William Butler Yeats |
Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die,
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.
Prove that I lie.
Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh.
Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.
Raymond Carver |
Fear of seeing a police car pull into the drive.
Fear of falling asleep at night.
Fear of not falling asleep.
Fear of the past rising up.
Fear of the present taking flight.
Fear of the telephone that rings in the dead of night.
Fear of electrical storms.
Fear of the cleaning woman who has a spot on her cheek!
Fear of dogs I've been told won't bite.
Fear of anxiety!
Fear of having to identify the body of a dead friend.
Fear of running out of money.
Fear of having too much, though people will not believe this.
Fear of psychological profiles.
Fear of being late and fear of arriving before anyone else.
Fear of my children's handwriting on envelopes.
Fear they'll die before I do, and I'll feel guilty.
Fear of having to live with my mother in her old age, and mine.
Fear of confusion.
Fear this day will end on an unhappy note.
Fear of waking up to find you gone.
Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.
Fear that what I love will prove lethal to those I love.
Fear of death.
Fear of living too long.
Fear of death.
I've said that.
Stephen Dunn |
This won't last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines
make you sleepy or bored,
give in to sleep, turn on
, deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand
cannot be hurt.
somewhere in the poet,
and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime.
in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama,
and can offer you violence
if it is violence you like.
there's a man on a sidewalk;
the way his leg is quivering
he'll never be the same again.
This is your poem
and I know you're busy at the office
or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it's sex you've always wanted.
Well, they lie together
like the party's unbuttoned coats,
slumped on the bed
waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don't think you want me to go on;
everyone has his expectations, but this
is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser
is dripping from a waterfall,
deodorants are hissing into armpits
of people you resemble,
and the two lovers are dressing now,
I don't know what music this poem
can come up with, but clearly
For it's apparent
they will never see each other again
and we need music for this
because there was never music when he or she
left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer
I want you to look at it
when anxiety zigzags your stomach
and the last tranquilizer is gone
and you need someone to tell you
I'll be here when you want me
like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don't give anything for this poem.
It doesn't expect much.
It will never say more
than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case
or in your house.
And if you're not asleep
by now, or bored beyond sense,
the poem wants you to laugh.
yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Now here's what poetry can do.
Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You're beautiful for as long as you live.
David Herbert Lawrence |
The hoar-frost crumbles in the sun,
The crisping steam of a train
Melts in the air, while two black birds
Sweep past the window again.
Along the vacant road, a red
Bicycle approaches; I wait
In a thaw of anxiety, for the boy
To leap down at our gate.
He has passed us by; but is it
Relief that starts in my breast?
Or a deeper bruise of knowing that still
She has no rest.
Raymond Carver |
And all at length are gathered in.
By the time I came around to feeling pain
and woke up, moonlight
flooded the room.
My arm lay paralyzed,
propped up like an old anchor under
You were in a dream,
you said later, where you'd arrived
early for the dance.
a moment's anxiety you were okay
because it was really a sidewalk
sale, and the shoes you were wearing,
or not wearing, were fine for that.
"Help me," I said.
And tried to hoist
But it just lay there, aching,
unable to rise on its own.
you said, "What is it? What's wrong?"
it stayed put -- deaf, unmoved
by any expression of fear or amazement.
We shouted at it, and grew afraid
when it didn't answer.
"It's gone to sleep,"
I said, and hearing those words
knew how absurd this was.
I couldn't laugh.
between the two of us, we managed
to raise it.
This can't be my arm
is what I kept thinking as
we thumped it, squeezed it, and
prodded it back to life.
until that stinging went away.
We said a few words to each other.
I don't remember what.
reassuring things people
who love each other say to each other
given the hour and such odd
I do remember
you remarked how it was light
enough in the room that you could see
circles under my eyes.
You said I needed more regular sleep,
and I agreed.
Each of us went
to the bathroom, and climbed back into bed
on our respective sides.
Pulled the covers up.
you said, for the second time that night.
And fell asleep.
into that same dream, or else another.
I lay until daybreak, holding
both arms fast across my chest.
Working my fingers now and then.
While my thoughts kept circling
around and around, but always going back
where they'd started from.
That one inescapable fact: even while
we undertake this trip,
there's another, far more bizarre,
we still have to make.
Donald Hall |
To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content.
But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
Charlotte Bronte |
The room is quiet, thoughts alone
People its mute tranquillity;
The yoke put on, the long task done,
I am, as it is bliss to be,
Still and untroubled.
