William Shakespeare |
Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.
But thou, shrieking harbinger,
Foul pre-currer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever's end,
To this troop come thou not near.
From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather'd king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.
Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-defying swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.
And thou, treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak'st
With the breath thou giv'st and tak'st,
'Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.
Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.
So they lov'd, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.
Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
'Twixt the turtle and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.
So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix' sight:
Either was the other's mine.
Property was thus appall'd,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature's double name
Neither two nor one was call'd.
Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either-neither,
Simple were so well compounded.
That it cried how true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none
If what parts can so remain.
Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.
Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos'd in cinders lie.
Death is now the phoenix' nest;
And the turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,
Leaving no posterity:--
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.
Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.
To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.
Marilyn Hacker |
It is the boy in me who's looking out
the window, while someone across the street
mends a pillowcase, clouds shift, the gutter spout
pours rain, someone else lights a cigarette?
(Because he flinched, because he didn't whirl
around, face them, because he didn't hurl
the challenge back—"Fascists?"—not "Faggots"—Swine!
he briefly wonders—if he were a girl .
He writes a line.
He crosses out a line.
I'll never be a man, but there's a boy
crossing out words: the rain, the linen-mender,
are all the homework he will do today.
The absence and the priviledge of gender
confound in him, soprano, clumsy, frail.
Not neuter—neutral human, and unmarked,
the younger brother in the fairy tale
except, boys shouted "Jew!" across the park
at him when he was coming home from school.
The book that he just read, about the war,
the partisans, is less a terrible
and thrilling story, more a warning, more
a code, and he must puzzle out the code.
He has short hair, a red sweatshirt.
something about him—that he should be proud
of? That's shameful if it shows?
That got you killed in 1942.
In his story, do the partisans
have sons? Have grandparents? Is he a Jew
more than he is a boy, who'll be a man
someday? Someone who'll never be a man
looks out the window at the rain he thought
He reads the sentence he began.
He writes down something that he crosses out.
Amy Clampitt |
past parentage or gender
beyond sung vocables
the so infinitesimal
beyond the woven
unicorn the maiden
God at her hip
bluebell and primrose
growing wild a strawberry
chagrin night terrors
past the earthlit
(we shall be changed)
a silence opens
the larval feeder
naked hairy ravenous
inventing from within
itself its own
behind the mask
the milkfat shivering
greed to reinvest
names have been
gives birth to
who saw in it
love of God
Mark Doty |
When I heard he had entered the harbor,
and circled the wharf for days,
I expected the worst: shallow water,
confusion, some accident to bring
the young humpback to grief.
Don't they depend on a compass
lodged in the salt-flooded folds
of the brain, some delicate
musical mechanism to navigate
their true course? How many ways,
in our century's late iron hours,
might we have led him to disaster?
That, in those days, was how
I'd come to see the world:
dark upon dark, any sense
of spirit an embattled flame
sparked against wind-driven rain
till pain snuffed it out.
This is what experience gives us ,
and I moved carefully through my life
while I waited.
it wasn't that way at all.
—exuberant, proud maybe, playful,
like the early music of Beethoven—
cruised the footings for smelts
clustered near the pylons
in mercury flocks.
(do I have the gender right?)
would negotiate the rusty hulls
of the Portuguese fishing boats
—Holy Infant, Little Marie—
with what could only be read
as pleasure, coming close
then diving, trailing on the surface
big spreading circles
until he'd breach, thrilling us
with the release of pressured breath,
and the bulk of his sleek young head
—a wet black leather sofa
already barnacled with ghostly lice—
and his elegant and unlikely mouth,
and the marvelous afterthought of the flukes,
and the way his broad flippers
resembled a pair of clownish gloves
or puppet hands, looming greenish white
beneath the bay's clouded sheen.
When he had consumed his pleasure
of the shimmering swarm, his pleasure, perhaps,
in his own admired performance,
he swam out the harbor mouth,
into the Atlantic.
And though grief
has seemed to me itself a dim,
salt suspension in which I've moved,
blind thing, day by day,
through the wreckage, barely aware
of what I stumbled toward, even I
couldn't help but look
at the way this immense figure
graces the dark medium,
and shines so: heaviness
which is no burden to itself.
What did you think, that joy
was some slight thing?
Anne Sexton |
I was tired of being a woman,
tired of the spoons and the post,
tired of my mouth and my breasts,
tired of the cosmetics and the silks.
There were still men who sat at my table,
circled around the bowl I offered up.
The bowl was filled with purple grapes
and the flies hovered in for the scent
and even my father came with his white bone.
But I was tired of the gender things.
Last night I had a dream
and I said to it.
"You are the answer.
You will outlive my husband and my father.
