please 
 This morning but a moment here 
 'Mid papers tinted by my mind 
 You took some embryo verses near— 
 Half formed, but fully well designed 
 To open out. Your hearts desire 
 Was but to throw them on the fire, 
 Then watch the tinder, for the sight 
 Of shining sparks that twinkle bright 
 As little boats that sail at night, 
 Or like the window lights that spring 
 From out the dark at evening. 
 
 'Twas all, and you were well content. 
 Fine loss was this for anger's vent— 
 A strophe ill made midst your play, 
 Sweet sound that chased the words away 
 In stormy flight. An ode quite new, 
 With rhymes inflated—stanzas, too, 
 That panted, moving lazily, 
 And heavy Alexandrine lines 
 That seemed to jostle bodily, 
 Like children full of play designs 
 That spring at once from schoolroom's form. 
 Instead of all this angry storm, 
 Another might have thanked you well 
 For saving prey from that grim cell, 
 That hollowed den 'neath journals great, 
 Where editors who poets flout 
 With their demoniac laughter shout. 
 And I have scolded you! What fate 
 For charming dwarfs who never meant 
 To anger Hercules! And I 
 Have frightened you!—My chair I sent 
 Back to the wall, and then let fly 
 A shower of words the envious use— 
 "Get out," I said, with hard abuse, 
 "Leave me alone—alone I say." 
 Poor man alone! Ah, well-a-day, 
 What fine result—what triumph rare! 
 As one turns from the coffin'd dead 
 So left you me:—I could but stare 
 Upon the door through which you fled— 
 I proud and grave—but punished quite. 
 And what care you for this my plight!— 
 You have recovered liberty, 
 Fresh air and lovely scenery, 
 The spacious park and wished-for grass; 
lights 
 And gratefully to sing. 
 
 E'e 
 A blade to watch what comes to pass; 
 Blue sky, and all the spring can show; 
 Nature, serenely fair to see; 
 The book of birds and spirits free, 
 God's poem, worth much more than mine, 
 Where flowers for perfect stanzas shine— 
 Flowers that a child may pluck in play, 
 No harsh voice frightening it away. 
 And I'm alone—all pleasure o'er— 
 Alone with pedant called "Ennui," 
 For since the morning at my door 
 Ennui has waited patiently. 
 That docto-r-London born, you mark, 
 One Sunday in December dark, 
 Poor little ones—he loved you not, 
 And waited till the chance he got 
 To enter as you passed away, 
 And in the very corner where 
 You played with frolic laughter gay, 
 He sighs and yawns with weary air. 
 
 What can I do? Shall I read books, 
 Or write more verse—or turn fond looks 
 Upon enamels blue, sea-green, 
 And white—on insects rare as seen 
 Upon my Dresden china ware? 
 Or shall I touch the globe, and care 
 To make the heavens turn upon 
 Its axis? No, not one—not one 
 Of all these things care I to do; 
 All wearies me—I think of you. 
 In truth with you my sunshine fled, 
 And gayety with your light tread— 
 Glad noise that set me dreaming still. 
 'Twas my delight to watch your will, 
 And mark you point with finger-tips 
 To help your spelling out a word; 
 To see the pearls between your lips 
 When I your joyous laughter heard; 
 Your honest brows that looked so true, 
 And said "Oh, yes!" to each intent; 
 Your great bright eyes, that loved to view 
 With admiration innocent 
 My fine old Sèvres; the eager thought 
 That every kind of knowledge sought; 
 The elbow push with "Come and see!" 
 
 Oh, certes! spirits, sylphs, there be, 
 And fays the wind blows often here; 
 The gnomes that squat the ceiling near, 
 In corners made by old books dim; 
 The long-backed dwarfs, those goblins grim 
 That seem at home 'mong vases rare, 
 And chat to them with friendly air— 
 Oh, how the joyous demon throng 
 Must all have laughed with laughter long 
 To see you on my rough drafts fall, 
 My bald hexameters, and all 
 The mournful, miserable band, 
 And drag them with relentless hand 
 From out their box, with true delight 
 To set them each and all a-light, 
 And then with clapping hands to lean 
 Above the stove and watch the scene, 
 How to the mass deformed there came 
 A soul that showed itself in flame! 
 
