Shel Silverstein |
If you were only one inch tall, you'd ride a worm to school.
The teardrop of a crying ant would be your swimming pool.
A crumb of cake would be a feast
And last you seven days at least,
A flea would be a frightening beast
If you were one inch tall.
If you were only one inch tall, you'd walk beneath the door,
And it would take about a month to get down to the store.
A bit of fluff would be your bed,
You'd swing upon a spider's thread,
And wear a thimble on your head
If you were one inch tall.
You'd surf across the kitchen sink upon a stick of gum.
You couldn't hug your mama, you'd just have to hug her thumb.
You'd run from people's feet in fright,
To move a pen would take all night,
(This poem took fourteen years to write--
'Cause I'm just one inch tall).
Louisa May Alcott |
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.
Delmore Schwartz |
Is the spider a monster in miniature?
His web is a cruel stair, to be sure,
Designed artfully, cunningly placed,
A delicate trap, carefully spun
To bind the fly (innocent or unaware)
In a net as strong as a chain or a gun.
There are far more spiders than the man in the street
And the philosopher-king imagines, let alone knows!
There are six hundred kinds of spiders and each one
Differs in kind and in unkindness.
In variety of behavior spiders are unrivalled:
The fat garden spider sits motionless, amidst or at the heart
Of the orb of its web: other kinds run,
Scuttling across the floor, falling into bathtubs,
Trapped in the path of its own wrath, by overconfidence
drowned and undone.
Other kinds - more and more kinds under the stars and
the sun -
Are carnivores: all are relentless, ruthless
Enemies of insects.
Their methods of getting food
Are unconventional, numerous, various and sometimes
Some spiders spin webs as beautiful
As Japanese drawings, intricate as clocks, strong as rocks:
Others construct traps which consist only
Of two sticky and tricky threads.
Yet this ambush is enough
To bind and chain a crawling ant for long
The famished spider feels the vibration
Which transforms patience into sensation and satiation.
The handsome wolf spider moves suddenly freely and relies
Upon lightning suddenness, stealth and surprise,
Possessing accurate eyes, pouncing upon his victim with the
speed of surmise.
Courtship is dangerous: there are just as many elaborate
and endless techniques and varieties
As characterize the wooing of more analytic, more
introspective beings: Sometimes the male
Arrives with the gift of a freshly caught fly.
Sometimes he ties down the female, when she is frail,
With deft strokes and quick maneuvres and threads of silk:
But courtship and wooing, whatever their form, are
By extreme caution, prudence, and calculation,
For the female spider, lazier and fiercer than the male
May make a meal of him if she does not feel in the same
mood, or if her appetite
Consumes her far more than the revelation of love's
Here among spiders, as in the higher forms of nature,
The male runs a terrifying risk when he goes seeking for
the bounty of beautiful Alma Magna Mater:
Yet clearly and truly he must seek and find his mate and
match like every other living creature!
Andrew Barton Paterson |
'Twas in scientific circles
That the great Professor Brown
Had a world-wide reputation
As a writer of renown.
He had striven finer feelings
In our natures to implant
By his Treatise on the Morals
Of the Red-eyed Bulldog Ant.
He had hoisted an opponent
Who had trodden unawares
On his "Reasons for Bare Patches
On the Female Native Bears".
So they gave him an appointment
As instructor to a band
Of the most attractive females
To be gathered in the land.
'Twas a "Ladies' Science Circle" --
Just the latest social fad
For the Nicest People only,
And to make their rivals mad.
They were fond of "science rambles"
To the country from the town --
A parade of female beauty
In the leadership of Brown.
They would pick a place for luncheon
And catch beetles on their rugs;
The Professor called 'em "optera" --
They calld 'em "nasty bugs".
Well, the thing was bound to perish
For no lovely woman can
Feel the slightest interest
In a club without a Man --
The Professor hardly counted
He was crazy as a loon,
With a countenance suggestive
Of an elderly baboon.
But the breath of Fate blew on it
With a sharp and sudden blast,
And the "Ladies' Science Circle"
Is a memory of the past.
There were two-and-twenty members,
Mostly young and mostly fair,
Who had made a great excursion
To a place called Dontknowwhere,
At the crossing of Lost River,
On the road to No Man's Land.
There they met an old selector,
With a stockwhip in his hand,
And the sight of so much beauty
Sent him slightly "off his nut";
So he asked them, smiling blandly,
"Would they come down to the hut?"
"I am come," said the Professor,
In his thin and reedy voice,
"To investigate your flora,
Which I feel is very choice.
The selector stared dumbfounded,
Till at last he found his tongue:
"To investigate my Flora!
Oh, you howlin' Brigham Young!
Why, you've two-and-twenty wimmen --
Reg'lar slap-up wimmen, too!
And you're after little Flora!
And a crawlin' thing like you!