In that dream there was a city made of chains
where Joan was put to death in man's clothes
and the nature of the angels went unexplained,
no two made in the same species,
one with a nose, one with an ear in its hand,
one chewing a star and recording its orbit,
each one like a poem obeying itself,
performing God's functions,
a people apart.
"You are the answer,"
I said, and entered,
lying down on the gates of the city.
Then the chains were fastened around me
and I lost my common gender and my final aspect.
Adam was on the left of me
and Eve was on the right of me,
both thoroughly inconsistent with the world of reason.
We wove our arms together
and rode under the sun.
I was not a woman anymore,
not one thing or the other.
O daughters of Jerusalem,
the king has brought me into his chamber.
I am black and I am beautiful.
I've been opened and undressed.
I have no arms or legs.
I'm all one skin like a fish.
I'm no more a woman
than Christ was a man.
Eugene Field |
The little French doll was a dear little doll
Tricked out in the sweetest of dresses;
Her eyes were of hue
A most delicate blue
And dark as the night were her tresses;
Her dear little mouth was fluted and red,
And this little French doll was so very well bred
That whenever accosted her little mouth said
The stockinet doll, with one arm and one leg,
Had once been a handsome young fellow;
But now he appeared
Rather frowzy and bleared
In his torn regimentals of yellow;
Yet his heart gave a curious thump as he lay
In the little toy cart near the window one day
And heard the sweet voice of that French dolly say:
He listened so long and he listened so hard
That anon he grew ever so tender,
For it's everywhere known
That the feminine tone
Gets away with all masculine gender!
He up and he wooed her with soldierly zest
But all she'd reply to the love he professed
Were these plaintive words (which perhaps you have guessed):
Her mother - a sweet little lady of five -
Vouchsafed her parental protection,
And although stockinet
Wasn't blue-blooded, yet
She really could make no objection!
So soldier and dolly were wedded one day,
And a moment ago, as I journeyed that way,
I'm sure that I heard a wee baby voice say:
Rg Gregory |
(the oldest man in the home) was meek
at the same time ribald
he clothed his matter (so to speak)
in latin and (was it) greek
it caused no great offence
to nobody did it make sense
to make a rude joke
in languages nobody spoke
once he'd changed the word agenda
at a home's committee meeting to pudenda
this sort of thing was tolerated by the other
inmates (except his younger brother -
a dustman all his life
who'd robbed the professor of his wife
and treated him now with disdainful anger
but to everyone piebald was a stranger)
well agenda/pudenda hardly ranked as humour
but there was rumour
piebald was said to have his eye on
nelly (frail and pretty in a feathery fashion
the sort perhaps to rouse a meek man's passion)
she wouldn't talk to him without a tie on
one such occasion burst the bubble
he spoke (no tie on) she demurred
refusing one further word
and so the trouble
piebald went white all over
muttered about being her lover
then shouted in a rage
(nelly whispered be your age)
i - two headed janus -
now pingo your anus
(less janus - i should have thought - than mars)
and pinched the dear frail lady on the ****
who died a second then exploded
swung a punch so loaded
poor old piebald eared it to the floor
the other old ones in the room
(more excited now than when the flowers came out in bloom)
were rushing pushing to the door
the brother stood across the fallen man
in total icy disdain
you academic lily-livered piss of a gnat
he hissed - and spat
into the piebald twitching face
drew back a pace
when wham - a seething body like a flung cat
lifted upwards into space
the younger brother was butted in the belly
(who staggered back hit head and made a dying fall
leaving a small red zigzag down the wall)
then this sizzling flesh-ball
fell on fluttering nelly
tore at her skirt
ripped other clothes apart
began kissing her fervently on her agenda
te amo te amo te amo te amo
(repeating it as though
it was the finest latin phrase he'd learned by heart)
crying abasing himself to her most wanted gender
she more dazed than hurt
clutching the virgin fragments of her skirt
a simpering victim in the rising clamour
old people now outraged beyond controlling
through the swing doors pushing tumbling rolling
armed with saucepans pokers knives
playing the greatest game in all their lives
attacked without compunction
the frenzied lover at his unction
a poker struck him once across the head
and professor piebald
once meek but ribald
dropped down undoubtedly dead
and even when the horror had subsided
and the arms of justice with their maker were abided
nelly stood rocking in her room
weeping for the heart-ache in her womb
that till then had hardly ever fluttered
and (only occasionally) muttered
if you have your eye on
me - my dear man - put your tie on
the home itself was closed a few days after
the house is riddled still by ribald laughter
Ogden Nash |
Some singers sing of ladies' eyes,
And some of ladies lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And course ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.
Just any old kind of food.
Pheasant is pleasant, of course,
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pate or patty or pasty.
But there's nothing the matter with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest greetings I utter
To the ham and the yam and the clam.
For they're food,
And I think very fondly of food.
Through I'm broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
Some painters paint the sapphire sea,
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at play,
But most, the female form.
