Walt Whitman |
Always our own feuillage!
Always Florida’s green peninsula! Always the priceless delta of Louisiana! Always the
cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas!
Always California’s golden hills and hollows—and the silver mountains of New
Always soft-breath’d Cuba!
Always the vast slope drain’d by the Southern Sea—inseparable with the slopes
by the Eastern and Western Seas;
The area the eighty-third year of These States—the three and a half millions of
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the main—the thirty
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same number of dwellings—Always
more, branching forth into numberless branches;
Always the free range and diversity! always the continent of Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travelers, Kanada, the snows;
Always these compact lands—lands tied at the hips with the belt stringing the huge
Always the West, with strong native persons—the increasing density there—the
friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East—all deeds, promiscuously done at all times,
All characters, movements, growths—a few noticed, myriads unnoticed,
Through Mannahatta’s streets I walking, these things gathering;
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats wooding up;
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and on the valleys of the Potomac and
Rappahannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke and Delaware;
In their northerly wilds, beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks, the hills—or
Saginaw waters to drink;
In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock, sitting on the water, rocking
In farmers’ barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest labor done—they rest
standing—they are too tired;
Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily, while her cubs play around;
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail’d—the farthest polar sea, ripply,
crystalline, open, beyond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the tempest dashes;
On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all strike midnight together;
In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding—the howl of the wolf, the scream
panther, and the hoarse bellow of the elk;
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead Lake—in summer visible through the
waters, the great trout swimming;
In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas, the large black buzzard floating
beyond the tree tops,
Below, the red cedar, festoon’d with tylandria—the pines and cypresses, growing
white sand that spreads far and flat;
Rude boats descending the big Pedee—climbing plants, parasites, with color’d
berries, enveloping huge trees,
The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and low, noiselessly waved by the wind;
The camp of Georgia wagoners, just after dark—the supper-fires, and the cooking and
whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons—the mules, cattle, horses, feeding from troughs,
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore-trees—the
black smoke from the pitch-pine, curling and rising;
Southern fishermen fishing—the sounds and inlets of North Carolina’s
shad-fishery and the herring-fishery—the large sweep-seines—the windlasses on
work’d by horses—the clearing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine dropping from the incisions in the
are the turpentine works,
There are the negroes at work, in good health—the ground in all directions is
—In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coalings, at the forge, by the
at the corn-shucking;
In Virginia, the planter’s son returning after a long absence, joyfully welcom’d
kiss’d by the aged mulatto nurse;
On rivers, boatmen safely moor’d at night-fall, in their boats, under shelter of high
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or fiddle—others sit on the
smoking and talking;
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing in the Great Dismal
Swamp—there are the greenish waters, the resinous odor, the plenteous moss, the
and the juniper tree;
—Northward, young men of Mannahatta—the target company from an excursion
evening—the musket-muzzles all bear bunches of flowers presented by women;
Children at play—or on his father’s lap a young boy fallen asleep, (how his lips
he smiles in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the Mississippi—he ascends a
sweeps his eye around;
California life—the miner, bearded, dress’d in his rude costume—the stanch
friendship—the sweet air—the graves one, in passing, meets, solitary, just
Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins—drivers driving mules or oxen
carts—cotton bales piled on banks and wharves;
Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the American Soul, with equal
one Dilation or Pride;
—In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the aborigines—the calumet, the
good-will, arbitration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then toward the earth,
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and guttural exclamations,
The setting out of the war-party—the long and stealthy march,
The single-file—the swinging hatchets—the surprise and slaughter of enemies;
—All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of These States—reminiscences,
All These States, compact—Every square mile of These States, without excepting a
particle—you also—me also,
Me pleas’d, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok’s fields,
Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow butterflies, shuffling between each
ascending high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects—the fall traveler southward, but