 Bright tricksy children—oh, I pray 
 Come back and sing and dance away, 
 And chatter too—sometimes you may, 
 A giddy group, a big book seize— 
 Or sometimes, if it so you please, 
 With nimble step you'll run to me 
 And push the arm that holds the pen, 
 Till on my finished verse will be 
 A stroke that's like a steeple when 
 Seen suddenly upon a plain. 
 My soul longs for your breath again 
 To warm it. Oh, return—come here 
 With laugh and babble—and no fear 
 When with your shadow you obscure 
 The book I read, for I am sure, 
 Oh, madcaps terrible and dear, 
 That you were right and I was wrong. 
 But who has ne'er with scolding tongue 
 Blamed out of season. Pardon me! 
 You must forgive—for sad are we. 
 
 The young should not be hard and cold 
 And unforgiving to the old. 
 Children each morn your souls ope out 
 Like windows to the shining day, 
 Oh, miracle that comes about, 
 The miracle that children gay 
 Have happiness and goodness too, 
 Caressed by destiny are you, 
 Charming you are, if you but play. 
 But we with living overwrought, 
 And full of grave and sombre thought, 
 Are snappish oft: dear little men, 
 We have ill-tempered days, and then, 
 Are quite unjust and full of care; 
 It rained this morning and the air 
 Was chill; but clouds that dimm'd the sky 
 Have passed. Things spited me, and why? 
 But now my heart repents. Behold 
 What 'twas that made me cross, and scold! 
 All by-and-by you'll understand, 
 When brows are mark'd by Time's stern hand; 
 Then you will comprehend, be sure, 
 When older—that's to say, less pure. 
 
 The fault I freely own was mine. 
 But oh, for pardon now I pine! 
 Enough my punishment to meet, 
 You must forgive, I do entreat 
 With clasped hands praying—oh, come back, 
 Make peace, and you shall nothing lack. 
 See now my pencils—paper—here, 
 And pointless compasses, and dear 
 Old lacquer-work; and stoneware clear 
 Through glass protecting; all man's toys 
 So coveted by girls and boys. 
 Great China monsters—bodies much 
 Like cucumbers—you all shall touch. 
 I yield up all! my picture rare 
 Found beneath antique rubbish heap, 
 My great and tapestried oak chair 
 I will from you no longer keep. 
 You shall about my table climb, 
 And dance, or drag, without a cry 
 From me as if it were a crime. 
 Even I'll look on patiently 
 If you your jagged toys all throw 
 Upon my carved bench, till it show 
 The wood is torn; and freely too, 
 I'll leave in your own hands to view, 
 My pictured Bible—oft desired— 
 But which to touch your fear inspired— 
 With God in emperor's robes attired. 
 
 Then if to see my verses burn, 
 Should seem to you a pleasant turn, 
 Take them to freely tear away 
 Or burn. But, oh! not so I'd say, 
 If this were Méry's room to-day. 
 That noble poet! Happy town, 
 Marseilles the Greek, that him doth own! 
 Daughter of Homer, fair to see, 
 Of Virgil's son the mother she. 
 To you I'd say, Hold, children all, 
 Let but your eyes on his work fall; 
 These papers are the sacred nest 
 In which his crooning fancies rest; 
 To-morrow winged to Heaven they'll soar, 
 For new-born verse imprisoned still 
 In manuscript may suffer sore 
 At your small hands and childish will, 
 Without a thought of bad intent, 
 Of cruelty quite innocent. 
 You wound their feet, and bruise their wings, 
 And make them suffer those ill things 
 That children's play to young birds brings. 
 
 But mine! no matter what you do, 
 My poetry is all in you; 
 You are my inspiration bright 
 That gives my verse its purest light. 
 Children whose life is made of hope, 
 Whose joy, within its mystic scope, 
 Owes all to ignorance of ill, 
 You have not suffered, and you still 
 Know not what gloomy thoughts weigh down 
 The poet-writer weary grown. 
 What warmth is shed by your sweet smile! 
 How much he needs to gaze awhile 
 Upon your shining placid brow, 
 When his own brow its ache doth know; 
 With what delight he loves to hear 
 Your frolic play 'neath tree that's near, 
 Your joyous voices mixing well 
 With his own song's all-mournful swell! 
 Come back then, children! come to me, 
 If you wish not that I should be 
 As lonely now that you're afar 
 As fisherman of Etrétat, 
 Who listless on his elbow leans 
 Through all the weary winter scenes, 
 As tired of thought—as on Time flies— 
 And watching only rainy skies! 
 
 MRS. NEWTON CROSLAND. 