Oh, you Mormonite gorilla!
Well, I've heard it from the first
That you wizened little fellers
Is a hundred times the worst!
But a dried-up ape like you are,
To be marchin' through the land
With a pack of lovely wimmen --
Well, I cannot understand!"
"You mistake," said the Professor,
In a most indignant tone --
While the ladies shrieked and jabbered
In a fashion of their own --
"You mistake about these ladies,
I'm a lecturer of theirs;
I am Brown, who wrote the Treatise
On the Female Native Bears!
When I said we wanted flora,
What I meant was native flowers.
"Well, you said you wanted Flora,
And I'll swear you don't get ours!
But here's Flora's self a-comin',
And it's time for you to skip,
Or I'll write a treatise on you,
And I'll write it with the whip!
Now I want no explanations;
Just you hook it out of sight,
Or you'll charm the poor girl some'ow!"
The Professor looked in fright:
She was six feet high and freckled,
And her hair was turkey-red.
The Professor gave a whimper,
And threw down his bag and fled,
And the Ladies' Science Circle,
With a simultaneous rush,
Travelled after its Professor,
And went screaming through the bush!
At the crossing of Lost River,
On the road to No Man's Land,
Where the grim and ghostly gumtrees
Block the view on every hand,
There they weep and wail and wander,
Always seeking for the track,
For the hapless old Professor
Hasn't sense to guide 'em back;
And they clutch at one another,
And they yell and scream in fright
As they see the gruesome creatures
Of the grim Australian night;
And they hear the mopoke's hooting,
And the dingo's howl so dread,
And the flying foxes jabber
From the gum trees overhead;
While the weird and wary wombats,
In their subterranean caves,
Are a-digging, always digging,
At those wretched people's graves;
And the pike-horned Queensland bullock,
From his shelter in the scrub,
Has his eye on the proceedings
Of the Ladies' Science Club.
David Berman |
It's too nice a day to read a novel set in England.
We're within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,
and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.
Even the headstones in the graveyard
Seem to stand up and say "Hello! My name is.
It's enough to be sitting here on my porch,
thinking about Kermit Roosevelt,
following the course of an ant,
or walking out into the yard with a cordless phone
to find out she is going to be there tonight
On a day like today, what looks like bad news in the distance
turns out to be something on my contact, carports and white
courtesy phones are spontaneously reappreciated
and random "okay"s ring through the backyards.
This morning I discovered the red tints in cola
when I held a glass of it up to the light
and found an expensive flashlight in the pocket of a winter coat
I was packing away for summer.
It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses
after a long drive and realize it's earlier
and lighter out than you had accounted for.
You know what I'm talking about,
and that's the kind of fellowship that's taking place in town, out in
the public spaces.
You won't overhear anyone using the words
"dramaturgy" or "state inspection today.
We're too busy getting along.
It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are
in the laws, and it feels good to say this, something that I'm almost
sure is true, outside under the sun.
Then to say it again, around friends, in the resonant voice of a
nineteenth-century senator, just for a lark.
There's a shy looking fellow on the courthouse steps, holding up a
placard that says "But, I kinda liked Reagan.
" His head turns slowly
as a beautiful girl walks by, holding a refrigerated bottle up against
her flushed cheek.
She smiles at me and I allow myself to imagine her walking into
town to buy lotion at a brick pharmacy.
When she gets home she'll apply it with great lingering care before
moving into her parlor to play 78 records and drink gin-and-tonics
beside her homemade altar to James Madison.
In a town of this size, it's certainly possible that I'll be invited over
In fact I'll bet you something.
Somewhere in the future I am remembering today.
I'll bet you
I'm remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty,
my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers
of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.
I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up
with a catcher's mask hanging from his belt and how I said
great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you,
and how he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts
and said, wonderful, how are you.
Marianne Moore |
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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.
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
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
Among animals, one has sense of humor.
Humor saves a few steps, it saves years.
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--
is a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat,
The prey of fear, he, always
curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partly
says to the alternating blaze,
"Again the sun!
anew each day; and new and new and new,
that comes into and steadies my soul.
Robert Frost |
For Lincoln MacVeagh
Never tell me that not one star of all
That slip from heaven at night and softly fall
Has been picked up with stones to build a wall.
Some laborer found one faded and stone-cold,
And saving that its weight suggested gold
And tugged it from his first too certain hold,
He noticed nothing in it to remark.
He was not used to handling stars thrown dark
And lifeless from an interrupted arc.
He did not recognize in that smooth coal
The one thing palpable besides the soul
To penetrate the air in which we roll.
He did not see how like a flying thing
It brooded ant eggs, and bad one large wing,
One not so large for flying in a ring,
And a long Bird of Paradise's tail
(Though these when not in use to fly and trail
It drew back in its body like a snail);
Nor know that be might move it from the spot—
The harm was done: from having been star-shot
The very nature of the soil was hot
And burning to yield flowers instead of grain,
Flowers fanned and not put out by all the rain
Poured on them by his prayers prayed in vain.