northward early in the spring;
The country boy at the close of the day, driving the herd of cows, and shouting to them as
loiter to browse by the road-side;
The city wharf—Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, San
The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the capstan;
—Evening—me in my room—the setting sun,
The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the swarm of flies, suspended,
in the air in the centre of the room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows
on the opposite wall, where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to crowds of listeners;
Males, females, immigrants, combinations—the copiousness—the individuality of
each for itself—the money-makers;
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the windlass, lever, pulley—All
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,
In space, the sporades, the scatter’d islands, the stars—on the firm earth, the
O lands! all so dear to me—what you are, (whatever it is,) I become a part of that,
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slowly flapping, with the myriads of gulls
the coasts of Florida—or in Louisiana, with pelicans breeding;
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the Rio Grande, the Nueces, the
Tombigbee, the Red River, the Saskatchawan, or the Osage, I with the spring waters
skipping and running;
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I, with parties of snowy herons
the wet to seek worms and aquatic plants;
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from piercing the crow with its bill,
amusement—And I triumphantly twittering;
The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh themselves—the body
flock feed—the sentinels outside move around with erect heads watching, and are from
time reliev’d by other sentinels—And I feeding and taking turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, corner’d by hunters, rising
hind-feet, and plunging with his fore-feet, the hoofs as sharp as knives—And I,
hunters, corner’d and desperate;
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the countless workmen
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof—and no less in myself than the whole of
Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands—my body no more inevitably united,
part, and made one identity, any more than my lands are inevitably united, and made ONE
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great Pastoral Plains;
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and evil—these me,
These affording, in all their particulars, endless feuillage to me and to America, how can
than pass the clew of the union of them, to afford the like to you?
Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you also be eligible as I am?
How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for yourself to collect bouquets of the
feuillage of These States?
Alexander Pushkin |
In lakeside leafy groves, a friar
Escaped all worries; there he passed
His summer days in constant prayer,
Deep studies and eternal fast.
Already with a humble shovel
The elder dug himself a grave -
As, calling saints to bless his hovel,
Death - nothing other - did he crave.
So once, upon a falling night, he
Was bowing by his wilted shack
With meekest prayer to the Almighty.
The grove was turning slowly black;
Above the lake a mist was lifting;
Through milky clouds across the sky
The ruddy moon was softly drifting,
When water drew the friar's eye.
He's looking puzzled, full of trouble,
Of fear he cannot quite explain,
He sees the waves begin to bubble
And suddenly grow calm again.
Then -- white as first snow in the highlands,
Light-footed as nocturnal shade,
There comes ashore, and sits in silence
Upon the bank, a naked maid.
She eyes the monk and brushes gently
Her hair, and water off her arms.
He shakes with fear and looks intently
At her, and at her lovely charms.
With eager hand she waves and beckons,
Nods quickly, smiles as from afar
And shoots, within two flashing seconds,
Into still water like a star.
The glum old man slept not an instant;
All day, not even once he prayed:
Before his eyes still hung and glistened
The wondrous, the relentless shade.
The grove puts on its gown of nightfall;
The moon walks on the cloudy floor;
And there's the maiden - pale, delightful,
Reclining on the spellbound shore.
She looks at him, her hair she brushes,
Blows airy kisses, gestures wild,
Plays with the waves - caresses, splashes -
Now laughs, now whimpers like a child,
Moans tenderly, calls louder, louder.
"Come, monk, come, monk! To me, to me!.
Then - disappears in limpid water,
And all is silent instantly.
On the third day the zealous hermit
Was sitting by the shore, in love,
Awaiting the delightful mermaid,
As shade was covering the grove.
Dark ceded to the sun's emergence;
Our monk had wholly disappeared -
Before a crowd of local urchins,
While fishing, found his hoary beard.
Translated by: Genia Gurarie, summer of 1995
Copyright retained by Genia Gurarie.
For permission to reproduce, write personally to the translator.
Robert Frost |
To drive Paul out of any lumber camp
All that was needed was to say to him,
"How is the wife, Paul?"--and he'd disappear.
Some said it was because be bad no wife,
And hated to be twitted on the subject;
Others because he'd come within a day
Or so of having one, and then been Jilted;
Others because he'd had one once, a good one,
Who'd run away with someone else and left him;
And others still because he had one now
He only had to be reminded of--
He was all duty to her in a minute:
He had to run right off to look her up,
As if to say, "That's so, how is my wife?