 




Written by C S Lewis | Create an image from this poem

The Country of the Blind

 Hard light bathed them-a whole nation of eyeless men, 
Dark bipeds not aware how they were maimed.
A long Process, clearly, a slow curse, Drained through centuries, left them thus.
At some transitional stage, then, a luckless few, No doubt, must have had eyes after the up-to-date, Normal type had achieved snug Darkness, safe from the guns of heavn; Whose blind mouths would abuse words that belonged to their Great-grandsires, unabashed, talking of light in some Eunuch'd, etiolated, Fungoid sense, as a symbol of Abstract thoughts.
If a man, one that had eyes, a poor Misfit, spoke of the grey dawn or the stars or green- Sloped sea waves, or admired how Warm tints change in a lady's cheek, None complained he had used words from an alien tongue, None question'd.
It was worse.
All would agree 'Of course,' Came their answer.
"We've all felt Just like that.
" They were wrong.
And he Knew too much to be clear, could not explain.
The words -- Sold, raped flung to the dogs -- now could avail no more; Hence silence.
But the mouldwarps, With glib confidence, easily Showed how tricks of the phrase, sheer metaphors could set Fools concocting a myth, taking the worlds for things.
Do you think this a far-fetched Picture? Go then about among Men now famous; attempt speech on the truths that once, Opaque, carved in divine forms, irremovable, Dear but dear as a mountain- Mass, stood plain to the inward eye.
Written by Andrew Barton Paterson | Create an image from this poem

