Philip Levine |
This has nothing to do with war
or the end of the world.
dreams there are gray starlings
on the winter lawn and the buds
of next year's oranges alongside
this year's oranges, and the sun
is still up, a watery circle
of fire settling into the sky
at dinner time, but there's no
flame racing through the house
or threatening the bed.
wakens the phone is ringing
in a distant room, but she
doesn't go to answer it.
one is home with her, and the cars
passing before the house hiss
in the rain.
"My children!" she
almost says, but there are no
longer children at home, there
are no longer those who would
turn to her, their faces running
with tears, and ask her forgiveness.
The Michigan Central Terminal
the day after victory.
home from Europe after years
of her mother's terror, and he still
so young but now with the dark
shadow of a beard, holding her
tightly among all the others
calling for their wives or girls.
That night in the front room
crowded with family and neighbors --
he was first back on the block --
he sat cross-legged on the floor
still in his wool uniform, smoking
and drinking as he spoke of passing
high over the dark cities she'd
only read about.
He'd wanted to
go back again and again.
to do this for the country,
for this -- a small house with upstairs
bedrooms -- so he'd asked to go
on raid after raid as though
he hungered to kill or be killed.
Today on television men
will enter space and return,
men she cannot imagine.
Lost in gigantic paper suits,
they move like sea creatures.
A voice will crackle from out
there where no voices are
speaking of the great theater
of conquest, of advancing
beyond the simple miracles
of flight, the small ventures
of birds and beasts.
will answer with words she
cannot remember having
spoken ever to anyone.
THE PHONE CALL
She calls Chicago, but no one
The operator asks
for another number but still
no one answers.
they try twenty-one numbers,
and at each no one is ever home.
"Can I call Baltimore?" she asks.
She can, but she knows no one
in Baltimore, no one in
Louis, Boston, Washington.
She imagines herself standing
before the glass wall high
over Lake Shore Drive, the cars
below fanning into the city.
East she can see all the way
to Gary and the great gray clouds
of exhaustion rolling over
the lake where her vision ends.
This is where her brother lives.
At such height there's nothing,
no birds, no growing, no noise.
She leans her sweating forehead
against the cold glass, shudders,
and puts down the receiver.
Wherever she turns her garden
is alive and growing.
spears of wild asparagus, shaft
of tulip and flag, green stain
of berry buds along the vines,
even in the eaten leaf of
pepper plants and clipped stalk
of snap bean.
and already the grass is dry
under the low sun.
and dark capped juncos hidden
in dense foliage waiting
the sun's early fall, when she
returns alone to hear them
call and call back, and finally
in the long shadows settle
down to rest and to silence
in the sudden rising chill.
Two boys are playing ball
in the backyard, throwing it
back and forth in the afternoon's
bright sunshine as a black mongrel
big as a shepherd races
from one to the other.
hides behind the heavy drapes
in her dining room and listens,
but they're too far.
they? They move about her yard
as though it were theirs.
the sons of her sons? They've
taken off their shirts, and she
sees they're not boys at all --
a dark smudge of hair rises
along the belly of one --, and now
they have the dog down thrashing
on his back, snarling and flashing
his teeth, and they're laughing.
She's eaten dinner talking
back to the television, she's
had coffee and brandy, done
the dishes and drifted into
and out of sleep over a book
she found beside the couch.
time for bed, but she goes
instead to the front door, unlocks
it, and steps onto the porch.
Behind her she can hear only
the silence of the house.
throw her shadow down the stairs
and onto the lawn, and she walks
carefully to meet it.
standing in the huge, whispering
arena of night, hearing her
own breath tearing out of her
like the cries of an animal.
She could keep going into
whatever the darkness brings,
she could find a presence there
her shaking hands could hold
instead of each other.
A dark sister lies beside her
all night, whispering
that it's not a dream, that fire
has entered the spaces between
one face and another.
There will be no wakening.
When she wakens, she can't
catch her own breath, so she yells
It comes in the form
back and forth, using new words
that have no meaning
The aspen shreds
itself against her window.
The oranges she saw that day
in her yard explode
in circles of oil, the few stars
quiet and darken.