I hope she isn't getting into mischief.
No one was anxious to get rid of Paul.
He'd been the hero of the mountain camps
Ever since, just to show them, he bad slipped
The bark of a whole tamarack off whole
As clean as boys do off a willow twig
To make a willow whistle on a Sunday
April by subsiding meadow brooks.
They seemed to ask him just to see him go,
"How is the wife, Paul?" and he always went.
He never stopped to murder anyone
Who asked the question.
He just disappeared--
Nobody knew in what direction,
Although it wasn't usually long
Before they beard of him in some new camp,
The same Paul at the same old feats of logging.
The question everywhere was why should Paul
Object to being asked a civil question--
A man you could say almost anything to
Short of a fighting word.
You have the answers.
And there was one more not so fair to Paul:
That Paul had married a wife not his equal.
Paul was ashamed of her.
To match a hero
She would have had to be a heroine;
Instead of which she was some half-breed squaw.
But if the story Murphy told was true,
She wasn't anything to be ashamed of.
You know Paul could do wonders.
Heard how he thrashed the horses on a load
That wouldn't budge, until they simply stretched
Their rawhide harness from the load to camp.
Paul told the boss the load would be all right,
"The sun will bring your load in"--and it did--
By shrinking the rawhide to natural length.
That's what is called a stretcher.
But I guess
The one about his jumping so's to land
With both his feet at once against the ceiling,
And then land safely right side up again,
Back on the floor, is fact or pretty near fact.
Well, this is such a yarn.
Paul sawed his wife
Out of a white-pine log.
Murphy was there
And, as you might say, saw the lady born.
Paul worked at anything in lumbering.
He'd been bard at it taking boards away
For--I forget--the last ambitious sawyer
To want to find out if he couldn't pile
The lumber on Paul till Paul begged for mercy.
They'd sliced the first slab off a big butt log,
And the sawyer had slammed the carriage back
To slam end-on again against the saw teeth.
To judge them by the way they caught themselves
When they saw what had happened to the log,
They must have had a guilty expectation
Something was going to go with their slambanging.
Something bad left a broad black streak of grease
On the new wood the whole length of the log
Except, perhaps, a foot at either end.
But when Paul put his finger in the grease,
It wasn't grease at all, but a long slot.
The log was hollow.
They were sawing pine.
"First time I ever saw a hollow pine.
That comes of having Paul around the place.
Take it to bell for me," the sawyer said.
Everyone had to have a look at it
And tell Paul what he ought to do about it.
(They treated it as his.
) "You take a jackknife,
And spread the opening, and you've got a dugout
All dug to go a-fishing in.
" To Paul
The hollow looked too sound and clean and empty
Ever to have housed birds or beasts or bees.
There was no entrance for them to get in by.
It looked to him like some new kind of hollow
He thought he'd better take his jackknife to.
So after work that evening be came back
And let enough light into it by cutting
To see if it was empty.
He made out in there
A slender length of pith, or was it pith?
It might have been the skin a snake had cast
And left stood up on end inside the tree
The hundred years the tree must have been growing.
More cutting and he bad this in both hands,
And looking from it to the pond nearby,
Paul wondered how it would respond to water.
Not a breeze stirred, but just the breath of air
He made in walking slowly to the beach
Blew it once off his hands and almost broke it.
He laid it at the edge, where it could drink.
At the first drink it rustled and grew limp.
At the next drink it grew invisible.
Paul dragged the shallows for it with his fingers,
And thought it must have melted.
It was gone.
And then beyond the open water, dim with midges,
Where the log drive lay pressed against the boom,
It slowly rose a person, rose a girl,
Her wet hair heavy on her like a helmet,
Who, leaning on a log, looked back at Paul.
And that made Paul in turn look back
To see if it was anyone behind him
That she was looking at instead of him.
(Murphy had been there watching all the time,
But from a shed where neither of them could see him.
There was a moment of suspense in birth
When the girl seemed too waterlogged to live,
Before she caught her first breath with a gasp
Then she climbed slowly to her feet,
And walked off, talking to herself or Paul,
Across the logs like backs of alligators,
Paul taking after her around the pond.