The Scapegoat

 We have all of us read how the Israelites fled 
From Egypt with Pharaoh in eager pursuit of 'em, 
And Pharaoh's fierce troop were all put "in the soup" 
When the waters rolled softly o'er every galoot of 'em.
The Jews were so glad when old Pharaoh was "had" That they sounded their timbrels and capered like mad.
You see he was hated from Jordan to Cairo -- Whence comes the expression "to buck against faro".
For forty long years, 'midst perils and fears In deserts with never a famine to follow by, The Israelite horde went roaming abroad Like so many sundowners "out on the wallaby".
When Moses, who led 'em, and taught 'em, and fed 'em, Was dying, he murmured, "A rorty old hoss you are: I give you command of the whole of the band" -- And handed the Government over to Joshua.
But Moses told 'em before he died, "Wherever you are, whatever betide, Every year as the time draws near By lot or by rote choose you a goat, And let the high priest confess on the beast The sins of the people the worst and the least, Lay your sins on the goat! Sure the plan ought to suit yer.
Because all your sins are 'his troubles' in future.
Then lead him away to the wilderness black To die with the weight of your sins on his back: Of thirst let him perish alone and unshriven, For thus shall your sins be absolved and forgiven!" 'Tis needless to say, though it reeked of barbarity This scapegoat arrangement gained great popularity.
By this means a Jew, whate'er he might do, Though he burgled, or murdered, or cheated at loo, Or meat on Good Friday (a sin most terrific) ate, Could get his discharge, like a bankrupt's certificate; Just here let us note -- Did they choose their best goat? It's food for conjecture, to judge from the picture By Hunt in the Gallery close to our door, a Man well might suppose that the scapegoat they chose Was a long way from being their choicest Angora.
In fact I should think he was one of their weediest: 'Tis a rule that obtains, no matter who reigns, When making a sacrifice, offer the seediest; Which accounts for a theory known to my hearers Who live in the wild by the wattle beguiled, That a "stag" makes quite good enough mutton for shearers.
Be that as it may, as each year passed away, a scapegoat was led to the desert and freighted With sin (the poor brute must have been overweighted) And left there -- to die as his fancy dictated.
The day it has come, with trumpet and drum.
With pomp and solemnity fit for the tomb They lead the old billy-goat off to his doom: On every hand a reverend band, Prophets and preachers and elders stand And the oldest rabbi, with a tear in his eye, Delivers a sermon to all standing by.
(We haven't his name -- whether Cohen or Harris, he No doubt was the "poisonest" kind of Pharisee.
) The sermon was marked by a deal of humility And pointed the fact, with no end of ability.
That being a Gentile's no mark of gentility, And, according to Samuel, would certainly d--n you well.
Then, shedding his coat, he approaches the goat And, while a red fillet he carefully pins on him, Confesses the whole of the Israelites' sins on him.
With this eloquent burst he exhorts the accurst -- "Go forth in the desert and perish in woe, The sins of the people are whiter than snow!" Then signs to his pal "for to let the brute go".
(That "pal" as I've heard, is an elegant word, Derived from the Persian "Palaykhur" or "Pallaghur"), As the scapegoat strains and tugs at the reins The Rabbi yells rapidly, "Let her go, Gallagher!" The animal, freed from all restraint Lowered his head, made a kind of feint, And charged straight at that elderly saint.
So fierce his attack and so very severe, it Quite floored the Rabbi, who, ere he could fly, Was rammed on the -- no, not the back -- but just near it.
The scapegoat he snorted, and wildly cavorted, A light-hearted antelope "out on the ramp", Then stopped, looked around, got the "lay of the ground", And made a beeline back again to the camp.
The elderly priest, as he noticed the beast So gallantly making his way to the east, Says he, "From the tents may I never more roam again If that there old billy-goat ain't going home again.
He's hurrying, too! This never will do.
Can't somebody stop him? I'm all of a stew.
After all our confessions, so openly granted, He's taking our sins back to where they're not wanted.
We've come all this distance salvation to win agog, If he takes home our sins, it'll burst up the Synagogue!" He turned to an Acolyte who was making his bacca light, A fleet-footed youth who could run like a crack o' light.
"Run, Abraham, run! Hunt him over the plain, And drive back the brute to the desert again.
The Sphinx is a-watching, the Pyramids will frown on you, From those granite tops forty cent'ries look down on you -- Run, Abraham, run! I'll bet half-a-crown on you.
" So Abraham ran, like a man did he go for him, But the goat made it clear each time he drew near That he had what the racing men call "too much toe" for him.
The crowd with great eagerness studied the race -- "Great Scott! isn't Abraham forcing the pace -- And don't the goat spiel? It is hard to keep sight on him, The sins of the Israelites ride mighty light on him.
The scapegoat is leading a furlong or more, And Abraham's tiring -- I'll lay six to four! He rolls in his stride; he's done, there's no question!" But here the old Rabbi brought up a suggestion.
('Twas strange that in racing he showed so much cunning), "It's a hard race," said he, "and I think it would be A good thing for someone to take up the running.
" As soon said as done, they started to run -- The priests and the deacons, strong runners and weak 'uns All reckoned ere long to come up with the brute, And so the whole boiling set off in pursuit.
And then it came out, as the rabble and rout Streamed over the desert with many a shout -- The Rabbi so elderly, grave, and patrician, Had been in his youth a bold metallician, And offered, in gasps, as they merrily spieled, "Any price Abraham! Evens the field!" Alas! the whole clan, they raced and they ran, And Abraham proved him an "even time" man, But the goat -- now a speck they could scarce keep their eyes on -- Stretched out in his stride in a style most surprisin' And vanished ere long o'er the distant horizon.
Away in the camp the bill-sticker's tramp Is heard as he wanders with paste, brush, and notices, And paling and wall he plasters them all, "I wonder how's things gettin' on with the goat," he says, The pulls out his bills, "Use Solomon's Pills" "Great Stoning of Christians! To all devout Jews! you all Must each bring a stone -- Great sport will be shown; Enormous Attractions! And prices as usual! Roll up to the Hall!! Wives, children and all, For naught the most delicate feelings to hurt is meant!!" Here his eyes opened wide, for close by his side Was the scapegoat: And eating his latest advertisement! One shriek from him burst -- "You creature accurst!" And he ran from the spot like one fearing the worst.
His language was chaste, as he fled in his haste, But the goat stayed behind him -- and "scoffed up" the paste.
With downcast head, and sorrowful tread, The people came back from the desert in dread.
"The goat -- was he back there? Had anyone heard of him?" In very short order they got plenty word of him.
In fact as they wandered by street, lane and hall, "The trail of the serpent was over them all.
" A poor little child knocked out stiff in the gutter Proclaimed that the scapegoat was bred for a "butter".
The bill-sticker's pail told a sorrowful tale, The scapegoat had licked it as dry as a nail; He raced through their houses, and frightened their spouses, But his latest achievement most anger arouses, For while they were searching, and scratching their craniums, One little Ben Ourbed, who looked in the flow'r-bed, Discovered him eating the Rabbi's geraniums.
Moral The moral is patent to all the beholders -- Don't shift your own sins on to other folks' shoulders; Be kind to dumb creatures and never abuse them, Nor curse them nor kick them, nor spitefully use them: Take their lives if needs must -- when it comes to the worst, But don't let them perish of hunger or thirst.
Remember, no matter how far you may roam That dogs, goats, and chickens, it's simply the dickens, Their talent stupendous for "getting back home".
Your sins, without doubt, will aye find you out, And so will a scapegoat, he's bound to achieve it, But, die in the wilderness! Don't you believe it!
Written by Louisa May Alcott | Create an image from this poem