They go on,
two little girls up long past
their hour, playing in bed.
James Whitcomb Riley |
Tell you what I like the best --
'Long about knee-deep in June,
'Bout the time strawberries melts
On the vine, -- some afternoon
Like to jes' git out and rest,
And not work at nothin' else!
Orchard's where I'd ruther be --
Needn't fence it in fer me! --
Jes' the whole sky overhead,
And the whole airth underneath --
Sort o' so's a man kin breathe
Like he ort, and kind o' has
Elbow-room to keerlessly
Sprawl out len'thways on the grass
Where the shadders thick and soft
As the kivvers on the bed
Mother fixes in the loft
Allus, when they's company!
Jes' a-sort o' lazin there -
S'lazy, 'at you peek and peer
Through the wavin' leaves above,
Like a feller 'ats in love
And don't know it, ner don't keer!
Ever'thing you hear and see
Got some sort o' interest -
Maybe find a bluebird's nest
Tucked up there conveenently
Fer the boy 'at's ap' to be
Up some other apple tree!
Watch the swallers skootin' past
Bout as peert as you could ast;
Er the Bob-white raise and whiz
Where some other's whistle is.
Ketch a shadder down below,
And look up to find the crow --
Er a hawk, - away up there,
'Pearantly froze in the air! --
Hear the old hen squawk, and squat
Over ever' chick she's got,
Suddent-like! - and she knows where
That-air hawk is, well as you! --
You jes' bet yer life she do! --
Eyes a-glitterin' like glass,
Waitin' till he makes a pass!
Pee-wees wingin', to express
My opinion, 's second-class,
Yit you'll hear 'em more er less;
Sapsucks gittin' down to biz,
Weedin' out the lonesomeness;
Bluejay, full o' sass,
In them baseball clothes o' his,
Sportin' round the orchad jes'
Like he owned the premises!
Sun out in the fields kin sizz,
But flat on yer back, I guess,
In the shade's where glory is!
That's jes' what I'd like to do
Stiddy fer a year er two!
Plague! Ef they ain't somepin' in
Work 'at kind o' goes ag'in'
My convictions! - 'long about
Here in June especially! --
Under some ole apple tree,
Jes' a-restin through and through,
I could git along without
Nothin' else at all to do
Only jes' a-wishin' you
Wuz a-gittin' there like me,
And June wuz eternity!
Lay out there and try to see
Jes' how lazy you kin be! --
Tumble round and souse yer head
In the clover-bloom, er pull
Yer straw hat acrost yer eyes
And peek through it at the skies,
Thinkin' of old chums 'ats dead,
Maybe, smilin' back at you
In betwixt the beautiful
Clouds o'gold and white and blue! --
Month a man kin railly love --
June, you know, I'm talkin' of!
March ain't never nothin' new! --
April's altogether too
Brash fer me! and May -- I jes'
'Bominate its promises, --
Little hints o' sunshine and
Green around the timber-land --
A few blossoms, and a few
Chip-birds, and a sprout er two, --
Drap asleep, and it turns in
Fore daylight and snows ag'in! --
But when June comes - Clear my th'oat
With wild honey! -- Rench my hair
In the dew! And hold my coat!
Whoop out loud! And th'ow my hat! --
June wants me, and I'm to spare!
Spread them shadders anywhere,
I'll get down and waller there,
And obleeged to you at that!
Wallace Stevens |
One's grand flights, one's Sunday baths,
One's tootings at the weddings of the soul
Occur as they occur.
So bluish clouds
Occurred above the empty house and the leaves
Of the rhododendrons rattled their gold,
As if someone lived there.
Such floods of white
Came bursting from the clouds.
So the wind
Threw its contorted strength around the sky.
Could you have said the bluejay suddenly
Would swoop to earth? It is a wheel, the rays
Around the sun.
The wheel survives the myths.
The fire eye in the clouds survives the gods.
To think of a dove with an eye of grenadine
And pines that are cornets, so it occurs,
And a little island full of geese and stars:
It may be the ignorant man, alone,
Has any chance to mate his life with life
That is the sensual, pearly spuse, the life
That is fluent in even the wintriest bronze.