Next evening Murphy and some other fellows
Got drunk, and tracked the pair up Catamount,
From the bare top of which there is a view
TO other hills across a kettle valley.
And there, well after dark, let Murphy tell it,
They saw Paul and his creature keeping house.
It was the only glimpse that anyone
Has had of Paul and her since Murphy saw them
Falling in love across the twilight millpond.
More than a mile across the wilderness
They sat together halfway up a cliff
In a small niche let into it, the girl
Brightly, as if a star played on the place,
Paul darkly, like her shadow.
All the light
Was from the girl herself, though, not from a star,
As was apparent from what happened next.
All those great ruffians put their throats together,
And let out a loud yell, and threw a bottle,
As a brute tribute of respect to beauty.
Of course the bottle fell short by a mile,
But the shout reached the girl and put her light out.
She went out like a firefly, and that was all.
So there were witnesses that Paul was married
And not to anyone to be ashamed of
Everyone had been wrong in judging Paul.
Murphy told me Paul put on all those airs
About his wife to keep her to himself.
Paul was what's called a terrible possessor.
Owning a wife with him meant owning her.
She wasn't anybody else's business,
Either to praise her or much as name her,
And he'd thank people not to think of her.
Murphy's idea was that a man like Paul
Wouldn't be spoken to about a wife
In any way the world knew how to speak.
Charles Bukowski |
call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
and there was HAIL
big ROCKS OF ICE
exploding smashing into things
and the rain
and all the roofs leaked-
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in
the jobless men went mad
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
the legs, the knees, the
"I'll kill you," I screamed
"You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
all the households were under
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against
the scarred window
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would
and it always seemed to
around 5 or 6 a.
but not an exact silence
because things continued to
and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them
and gobbled them
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
the men stood on their porches
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't
there, to start that car
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
trying to put their world back
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
wondering what they could
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds
are too wet.
"AW!" most of the boys
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was
in the California
the the recess bells rang
and we all waited for the
Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!.
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds
will be dry
and we will put them
most of the boys
and the little girls
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that
the world might never see
William Topaz McGonagall |
A pathetic tale of the sea I will unfold,
Enough to make one's blood run cold;
Concerning four fishermen cast adrift in a dory.
As I've been told I'll relate the story.
T'was on the 8th April on the afternoon of that day
That the village of Louisburg was thrown into a wild state or dismay,
And the villagers flew to the beach in a state of wild uproar
And in a dory they found four men were cast ashore.
Then the villagers, in surprise assembled about the dory,
And they found that the bottom of the boat was gory;
Then their hearts were seized with sudden dread,
when they discovered that two of the men were dead.
And the two survivors were exhausted from exposure, hunger, and cold,
Which used the spectators to shudder when them they did behold;
And with hunger the poor men couldn't stand on their feet,
They felt so weakly on their legs for want of meat.
They were carried to a boarding-house without delay,
But those that were looking on were stricken with dismay,
When the remains of James and Angus McDonald were found in the boat,
Likewise three pieces or flesh in a pool or blood afloat.
Angus McDonald's right arm was missing from the elbow,
and the throat was cut in a sickening manner which filled the villagers hearts with woe,
Especially when they saw two pieces of flesh had been cut from each thigh,
'Twas then the kind-hearted villagers did murmur and sigh.
Angus McDonald must have felt the pangs of hunger before he did try
to cut two pieces of fiesh from James McDonald's thigh,
But, Oh heaven! the pangs of hunger are very hard to thole,
And anything that's eatable is precious unto an hungry soul.
Alas it is most pitiful and horrible to think
That with hunger christians will each other's blood drink
And eat each other's flesh to save themselves from starvation;
But the pangs or hunger makes them mad, and drives them to desperation.
An old American soldier that had passed through the Civil War,
Declared the scene surpassed anything he's seen by far,
And at the sight, the crowd in horror turned away,
which no doubt they will remember for many a day.