The Lay of a Golden Goose

 Long ago in a poultry yard 
One dull November morn, 
Beneath a motherly soft wing 
A little goose was born.
Who straightway peeped out of the shell To view the world beyond, Longing at once to sally forth And paddle in the pond.
"Oh! be not rash," her father said, A mild Socratic bird; Her mother begged her not to stray With many a warning word.
But little goosey was perverse, And eagerly did cry, "I've got a lovely pair of wings, Of course I ought to fly.
" In vain parental cacklings, In vain the cold sky's frown, Ambitious goosey tried to soar, But always tumbled down.
The farmyard jeered at her attempts, The peacocks screamed, "Oh fie! You're only a domestic goose, So don't pretend to fly.
" Great cock-a-doodle from his perch Crowed daily loud and clear, "Stay in the puddle, foolish bird, That is your proper sphere," The ducks and hens said, one and all, In gossip by the pool, "Our children never play such pranks; My dear, that fowl's a fool.
" The owls came out and flew about, Hooting above the rest, "No useful egg was ever hatched From transcendental nest.
" Good little goslings at their play And well-conducted chicks Were taught to think poor goosey's flights Were naughty, ill-bred tricks.
They were content to swim and scratch, And not at all inclined For any wild goose chase in search Of something undefined.
Hard times she had as one may guess, That young aspiring bird, Who still from every fall arose Saddened but undeterred.
She knew she was no nightingale Yet spite of much abuse, She longed to help and cheer the world, Although a plain gray goose She could not sing, she could not fly, Nor even walk, with grace, And all the farmyard had declared A puddle was her place.
But something stronger than herself Would cry, "Go on, go on! Remember, though an humble fowl, You're cousin to a swan.
" So up and down poor goosey went, A busy, hopeful bird.
Searched many wide unfruitful fields, And many waters stirred.
At length she came unto a stream Most fertile of all Niles, Where tuneful birds might soar and sing Among the leafy isles.
Here did she build a little nest Beside the waters still, Where the parental goose could rest Unvexed by any bill.
And here she paused to smooth her plumes, Ruffled by many plagues; When suddenly arose the cry, "This goose lays golden eggs.
" At once the farmyard was agog; The ducks began to quack; Prim Guinea fowls relenting called, "Come back, come back, come back.
" Great chanticleer was pleased to give A patronizing crow, And the contemptuous biddies clucked, "I wish my chicks did so.
" The peacocks spread their shining tails, And cried in accents soft, "We want to know you, gifted one, Come up and sit aloft.
" Wise owls awoke and gravely said, With proudly swelling breasts, "Rare birds have always been evoked From transcendental nests!" News-hunting turkeys from afar Now ran with all thin legs To gobble facts and fictions of The goose with golden eggs.
But best of all the little fowls Still playing on the shore, Soft downy chicks and goslings gay, Chirped out, "Dear Goose, lay more.
" But goosey all these weary years Had toiled like any ant, And wearied out she now replied "My little dears, I can't.
"When I was starving, half this corn Had been of vital use, Now I am surfeited with food Like any Strasbourg goose.
" So to escape too many friends, Without uncivil strife, She ran to the Atlantic pond And paddled for her life.
Soon up among the grand old Alps She found two blessed things, The health she had so nearly lost, And rest for weary limbs.
But still across the briny deep Couched in most friendly words, Came prayers for letters, tales, or verse From literary birds.
Whereat the renovated fowl With grateful thanks profuse, Took from her wing a quill and wrote This lay of a Golden Goose.
Written by Barry Tebb | Create an image from this poem