He moved it roughly with an iron bar,
He loaded an old stoneboat with the star
And not, as you might think, a flying car,
Such as even poets would admit perforce
More practical than Pegasus the horse
If it could put a star back in its course.
He dragged it through the plowed ground at a pace
But faintly reminiscent of the race
Of jostling rock in interstellar space.
It went for building stone, and I, as though
Commanded in a dream, forever go
To right the wrong that this should have been so.
Yet ask where else it could have gone as well,
I do not know—I cannot stop to tell:
He might have left it lying where it fell.
From following walls I never lift my eye,
Except at night to places in the sky
Where showers of charted meteors let fly.
Some may know what they seek in school and church,
And why they seek it there; for what I search
I must go measuring stone walls, perch on perch;
Sure that though not a star of death and birth,
So not to be compared, perhaps, in worth
To such resorts of life as Mars and Earth—
Though not, I say, a star of death and sin,
It yet has poles, and only needs a spin
To show its worldly nature and begin
To chafe and shuffle in my calloused palm
And run off in strange tangents with my arm,
As fish do with the line in first alarm.
Such as it is, it promises the prize
Of the one world complete in any size
That I am like to compass, fool or wise.
Charles Baudelaire |
Voici venir les temps o? vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s'?vapore ainsi qu'un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir;
Valse m?lancolique et langoureux vertige!
Chaque fleur s'?vapore ainsi qu'un encensoir;
Le violon fr?mit comme un coeur qu'on afflige;
Valse m?lancolique et langoureux vertige!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.
Le violon fr?mit comme un coeur qu'on afflige,
Un coeur tendre qui hait le n?ant vaste et noir!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir;
Le soleil s'est noy? dans son sang qui se fige.
Un coeur tendre qui hait le n?ant vaste et noir,
Du pass? lumineux receuille tout vestige!
Le soleil s'est noy? dans son sang qui se fige .
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!
Sylvia Plath |
I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It's worse than a barnyard.
Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of Lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull-plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us.
O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered
In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.
Amy Clampitt |
Crossing, on this longest day,
the low-tide-uncovered isthmus, scrambling up
the scree-slope of what at high tide
will be again an island,
to where, a decade since well-being staked
the slender, unpremeditated claim that brings us
back, year after year, lugging the
makings of another picnic—
the cucumber sandwiches, the sea-air-sanctified
fig newtons—there's no knowing what the slamming
seas, the gales of yet another winter
may have done.
the gust-beleaguered single spruce tree,
the ant-thronged, root-snelled moss, grass
and clover tuffet underneath it,
edges frazzled raw
but, like our own prolonged attachment, holding.
Whatever moral lesson might commend itself,
there's no use drawing one,
there's nothing here
to seize on as exemplifying any so-called virtue
(holding on despite adversity, perhaps) or
any no-more-than-human tendency—
stubborn adherence, say,
to a wholly wrongheaded tenet.
hold on in any case means taking less and less
for granted, some few things seem nearly
certain, as that the longest day
will come again, will seem to hold its breath,
the months-long exhalation of diminishment
Last night you woke me
for a look at Jupiter,
that vast cinder wheeled unblinking
in a bath of galaxies.
Watching, we traveled
toward an apprehension all but impossible
to be held onto—
that no point is fixed, that there's no foothold
but roams untethered save by such snells,
such sailor's knots, such stays
and guy wires as are
mainly of our own devising.
From such an
empyrean, aloof seraphic mentors urge us
to look down on all attachment,
on any bonding, as
in the end untenable.
Base as it is, from
year to year the earth's sore surface
mends and rebinds itself, however
and as best it can, with
thread of cinquefoil, tendril of the magenta
beach pea, trammel of bramble; with easings,
mulchings, fragrances, the gray-green
bayberry's cool poultice—
and what can't finally be mended, the salt air
proceeds to buff and rarefy: the lopped carnage
of the seaward spruce clump weathers
lustrous, to wood-silver.
Little is certain, other than the tide that
circumscribes us that still sets its term
to every picnic—today we stayed too long
again, and got our feet wet—
and all attachment may prove at best, perhaps,
a broken, a much-mended thing.
the longest day take cover under
a monk's-cowl overcast,
with thunder, rain and wind, then waiting,
we drop everything to listen as a
hermit thrush distills its fragmentary,
hesitant, in the end
From what source (beyond us, or
the wells within?) such links perceived arrive—
diminished sequences so uninsistingly
not even human—there's
hardly a vocabulary left to wonder, uncertain
as we are of so much in this existence, this
botched, cumbersome, much-mended,
not unsatisfactory thing.