Colin Chisholm, one of the survivors was looking very pale,
Stretched on a sofa at the boarding-house, making his wail:
Poor fellow! his feet was greatly swollen, and with a melancholy air,
He gave the following account of the distressing affair:
We belonged to the American fishing schooner named "Cicely",
And our captain was a brave man, called McKenzie;
And the vessel had fourteen hands altogether
And during the passage we had favourable weather.
'Twas on March the 17th we sailed from Gloucester on the Wednesday
And all our hearts felt buoyant and gay;
And we arrived on the Western banks on the succeeding Tuesday,
While the time unto us seemed to pass merrily away.
About eight O'clock in the morning, we left the vessel in a dory,
And I hope all kind christians will take heed to my story;
Well, while we were at our work, the sky began to frown,
And with a dense fog we were suddenly shut down
Then we hunted and shouted, and every nerve did strain,
Thinking to find our schooner but, alas! it was all in vain:
Because the thick fog hid the vessel from our view,
And to keep ourselves warm we closely to each other drew.
We had not one drop of water , nor provisions of any kind,
Which, alas soon began to tell on our mind;
Especially upon James McDonald who was very thinly clad,
And with the cold and hunger he felt almost mad.
And looking from the stern where he was lying,
he said Good bye, mates, Oh! I am dying!
Poor fellow we kept his body thinking the rest of us would be saved,
Then, with hunger, Angus McDonald began to cry and madly raved.
And he cried, Oh, God! send us some kind of meat,
Because I'm resolved to have something to eat;
Oh! do not let us starve on the briny flood
Or else I will drink of poor Jim's blood.
Then he suddenly seized his knife and cut off poor Jim's arm,
Not thinking in his madness he'd done any harm;
Then poor Jim's blood he did drink and his flesh did eat,
Declaring that the blood tasted like cream, and was a treat.
Then he asked me to taste it, saying It was good without doubt,
Then I tasted it, but in disgust I instantly spat it out;
Saying, if I was to die within an hour on the briny flood,
I would neither eat the flesh nor drink the blood.
Then in the afternoon again he turned to me,
Saying, I'm going to cut Jim's throat for more blood d'ye see;
Then I begged of him, for God's sake not to cut the throat of poor Jim,
But he cried, Ha! ha! to save my own life I consider it no sin.
I tried to prevent him but he struck me without dismay
And cut poor Jim's throat in defiance of me, or all I could say,
Also a piece of flesh from each thigh, and began to eat away,
But poor fellow he sickened about noon, and died on the Sunday.
Now it is all over and I will thank all my life,
Who has preserved me and my mate, McEachern, in the midst of danger and strife;
And I hope that all landsmen of low and high degree,
Will think of the hardships of poor mariners while at sea.
Billy Collins |
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
Les Murray |
To go home and wear shorts forever
in the enormous paddocks, in that warm climate,
adding a sweater when winter soaks the grass,
to camp out along the river bends
for good, wearing shorts, with a pocketknife,
a fishing line and matches,
or there where the hills are all down, below the plain,
to sit around in shorts at evening
on the plank verandah -
If the cardinal points of costume
are Robes, Tat, Rig and Scunge,
where are shorts in this compass?
They are never Robes
as other bareleg outfits have been:
the toga, the kilt, the lava-lava
the Mahatma's cotton dhoti;
archbishops and field marshals
at their ceremonies never wear shorts.
The very word
means underpants in North America.
Shorts can be Tat,
Land-Rovering bush-environmental tat,
socio-political ripped-and-metal-stapled tat,
solidarity-with-the-Third World tat tvam asi,
likewise track-and-field shorts worn to parties
and the further humid, modelling negligee
of the Kingdom of Flaunt,
that unchallenged aristocracy.
More plainly climatic, shorts
are farmers' rig, leathery with salt and bonemeal;
are sailors' and branch bankers' rig,
the crisp golfing style
of our youngest male National Costume.
Most loosely, they are Scunge,
ancient Bengal bloomers or moth-eaten hot pants
worn with a former shirt,
feet, beach sand, hair
and a paucity of signals.
Scunge, which is real negligee
housework in a swimsuit, pyjamas worn all day,
is holiday, is freedom from ambition.
Scunge makes you invisible
to the world and yourself.
