Kahlil Gibran |
As the Sun withdrew his rays from the garden, and the moon threw cushioned beams upon the flowers, I sat under the trees pondering upon the phenomena of the atmosphere, looking through the branches at the strewn stars which glittered like chips of silver upon a blue carpet; and I could hear from a distance the agitated murmur of the rivulet singing its way briskly into the valley.
When the birds took shelter among the boughs, and the flowers folded their petals, and tremendous silence descended, I heard a rustle of feet though the grass.
I took heed and saw a young couple approaching my arbor.
The say under a tree where I could see them without being seen.
After he looked about in every direction, I heard the young man saying, "Sit by me, my beloved, and listen to my heart; smile, for your happiness is a symbol of our future; be merry, for the sparkling days rejoice with us.
"My soul is warning me of the doubt in your heart, for doubt in love is a sin.
"Soon you will be the owner of this vast land, lighted by this beautiful moon; soon you will be the mistress of my palace, and all the servants and maids will obey your commands.
"Smile, my beloved, like the gold smiles from my father's coffers.
"My heart refuses to deny you its secret.
Twelve months of comfort and travel await us; for a year we will spend my father's gold at the blue lakes of Switzerland, and viewing the edifices of Italy and Egypt, and resting under the Holy Cedars of Lebanon; you will meet the princesses who will envy you for your jewels and clothes.
"All these things I will do for you; will you be satisfied?"
In a little while I saw them walking and stepping on flowers as the rich step upon the hearts of the poor.
As they disappeared from my sight, I commenced to make comparison between love and money, and to analyze their position in the heart.
Money! The source of insincere love; the spring of false light and fortune; the well of poisoned water; the desperation of old age!
I was still wandering in the vast desert of contemplation when a forlorn and specter-like couple passed by me and sat on the grass; a young man and a young woman who had left their farming shacks in the nearby fields for this cool and solitary place.
After a few moments of complete silence, I heard the following words uttered with sighs from weather-bitten lips, "Shed not tears, my beloved; love that opens our eyes and enslaves our hearts can give us the blessing of patience.
Be consoled in our delay our delay, for we have taken an oath and entered Love's shrine; for our love will ever grow in adversity; for it is in Love's name that we are suffering the obstacles of poverty and the sharpness of misery and the emptiness of separation.
I shall attack these hardships until I triumph and place in your hands a strength that will help over all things to complete the journey of life.
"Love - which is God - will consider our sighs and tears as incense burned at His altar and He will reward us with fortitude.
Good-bye, my beloved; I must leave before the heartening moon vanishes.
A pure voice, combined of the consuming flame of love, and the hopeless bitterness of longing and the resolved sweetness of patience, said, "Good-bye, my beloved.
They separated, and the elegy to their union was smothered by the wails of my crying heart.
I looked upon slumbering Nature, and with deep reflection discovered the reality of a vast and infinite thing -- something no power could demand, influence acquire, nor riches purchase.
Nor could it be effaced by the tears of time or deadened by sorrow; a thing which cannot be discovered by the blue lakes of Switzerland or the beautiful edifices of Italy.
It is something that gathers strength with patience, grows despite obstacles, warms in winter, flourishes in spring, casts a breeze in summer, and bears fruit in autumn -- I found Love.
Edgar Bowers |
Every month or so, Sundays, we walked the line,
The limit and the boundary.
Past the sweet gum
Superb above the cabin, along the wall—
Stones gathered from the level field nearby
When first we cleared it.
Stung the two mules.
Thirteen, I ran.
And then the field: thread-leaf maple, deciduous
Magnolia, hybrid broom, and, further down,
In light shade, one Franklinia Alatamaha
In solstice bloom, all white, most graciously.
On the sunnier slope, the wild plums that my mother
Later would make preserves of, to give to friends
Or sell, in autumn, with the foxgrape, quince,
Elderberry, and muscadine.