OUR SON

 Quarter to three: I wake again at the hour of his birth

Thirty years ago and now he paces corridors of dark

In nightmares of self-condemnation where random thoughts

Besiege his fevered imagination – England’s 

Imminent destruction, his own, the world’s…

Sixty to eighty cigarettes a day, unavailing depot injections,

Failed abscondings, failed everything: Eton and Balliol

Hold no sway on ward one, nor even being

‘A six language master,’ on PICU madness is the only qualification.
There was the ‘shaving incident’ at school, which Made him ready to walk out at fifteen, the alcohol Defences at Oxford which shut us out then petered out During the six years in India, studying Bengali at Shantiniketan.
He tottered from the plane, penniless and unshaven, To hide away in the seediest bedsit Beeston could boast Where night turned to day and vaguely he applied For jobs as clerk and court usher and drank in pubs with yobs.
When the crisis came – "I feel my head coming off my body’ – I was ready and unready, making the necessary calls To get a bed, to keep him on the ward, to visit and reassure Us both that some way out could be found.
The ‘Care Home’ was the next disaster, trying to cure Schizophrenia with sticking plaster: "We don’t want Carers’ input, we call patients ‘residents’ and insist on chores Not medication", then the letters of terrible abuse, the finding of a flat, ‘The discharge into the community.
’ His ‘keyworker’ was the keyworker from hell: the more Isaiah’s care fell apart the more she encouraged Him to blame us and ‘Make his life his own’, vital signs Of decline ignored or consigned to files, ‘confidentiality’ reigned supreme.
Insidiously the way back to the ward unveiled Over painful months, the self-neglect, the inappropriate remarks In pubs, the neglected perforated eardrum, keeping Company with his feckless cousins between their bouts in prison.
The pointless team meetings he was patted through, My abrupt dismissal as carer at the keyworker’s instigation, The admission we knew nothing of, the abscondings we were told of And had to sort out, then the phone call from the ASW.
"We are about to section your son for six months, have you Any comment?" Then the final absconding to London From a fifteen minute break on PICU, to face his brother’s Drunken abuse, the police were kindness itself as they drove him to the secure unit.
Two nurses came by taxi from Leeds the next day to collect him The Newsam Centre’s like a hotel – Informality and first class treatment Behind the locked doors he freezes before and whispers "Daddy, I was damned in hell but now I am God’s friend.
" Note: PICU- Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit Beeston- An inner city area of Leeds ASW- Approved Social Worker
Written by Syl Cheney-Coker | Create an image from this poem

Blood Money

Along the route of this river,
with a little luck, we shall chance upon
our brothers' fortune, hidden with that cold smile
reserved for discreet bankers unmindful of the hydra
growing fiery mornings from our discontent
Wealth was always fashionable, telluric,
not honor pristine and profound.
In blasphemous glee, they raise to God's lips those cups filled with ethnic offerings that saps the blood of all human good.
Having no other country to call my own except for this one full of pine needles on which we nail our children's lives, I have put off examining this skull, savage harvest, the swollen earth, until that day when, all God's children, we shall plant a eureka supported by a blood knot.
And remorse not being theirs to feel, I offer an inventory of abuse by these men, with this wretched earth on my palms, so as to remind them of our stilted growth the length of a cutlass, or if you prefer the size of our burnt-out brotherhood.
Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

Doors Doors Doors

 1.
Old Man Old man, it's four flights up and for what? Your room is hardly bigger than your bed.
Puffing as you climb, you are a brown woodcut stooped over the thin tail and the wornout tread.
The room will do.
All that's left of the old life is jampacked on shelves from floor to ceiling like a supermarket: your books, your dead wife generously fat in her polished frame, the congealing bowl of cornflakes sagging in their instant milk, your hot plate and your one luxury, a telephone.
You leave your door open, lounging in maroon silk and smiling at the other roomers who live alone.
Well, almost alone.
Through the old-fashioned wall the fellow next door has a girl who comes to call.
Twice a week at noon during their lunch hour they puase by your door to peer into your world.
They speak sadly as if the wine they carry would sour or as if the mattress would not keep them curled together, extravagantly young in their tight lock.
Old man, you are their father holding court in the dingy hall until their alarm clock rings and unwinds them.
You unstopper the quart of brandy you've saved, examining the small print in the telephone book.
The phone in your lap is all that's left of your family name.
Like a Romanoff prince you stay the same in your small alcove off the hall.
Castaway, your time is a flat sea that doesn't stop, with no new land to make for and no new stories to swap.
2.
Seamstress I'm at pains to know what else I could have done but move him out of his parish, him being my son; him being the only one at home since his Pa left us to beat the Japs at Okinawa.
I put the gold star up in the front window beside the flag.
Alterations is what I know and what I did: hems, gussets and seams.
When my boy had the fever and the bad dreams I paid for the clinic exam and a pack of lies.
As a youngster his private parts were undersize.
I thought of his Pa, that muscly old laugh he had and the boy was thin as a moth, but never once bad, as smart as a rooster! To hear some neighbors tell, Your kid! He'll go far.
He'll marry well.
So when he talked of taking the cloth, I thought I'd talk him out of it.
You're all I got, I told him.
For six years he studied up.
I prayed against God Himself for my boy.
But he stayed.
Christ was a hornet inside his head.
I guess I'd better stitch the zipper in this dress.
I guess I'll get along.
I always did.
Across the hall from me's an old invalid, aside of him, a young one -- he carries on with a girl who pretends she comes to use the john.
The old one with the bad breath and his bed all mussed, he smiles and talks to them.
He's got some crust.
Sure as hell, what else could I have done but pack up and move in here, him being my son? 3.
Young Girl Dear love, as simple as some distant evil we walk a little drunk up these three flughts where you tacked a Dufy print above your army cot.
The thin apartment doors on the way up will not tell us.
We are saying, we have our rights and let them see the sandwiches and wine we bought for we do not explain my husband's insane abuse and we do not say why your wild-haired wife has fled or that my father opened like a walnut and then was dead.
Your palms fold over me like knees.
Love is the only use.
Both a little drunk in the afternoon with the forgotten smart of August on our skin we hold hands as if we were still children who trudge up the wooden tower, on up past that close platoon of doors, past the dear old man who always asks us in and the one who sews like a wasp and will not budge.
Climbing the dark halls, I ignore their papers and pails, the twelve coats of rubbish of someone else's dim life.
Tell them need is an excuse for love.
Tell them need prevails.
Tell them I remake and smooth your bed and am your wife.
Written by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi | Create an image from this poem