The entropy of costume,
scunge can get you conquered by more vigorous cultures
and help you notice it less.
To be or to become
is a serious question posed by a work-shorts counter
with its pressed stack, bulk khaki and blue,
reading Yakka or King Gee, crisp with steely warehouse odour.
Satisfied ambition, defeat, true unconcern,
the wish and the knack of self-forgetfulness
all fall within the scunge ambit
wearing board shorts of similar;
it is a kind of weightlessness.
Unlike public nakedness, which in Westerners
is deeply circumstantial, relaxed as exam time,
artless and equal as the corsetry of a hussar regiment,
shorts and their plain like
are an angelic nudity,
spirituality with pockets!
A double updraft as you drop from branch to pool!
Ideal for getting served last
in shops of the temperate zone
they are also ideal for going home, into space,
into time, to farm the mind's Sabine acres
for product and subsistence.
Now that everyone who yearned to wear long pants
has essentially achieved them,
long pants, which have themselves been underwear
repeatedly, and underground more than once,
it is time perhaps to cherish the culture of shorts,
to moderate grim vigour
with the knobble of bare knees,
to cool bareknuckle feet in inland water,
slapping flies with a book on solar wind
or a patient bare hand, beneath the cadjiput trees,
to be walking meditatively
among green timber, through the grassy forest
towards a calm sea
and looking across to more of that great island
and the further tropics.
Anne Sexton |
The end of the affair is always death.
She's my workshop.
out of the tribe of myself my breath
finds you gone.
those who stand by.
I am fed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Finger to finger, now she's mine.
She's not too far.
She's my encounter.
I beat her like a bell.
in the bower where you used to mount her.
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Take for instance this night, my love,
that every single couple puts together
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,
the abundant two on sponge and feather,
kneeling and pushing, head to head.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
I break out of my body this way,
an annoying miracle.
put the dream market on display?
I am spread out.
My little plum is what you said.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,
a piano at her fingertips, shame
on her lips and a flute's speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
She took you the way a women takes
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.
Today's paper says that you are wed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses.
They unzip flies.
They take off shoes.
They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other.
They are overfed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.
John Ashbery |
Something strange is creeping across me.
La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars
Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from
Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can
Of Rumford's Baking Powder, a celluloid earring, Speedy
Gonzales, the latest from Helen Topping Miller's fertile
Escritoire, a sheaf of suggestive pix on greige, deckle-edged
Stock--to come clattering through the rainbow trellis
Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland
He promised he'd get me out of this one,
That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he's
Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug's attenuated
Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so déconfit
Are its lineaments--fun, no doubt, for some quack phrenologist's
Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you'd call
But everything is getting choked to the point of
Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds' garage, reducing it--drastically--
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover.
Suddenly all is
I don't want to go back inside any more.
Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island--no,
Not people, comings and goings, more: mutterings, splatterings,
The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of
Vegetal jacqueries, plumed, pointed at the little
White cardboard castle over the mill run.
The lazy river, how happy we could be?"
How will it end? That geranium glow
Over Anaheim's had the riot act read to it by the
Etna-size firecracker that exploded last minute into
A carte du Tendre in whose lower right-hand corner
(Hard by the jock-itch sand-trap that skirts
The asparagus patch of algolagnic nuits blanches) Amadis
Is cozening the Princesse de Cleves into a midnight
On the Tamigi with the Wallets (Walt, Blossom, and little
Sleezix) on a lamé barge "borrowed" from Ollie
Of the Movies' dread mistress of the robes.
I have an announcement! This wide, tepidly meandering,
Civilized Lethe (one can barely make out the maypoles
And châlets de nécessitê on its sedgy shore)
leads to Tophet, that
Landfill-haunted, not-so-residential resort from which
Some travellers return! This whole moment is the groin
Of a borborygmic giant who even now
Is rolling over on us in his sleep.
The allegory comes unsnarled
Too soon; a shower of pecky acajou harpoons is
About all there is to be noted between tornadoes.
Only my intermittent life in your thoughts to live
Which is like thinking in another language.
Depends on whether somebody reminds you of me.