Now, I see,
For the first time, how soft the day
O'er waveless water, stirless tree,
Silent and sunny, wings its way.
Now, as I watch that distant hill,
So faint, so blue, so far removed,
Sweet dreams of home my heart may fill,
That home where I am known and loved:
It lies beyond; yon azure brow
Parts me from all Earth holds for me;
And, morn and eve, my yearnings flow
Thitherward tending, changelessly.
My happiest hours, aye ! all the time,
I love to keep in memory,
Lapsed among moors, ere life's first prime
Decayed to dark anxiety.
Sometimes, I think a narrow heart
Makes me thus mourn those far away,
And keeps my love so far apart
From friends and friendships of to-day;
Sometimes, I think 'tis but a dream
I measure up so jealously,
All the sweet thoughts I live on seem
To vanish into vacancy:
And then, this strange, coarse world around
Seems all that's palpable and true;
And every sight, and every sound,
Combines my spirit to subdue
To aching grief, so void and lone
Is Life and Earthso worse than vain,
The hopes that, in my own heart sown,
And cherished by such sun and rain
As Joy and transient Sorrow shed,
Have ripened to a harvest there:
Alas ! methinks I hear it said,
"Thy golden sheaves are empty air.
All fades away; my very home
I think will soon be desolate;
I hear, at times, a warning come
Of bitter partings at its gate;
And, if I should return and see
The hearth-fire quenched, the vacant chair;
And hear it whispered mournfully,
That farewells have been spoken there,
What shall I do, and whither turn ?
Where look for peace ? When cease to mourn ?
'Tis not the air I wished to play,
The strain I wished to sing;
My wilful spirit slipped away
And struck another string.
I neither wanted smile nor tear,
Bright joy nor bitter woe,
But just a song that sweet and clear,
Though haply sad, might flow.
A quiet song, to solace me
When sleep refused to come;
A strain to chase despondency,
When sorrowful for home.
In vain I try; I cannot sing;
All feels so cold and dead;
No wild distress, no gushing spring
Of tears in anguish shed;
But all the impatient gloom of one
Who waits a distant day,
When, some great task of suffering done,
Repose shall toil repay.
For youth departs, and pleasure flies,
And life consumes away,
And youth's rejoicing ardour dies
Beneath this drear delay;
And Patience, weary with her yoke,
Is yielding to despair,
And Health's elastic spring is broke
Beneath the strain of care.
Life will be gone ere I have lived;
Where now is Life's first prime ?
I've worked and studied, longed and grieved,
Through all that rosy time.
To toil, to think, to long, to grieve,
Is such my future fate ?
The morn was dreary, must the eve
Be also desolate ?
Well, such a life at least makes Death
A welcome, wished-for friend;
Then, aid me, Reason, Patience, Faith,
To suffer to the end !
David Lehman |
I like walking on streets as black and wet as this one
now, at two in the solemnly musical morning, when everyone else
in this town emptied of Lestrygonians and Lotus-eaters
is asleep or trying or worrying why
they aren't asleep, while unknown to them Ulysses walks
into the shabby apartment I live in, humming and feeling
happy with the avant-garde weather we're having,
the winds (a fugue for flute and oboe) pouring
into the windows which I left open although
I live on the ground floor and there have been
two burglaries on my block already this week,
do I quickly take a look to see
if the valuables are missing? No, that is I can't,
it's an epistemological quandary: what I consider
valuable, would they? Who are they, anyway? I'd answer that
with speculations based on newspaper accounts if I were
Westlake, whose novels I'm hooked on, but
this first cigarette after twenty-four hours
of abstinence tastes so good it makes me want
to include it in my catalogue of pleasures
designed to hide the ugliness or sweep it away
the way the violent overflow of rain over cliffs
cleans the sewers and drains of Ithaca
whose waterfalls head my list, followed by
crudites of carrots and beets, roots and all,
with rained-on radishes, too beautiful to eat,
and the pure pleasure of talking, talking and not knowing
where the talk will lead, but willing to take my chances.
Furthermore I shall enumerate some varieties of tulips
(Bacchus, Tantalus, Dardanelles) and other flowers
with names that have a life of their own (Love Lies Bleeding,
Dwarf Blue Bedding, Burning Bush, Torch Lily, Narcissus).