The granite overhang, moist den of foxes;
Gradually up a long hill, high in pine,
Park-like, years of dry needles on the ground,
And dogwood, slopes the settlers terraced; pine
We cut at Christmas, berries, hollies, anise,
And cones for sale in Mister Haymore’s yard
In town, below the Courthouse Square.
One of the two good teachers at Boys’ High,
Ironic and demanding, chemistry;
Mary Lou Culver taught us English: essays,
Plot summaries, outlines, meters, kinds of clauses
(Noun, adjective, and adverb, five at a time),
Written each day and then revised, and she
Up half the night to read them once again
Through her pince-nez, under a single lamp.
Across the road, on a steeper hill, the settlers
Set a house, unpainted, the porch fallen in,
The road a red clay strip without a bridge,
A shallow stream that liked to overflow.
Oliver Brand’s mules pulled our station wagon
Out of the gluey mire, earth’s rust.
And there, back from the road, the specimen
Shrubs and small trees my father planted, some
Taller than we were, some in bloom, some berried,
And some we still brought water to.
Paused at the weed-filled hole beside the beech
That, one year, brought forth beech nuts by the thousands,
A hole still reminiscent of the man
Chewing tobacco in among his whiskers
My father happened on, who, discovered, told
Of dreaming he should dig there for the gold
And promised to give half of what he found.
During the wars with Germany and Japan,
Descendents of the settlers, of Oliver Brand
And of that man built Flying Fortresses
For Lockheed, in Atlanta; now they build
Brick mansions in the woods they left, with lawns
To paved and lighted streets, azaleas, camellias
Blooming among the pines and tulip trees—
Mercedes Benz and Cadillac Republicans.
There was another stream further along
Divided through a marsh, lined by the fence
We stretched to posts with Mister Garner’s help
The time he needed cash for his son’s bail
And offered all his place.
A noble spring
Under the oak root cooled his milk and butter.
He called me “honey,” working with us there
(My father bought three acres as a gift),
His wife pale, hair a country orange, voice
Uncanny, like a ghost’s, through the open door
Behind her, chickens scratching on the floor.
Barred Rocks, our chickens; one, a rooster, splendid
Sliver and grey, red comb and long sharp spurs,
Once chased Aunt Jennie as far as the daphne bed
The two big king snakes were familiars of.
My father’s dog would challenge him sometimes
To laughter and applause.
Once, in Stone Mountain,
Travelers, stopped for gas, drove off with Smokey;
Angrily, grievingly, leaving his work, my father
Traced the car and found them way far south,
Had them arrested and, bringing Smokey home,
Was proud as Sherlock Holmes, and happier.
Above the spring, my sister’s cats, black Amy,
Grey Junior, down to meet us.
The rose trees,
Domestic, Asiatic, my father’s favorites.
The bridge, marauding dragonflies, the bullfrog,
Camellias cracked and blackened by the freeze,
Bay tree, mimosa, mountain laurel, apple,
Monkey pine twenty feet high, banana shrub,
The owls’ tall pine curved like a flattened S.
The pump house Mort and I built block by block,
Smooth concrete floor, roof pale aluminum
Half-covered by a clematis, the pump
Thirty feet down the mountain’s granite foot.
Mort was the hired man sent to us by Fortune,
Childlike enough to lead us.
He brought home,
Although he could not even drive a tractor,
Cheated, a worthless car, which we returned.
When, at the trial to garnishee his wages,
Frank Guess, the judge, Grandmother’s longtime neighbor,
Whose children my mother taught in Cradle Roll,
Heard Mort’s examination, he broke in
As if in disbelief on the bank’s attorneys:
“Gentlemen, must we continue this charade?”
Finally, past the compost heap, the garden,
Tomatoes and sweet corn for succotash,
Okra for frying, Kentucky Wonders, limas,
Cucumbers, squashes, leeks heaped round with soil,
Lavender, dill, parsley, and rosemary,
Tithonia and zinnias between the rows;
The greenhouse by the rock wall, used for cuttings
In late spring, frames to grow them strong for planting
Through winter into summer.
Early one morning
Mort called out, lying helpless by the bridge.