The Way Things Should

What will our children do in the morning?

Will they wake with their hearts wanting to play, the way wings should?

Will they have dreamed the needed flights and gathered the strength from the planets that all men and women need to balance the wonderful charms of the earth

so that her power and beauty does not make us forget our own?

I know all about the ways of the heart – how it wants to be alive.

Love so needs to love that it will endure almost anything, even abuse, just to flicker for a moment.
But the sky’s mouth is kind, its song will never hurt you, for I sing those words.

What will our children do in the morning if they do not see us fly?

 

From Love Poems from God, by Daniel Ladinsky.

Copyright © 2002 by Daniel Ladinsky.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

Written by Sidney Lanier | Create an image from this poem

The Bee

 What time I paced, at pleasant morn,
A deep and dewy wood,
I heard a mellow hunting-horn
Make dim report of Dian's lustihood
Far down a heavenly hollow.
Mine ear, though fain, had pain to follow: `Tara!' it twanged, `tara-tara!' it blew, Yet wavered oft, and flew Most ficklewise about, or here, or there, A music now from earth and now from air.
But on a sudden, lo! I marked a blossom shiver to and fro With dainty inward storm; and there within A down-drawn trump of yellow jessamine A bee Thrust up its sad-gold body lustily, All in a honey madness hotly bound On blissful burglary.
A cunning sound In that wing-music held me: down I lay In amber shades of many a golden spray, Where looping low with languid arms the Vine In wreaths of ravishment did overtwine Her kneeling Live-Oak, thousand-fold to plight Herself unto her own true stalwart knight.
As some dim blur of distant music nears The long-desiring sense, and slowly clears To forms of time and apprehensive tune, So, as I lay, full soon Interpretation throve: the bee's fanfare, Through sequent films of discourse vague as air, Passed to plain words, while, fanning faint perfume, The bee o'erhung a rich, unrifled bloom: "O Earth, fair lordly Blossom, soft a-shine Upon the star-pranked universal vine, Hast nought for me? To thee Come I, a poet, hereward haply blown, From out another worldflower lately flown.
Wilt ask, `What profit e'er a poet brings?' He beareth starry stuff about his wings To pollen thee and sting thee fertile: nay, If still thou narrow thy contracted way, -- Worldflower, if thou refuse me -- -- Worldflower, if thou abuse me, And hoist thy stamen's spear-point high To wound my wing and mar mine eye -- Nathless I'll drive me to thy deepest sweet, Yea, richlier shall that pain the pollen beat From me to thee, for oft these pollens be Fine dust from wars that poets wage for thee.
But, O beloved Earthbloom soft a-shine Upon the universal Jessamine, Prithee, abuse me not, Prithee, refuse me not, Yield, yield the heartsome honey love to me Hid in thy nectary!" And as I sank into a dimmer dream The pleading bee's song-burthen sole did seem: "Hast ne'er a honey-drop of love for me In thy huge nectary?"
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Ballad Of Pious Pete