Mostly, as I've implied, it's the names of things
that count; still, sometimes I wonder and, wondering, find
the path of least resistance, the earth's orbit
around the sun's delirious clarity.
Once you sniff
the aphrodisiac of disaster, you know: there's no reason
for the anxiety--or for expecting to be free of it;
try telling Franz Kafka he has no reason to feel guilty;
or so I say to well-meaning mongers of common sense.
They way I figure, you start with the names
which are keys and then you throw them away
and learn to love the locked rooms, with or without
corpses inside, riddles to unravel, emptiness to possess,
a woman to wake up with a kiss (who is she?
no one knows) who begs your forgiveness (for what?
you cannot know) and then, in the authoritative tone
of one who has weathered the storm of his exile, orders you
to put up your hands and beg the rain to continue
as if it were in your power.
And it is,
I feel it with each drop.
I am standing
outside at the window, looking in on myself
writing these words, feeling what wretches feel, just
as the doctor ordered.
And that's what I plan to do,
what the storm I was caught in reminded me to do,
to shake the superflux, distribute my appetite, fast
without so much as a glass of water, and love
each bite I haven't taken.
I shall become the romantic poet
whose coat of many colors smeared
with blood, like a butcher's apron, left
in the sacred pit or brought back to my father
to confirm my death, confirms my new life
instead, an alien prince of dungeons and dreams
who sheds the disguise people recognize him by
to reveal himself to his true brothers at last
in the silence that stuns before joy descends, like rain.
Charles Baudelaire |
I love the naked ages long ago
When statues were gilded by Apollo,
When men and women of agility
Could play without lies and anxiety,
And the sky lovingly caressed their spines,
As it exercised its noble machine.
Fertile Cybele, mother of nature, then,
Would not place on her daughters a burden,
But, she-wolf sharing her heart with the people,
Would feed creation from her brown nipples.
Men, elegant and strong, would have the right
To be proud to have beauty named their king;
Virgin fruit free of blemish and cracking,
Whose flesh smooth and firm would summon a bite!
The Poet today, when he would convey
This native grandeur, would not be swept away
By man free and woman natural,
But would feel darkness envelop his soul
Before this black tableau full of loathing.
O malformed monsters crying for clothing!
O ludicrous heads! Torsos needing disguise!
O poor writhing bodies of every wrong size,
Children that the god of the Useful swaths
In the language of bronze and brass!
And women, alas! You shadow your heredity,
You gnaw nourishment from debauchery,
A virgin holds maternal lechery
And all the horrors of fecundity!
We have, it is true, corrupt nations,
Beauty unknown to the radiant ancients:
Faces that gnaw through the heart's cankers,
And talk with the cool beauty of languor;
But these inventions of our backward muses
Are never hindered in their morbid uses
Of the old for profound homage to youth,
—To the young saint, the sweet air, the simple truth,
To the eye as limpid as the water current,
To spread out over all, insouciant
Like the blue sky, the birds and the flowers,
Its perfumes, its songs and its sweet fervors.
Marge Piercy |
A heap of wheat, says the Song of Songs
but I've never seen wheat in a pile.
Apples, potatoes, cabbages, carrots
make lumpy stacks, but you are sleek
as a seal hauled out in the winter sun.
I can see you as a great goose egg
or a single juicy and fully ripe peach.
You swell like a natural grassy hill.
You are symmetrical as a Hopewell mound,
with the eye of the navel wide open,
the eye of my apple, the pear's port
You're not supposed to exist
at all this decade.
You're to be flat
as a kitchen table, so children with
roller skates can speed over you
like those sidewalks of my childhood
that each gave a different roar under
You're required to show
muscle striations like the ocean
sand at ebb tide, but brick hard.
Clothing is not designed for women
of whose warm and flagrant bodies
you are a swelling part.
Yet I confess
I meditate with my hands folded on you,
a maternal cushion radiating comfort.
Even when I have been at my thinnest,
you have never abandoned me but curled
round as a sleeping cat under my skirt.
When I spread out, so do you.
to eat, drink and bang on another belly.
In anxiety I clutch you with nervous fingers
as if you were a purse full of calm.
In my grandmother standing in the fierce sun
I see your cauldron that held eleven children
shaped under the tent of her summer dress.
I see you in my mother at thirty
in her flapper gear, skinny legs
and then you knocking on the tight dress.
We hand you down like a prize feather quilt.
You are our female shame and sunburst strength.