“Twas trite in that primeval dawn
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments on
Is Life, but is she Art?
By undraped nymphs
I am not wooed;
I'd rather painters painted food.
Just any old kind of food.
Go purloin a sirloin, my pet,
If you'd win a devotion incredible;
And asparagus tips vinaigrette,
Or anything else that is edible.
Bring salad or sausage or scrapple,
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple,
As long as it's something to eat.
If it's food,
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
Andrew Barton Paterson |
Bring me a quart of colonial beer
And some doughy damper to make good cheer,
I must make a heavy dinner;
Heavily dine and heavily sup,
Of indigestible things fill up,
Next month they run the Melbourne Cup,
And I have to dream the winner.
Stoke it in, boys! the half-cooked ham,
The rich ragout and the charming cham.
I've got to mix my liquor;
Give me a gander's gaunt hind leg,
Hard and tough as a wooden peg,
And I'll keep it down with a hard-boiled egg,
'Twill make me dream the quicker.
Now that I'm full of fearful feed,
Oh, but I'll dream of a winner indeed
In my restless, troubled slumber;
While the night-mares race through my heated brain
And their devil-riders spur amain,
The trip for the Cup will reward my pain,
And I'll spot the winning number.
Thousands and thousands and thousands more,
Like sands on the white Pacific shore,
The crowding people cluster;
For evermore is the story old,
While races are bought and backers are sold,
Drawn by the greed of the gain of gold,
In their thousands still they muster.
* * * * *
And the bookies' cries grow fierce and hot,
"I'll lay the Cup! The double, if not!"
"Five monkeys, Little John, sir!"
"Here's fives bar one, I lay, I lay!"
And so they shout through the livelong day,
And stick to the game that is sure to pay,
While fools put money on, sir!
And now in my dream I seem to go
And bet with a "book" that I seem to know --
A Hebrew money-lender;
A million to five is the price I get --
Not bad! but before I book the bet
The horse's name I clean forgret,
Its number and even gender.
Now for the start, and here they come,
And the hoof-strokes roar like a mighty drum
Beat by a hand unsteady;
They come like a rushing, roaring flood,
Hurrah for the speed of the Chester blood;
For Acme is making the pace so good
They are some of 'em done already.
But round the track she begins to tire,
And a mighty shout goes up "Crossfire!"
The magpie jacket's leading;
And Crossfire challenges fierce and bold,
And the lead she'll have and the lead she'll hold,
But at length gives way to the black and gold,
Which right to the front is speeding.
Carry them on and keep it up --
A flying race is the Melbourne Cup,
You must race and stay to win it;
And old Commotion, Victoria's pride,
Now takes the lead with his raking stride,
And a mighty roar goes far and wide --
"There's only Commotion in it!"
But one draws out from the beaten ruck
And up on the rails by a piece of luck
He comes in a style that's clever;
"It's Trident! Trident! Hurrah for Hales!"
"Go at 'em now while their courage fails;"
"Trident! Trident! for New South Wales!"
"The blue and white for ever!"
Under the whip! with the ears flat back,
Under the whip! though the sinews crack,
No sign of the base white feather:
Stick to it now for your breeding's sake,
Stick to it now though your hearts should break,
While the yells and roars make the grand-stand shake,
They come down the straignt together.
Trident slowly forges ahead,
The fierce whips cut and the spurs are red,
The pace is undiminished
Now for the Panics that never fail!
But many a backer's face grows pale
As old Commotion swings his tail
And swerves -- and the Cup is finished.
* * * * *
And now in my dream it all comes back:
I bet my coin on the Sydney crack,
A million I've won, no question!
"Give me my money, you hook-nosed hog!
Give me my money, bookmaking dog!"
But he disappeared in a kind of fog,
And I woke with "the indigestion".
Marvin Bell |
I'm raising the emotional ante,
putting my face
in the leaves to be stepped on,
seeing myself among them, that is;
that is, likening
leaf-vein to artery, leaf to flesh,
the passage of a leaf in autumn
to the passage of autumn,
branch-tip and winter spaces
to possibilities, and possibility
Even on East 61st Street
in the blowzy city of New York,
someone has planted a gingko
because it has leaves like fans like hands,
hand-leaves, and sex.
Chinese hands on the sidewalks
so far from delicacy
or even, perhaps, another gender of gingko--
do we see them?
No one ever treated us so gently
as these green-going-to-yellow hands
fanned out where we walk.
No one ever fell down so quietly
and lay where we would look
when we were tired or embarrassed,
or so bowed down by humanity
that we had to watch out lest our shoes stumble,
and looked down not to look up
until something looked like parts of people
where we were walking.
We have no
experience to make us see the gingko
or any other tree,
and, in our admiration for whatever grows tall
and outlives us,
we look away, or look at the middles of things,
which would not be our way
if we truly thought we were gods.