 "The North has got him.
" --Yukonism.
I tried to refine that neighbor of mine, honest to God, I did.
I grieved for his fate, and early and late I watched over him like a kid.
I gave him excuse, I bore his abuse in every way that I could; I swore to prevail; I camped on his trail; I plotted and planned for his good.
By day and by night I strove in men's sight to gather him into the fold, With precept and prayer, with hope and despair, in hunger and hardship and cold.
I followed him into Gehennas of sin, I sat where the sirens sit; In the shade of the Pole, for the sake of his soul, I strove with the powers of the Pit.
I shadowed him down to the scrofulous town; I dragged him from dissolute brawls; But I killed the galoot when he started to shoot electricity into my walls.
God knows what I did he should seek to be rid of one who would save him from shame.
God knows what I bore that night when he swore and bade me make tracks from his claim.
I started to tell of the horrors of hell, when sudden his eyes lit like coals; And "Chuck it," says he, "don't persecute me with your cant and your saving of souls.
" I'll swear I was mild as I'd be with a child, but he called me the son of a ****; And, grabbing his gun with a leap and a run, he threatened my face with the butt.
So what could I do (I leave it to you)? With curses he harried me forth; Then he was alone, and I was alone, and over us menaced the North.
Our cabins were near; I could see, I could hear; but between us there rippled the creek; And all summer through, with a rancor that grew, he would pass me and never would speak.
Then a shuddery breath like the coming of Death crept down from the peaks far away; The water was still; the twilight was chill; the sky was a tatter of gray.
Swift came the Big Cold, and opal and gold the lights of the witches arose; The frost-tyrant clinched, and the valley was cinched by the stark and cadaverous snows.
The trees were like lace where the star-beams could chase, each leaf was a jewel agleam.
The soft white hush lapped the Northland and wrapped us round in a crystalline dream; So still I could hear quite loud in my ear the swish of the pinions of time; So bright I could see, as plain as could be, the wings of God's angels ashine.
As I read in the Book I would oftentimes look to that cabin just over the creek.
Ah me, it was sad and evil and bad, two neighbors who never would speak! I knew that full well like a devil in hell he was hatching out, early and late, A system to bear through the frost-spangled air the warm, crimson waves of his hate.
I only could peer and shudder and fear--'twas ever so ghastly and still; But I knew over there in his lonely despair he was plotting me terrible ill.
I knew that he nursed a malice accurst, like the blast of a winnowing flame; I pleaded aloud for a shield, for a shroud--Oh, God! then calamity came.
Mad! If I'm mad then you too are mad; but it's all in the point of view.
If you'd looked at them things gallivantin' on wings, all purple and green and blue; If you'd noticed them twist, as they mounted and hissed like scorpions dim in the dark; If you'd seen them rebound with a horrible sound, and spitefully spitting a spark; If you'd watched IT with dread, as it hissed by your bed, that thing with the feelers that crawls-- You'd have settled the brute that attempted to shoot electricity into your walls.
Oh, some they were blue, and they slithered right through; they were silent and squashy and round; And some they were green; they were wriggly and lean; they writhed with so hateful a sound.
My blood seemed to freeze; I fell on my knees; my face was a white splash of dread.
Oh, the Green and the Blue, they were gruesome to view; but the worst of them all were the Red.
They came through the door, they came through the floor, they came through the moss-creviced logs.
They were savage and dire; they were whiskered with fire; they bickered like malamute dogs.
They ravined in rings like iniquitous things; they gulped down the Green and the Blue.
I crinkled with fear whene'er they drew near, and nearer and nearer they drew.
And then came the crown of Horror's grim crown, the monster so loathsomely red.
Each eye was a pin that shot out and in, as, squidlike, it oozed to my bed; So softly it crept with feelers that swept and quivered like fine copper wire; Its belly was white with a sulphurous light, it jaws were a-drooling with fire.
It came and it came; I could breathe of its flame, but never a wink could I look.
I thrust in its maw the Fount of the Law; I fended it off with the Book.
I was weak--oh, so weak--but I thrilled at its shriek, as wildly it fled in the night; And deathlike I lay till the dawn of the day.
(Was ever so welcome the light?) I loaded my gun at the rise of the sun; to his cabin so softly I slunk.
My neighbor was there in the frost-freighted air, all wrapped in a robe in his bunk.
It muffled his moans; it outlined his bones, as feebly he twisted about; His gums were so black, and his lips seemed to crack, and his teeth all were loosening out.
'Twas a death's head that peered through the tangle of beard; 'twas a face I will never forget; Sunk eyes full of woe, and they troubled me so with their pleadings and anguish, and yet As I rested my gaze in a misty amaze on the scurvy-degenerate wreck, I thought of the Things with the dragon-fly wings, then laid I my gun on his neck.
He gave out a cry that was faint as a sigh, like a perishing malamute, And he says unto me, "I'm converted," says he; "for Christ's sake, Peter, don't shoot!" * * * * * They're taking me out with an escort about, and under a sergeant's care; I am humbled indeed, for I'm 'cuffed to a Swede that thinks he's a millionaire.
But it's all Gospel true what I'm telling to you-- up there where the Shadow falls-- That I settled Sam Noot when he started to shoot electricity into my walls.
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