His ashes we let drift where the magnolia
We planted as a stem divides the path
The others lie, too young, at Silver Hill,
Except my mother.
Ninety-five, she lives
Three thousand miles away, beside the bare
Pacific, in rooms that overlook the Mission,
The Riviera, and the silver range
La Cumbre east.
And one druidic live oak guard the view.
Proudly around the walls, she shows her paintings
Of twenty years ago: the great oak’s arm
Extended, Zeuslike, straight and strong, wisteria
Tangled among the branches, amaryllis
Around the base; her cat, UC, at ease
In marigolds; the weeping cherry, pink
And white arms like a blessing to the blue
Bird feeder Mort made; cabin, scarlet sweet gum
Superb when tribes migrated north and south.
Alert, still quick of speech, a little blind,
Active, ready for laughter, open to fear,
Pity, and wonder that such things may be,
Some Sundays, I think, she must walk the line,
Aunt Jennie, too, if she were still alive,
And Eleanor, whose story is untold,
Their presences like muses, prompting me
In my small study, all listening to the sea,
All of one mind, the true posterity.
Annie Finch |
HLF, August 8, 1918—August 22, 1997
“Bequeath us to no earthly shore until
Is answered in the vortex of our grave
The seal’s wide spindrift gaze towards paradise.
—Hart Crane, “Voyages”
“If a lion could talk, we couldn’t understand it”
Under the ocean that stretches out wordlessly
past the long edge of the last human shore,
there are deep windows the waves haven't opened,
where night is reflected through decades of glass.
There is the nursery, there is the nanny,
there are my father’s unreachable eyes
turned towards the window.
Is the child uneasy?
His is the death that is circling the stars.
In the deep room where candles burn soundlessly
and peace pours at last through the cells of our bodies,
three of us are watching, one of us is staring
with the wide gaze of a wild, wave-fed seal.
Incense and sage speak in smoke loud as waves,
and crickets sing sand towards the edge of the hourglass.
We wait outside time, while night collects courage
The vigil is wordless.
watch the longest, move the farthest, besieged by your breath,
pulling into your body.
You stare towards your death,
head arched on the pillow, your left fingers curled.
Your mouth sucking gently, unmoved by these hours
and their vigil of salt spray, you show us how far
you are going, and how long the long minutes are,
while spiralling night watches over the room
and takes you, until you watch us in turn.
Lions speak their own language.
You are still breathing.
Here is release.
Here is your pillow,
cool like a handkerchief pressed in a pocket.
Here is your white tousled long growing hair.
Here is a kiss on your temple to hold you
safe through your solitude’s long steady war;
here, you can go.
We will stay with you,
keeping the silence we all came here for.
Night, take his left hand, turning the pages.
Spin with the windows and doors that he mended.
Spin with his answers, patient, impatient.
Spin with his dry independence, his arms
warmed by the needs of his family, his hands
flying under the wide, carved gold ring, and the pages
flying so his thought could fly.
His breath slows,
lending its edges out to the night.
Here is his open mouth.
Silence is here
like one more new question that he will not answer.
A leaf is his temple.
The dark is the prayer.
He has given his body; his hand lies above
the sheets in a symbol of wholeness, a curve
of thumb and forefinger, ringed with wide gold,
and the instant that empties his breath is a flame
faced with a sudden cathedral's new stone.
Thomas Gray |
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening-care;
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke:
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle, and fretted vault,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre;
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of Time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village-Hampden that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.
Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,
Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the Gates of Mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by th' unlettered Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing ling'ring look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonoured dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall enquire thy fate,—
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say
"Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;
"There at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noon-tide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
"Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt'ring his wayward fancies would he rove;
Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love.
"One morn I missed him from the customed hill,
Along the heath, and near his fav'rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he:
"The next, with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,—
Approach and read, for thou can'st read, the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.
Here rests his head upon the lap of earth
A Youth, to Fortune and to Fame unknown:
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy marked him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery (all he had) a tear,
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wished) a friend.
No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God.