That this is a fabulation, and that those "other times"
Are in fact the silences of the soul, picked out in
Diamonds on stygian velvet, matters less than it should.
Prodigies of timing may be arranged to convince them
We live in one dimension, they in ours.
Abroad through all the coasts of dark destruction seek
Deliverance for us all, think in that language: its
Grammar, though tortured, offers pavillions
At each new parting of the ways.
Ambulances scoop up the quick and hie them to hospitals.
"It's all bits and pieces, spangles, patches, really; nothing
What happened to creative evolution?"
Then to her Sélysette: "If his
Achievement is only to end up less boring than the others,
What's keeping us here? Why not leave at once?
I have to stay here while they sit in there,
Laugh, drink, have fine time.
In my day
One lay under the tough green leaves,
Pretending not to notice how they bled into
The sky's aqua, the wafted-away no-color of regions supposed
Not to concern us.
And so we too
Came where the others came: nights of physical endurance,
Or if, by day, our behavior was anarchically
Correct, at least by New Brutalism standards, all then
Grew taciturn by previous agreement.
We were spirited
Away en bateau, under cover of fudge dark.
It's not the incomplete importunes, but the spookiness
Of the finished product.
True, to ask less were folly, yet
If he is the result of himself, how much the better
For him we ought to be! And how little, finally,
We take this into account! Is the puckered garance satin
Of a case that once held a brace of dueling pistols our
Only acknowledging of that color? I like not this,
Methinks, yet this disappointing sequel to ourselves
Has been applauded in London and St.
Ravens pray for us.
" The storm finished brewing.
She questioned all who came in at the great gate, but none
She found who ever heard of Amadis,
Nor of stern Aureng-Zebe, his first love.
They were to whom this mattered not a jot: since all
By definition is completeness (so
In utter darkness they reasoned), why not
Accept it as it pleases to reveal itself? As when
Low skyscrapers from lower-hanging clouds reveal
A turret there, an art-deco escarpment here, and last perhaps
The pattern that may carry the sense, but
Stays hidden in the mysteries of pagination.
Not what we see but how we see it matters; all's
Alike, the same, and we greet him who announces
The change as we would greet the change itself.
All life is but a figment; conversely, the tiny
Tome that slips from your hand is not perhaps the
Missing link in this invisible picnic whose leverage
Shrouds our sense of it.
Therefore bivouac we
On this great, blond highway, unimpeded by
Veiled scruples, worn conundrums.
Grab sex things, swing up
Over the horizon like a boy
On a fishing expedition.
No one really knows
Or cares whether this is the whole of which parts
Were vouchsafed--once--but to be ambling on's
The tradition more than the safekeeping of it.
This mulch for
Play keeps them interested and busy while the big,
Vaguer stuff can decide what it wants--what maps, what
Model cities, how much waste space.
Life anyway, is between.
We don't mind
Or notice any more that the sky is green, a parrot
One, but have our earnest where it chances on us,
Disingenuous, intrigued, inviting more,
Always invoking the echo, a summer's day.
Seamus Heaney |
As you plaited the harvest bow
You implicated the mellowed silence in you
In wheat that does not rust
But brightens as it tightens twist by twist
Into a knowable corona,
A throwaway love-knot of straw.
Hands that aged round ashplants and cane sticks
And lapped the spurs on a lifetime of game cocks
Harked to their gift and worked with fine intent
Until your fingers moved somnambulant:
I tell and finger it like braille,
Gleaning the unsaid off the palpable,
And if I spy into its golden loops
I see us walk between the railway slopes
Into an evening of long grass and midges,
Blue smoke straight up, old beds and ploughs in hedges,
An auction notice on an outhouse wall--
You with a harvest bow in your lapel,
Me with the fishing rod, already homesick
For the big lift of these evenings, as your stick
Whacking the tips off weeds and bushes
Beats out of time, and beats, but flushes
Nothing: that original townland
Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your hand.
The end of art is peace
Could be the motto of this frail device
That I have pinned up on our deal dresser--
Like a drawn snare
Slipped lately by the spirit of the corn
Yet burnished by its passage, and still warm.