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.
Elizabeth Bishop |
From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,
where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;
where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats'
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;
on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,
through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;
down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.
Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts.
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.
Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens' feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;
the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.
One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.
A pale flickering.
The Tantramar marshes
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn't give way.
On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship's port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
A dog gives one bark.
A woman climbs in
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
"A grand night.
all the way to Boston.
She regards us amicably.
Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb's wool
on bushes in a pasture.
The passengers lie back.
Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
--not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;
deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.
He took to drink.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.
" that peculiar
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means "Life's like that.
We know it (also death).
Talking the way they talked
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.
Now, it's all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
--Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.
A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus's hot hood.
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man's voice assures us
Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
"Sure are big creatures.
"It's awful plain.
"Look! It's a she!"
Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r's.
"Look at that, would you.
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,
by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there's a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.
William Henry Davies |
A dear old couple my grandparents were,
And kind to all dumb things; they saw in Heaven
The lamb that Jesus petted when a child;
Their faith was never draped by Doubt: to them
Death was a rainbow in Eternity,
That promised everlasting brightness soon.
An old seafaring man was he; a rough
Old man, but kind; and hairy, like the nut
Full of sweet milk.
All day on shore he watched
The winds for sailors' wives, and told what ships
Enjoyed fair weather, and what ships had storms;
He watched the sky, and he could tell for sure
What afternoons would follow stormy morns,
If quiet nights would end wild afternoons.
He leapt away from scandal with a roar,
And if a whisper still possessed his mind,
He walked about and cursed it for a plague.
He took offence at Heaven when beggars passed,
And sternly called them back to give them help.
In this old captain's house I lived, and things
That house contained were in ships' cabins once:
Sea-shells and charts and pebbles, model ships;
Green weeds, dried fishes stuffed, and coral stalks;
Old wooden trunks with handles of spliced rope,
With copper saucers full of monies strange,
That seemed the savings of dead men, not touched
To keep them warm since their real owners died;
Strings of red beads, methought were dipped in blood,
And swinging lamps, as though the house might move;
An ivory lighthouse built on ivory rocks,
The bones of fishes and three bottled ships.
And many a thing was there which sailors make
In idle hours, when on long voyages,
Of marvellous patience, to no lovely end.
And on those charts I saw the small black dots
That were called islands, and I knew they had
Turtles and palms, and pirates' buried gold.
There came a stranger to my granddad's house,
The old man's nephew, a seafarer too;
A big, strong able man who could have walked
Twm Barlum's hill all clad in iron mail
So strong he could have made one man his club
To knock down others -- Henry was his name,
No other name was uttered by his kin.
And here he was, sooth illclad, but oh,
Thought I, what secrets of the sea are his!
This man knows coral islands in the sea,
And dusky girls heartbroken for white men;
More rich than Spain, when the Phoenicians shipped
Silver for common ballast, and they saw
Horses at silver mangers eating grain;
This man has seen the wind blow up a mermaid's hair
Which, like a golden serpent, reared and stretched
To feel the air away beyond her head.
He begged my pennies, which I gave with joy --
He will most certainly return some time
A self-made king of some new land, and rich.
Alas that he, the hero of my dreams,
Should be his people's scorn; for they had rose
To proud command of ships, whilst he had toiled
Before the mast for years, and well content;
Him they despised, and only Death could bring
A likeness in his face to show like them.
For he drank all his pay, nor went to sea
As long as ale was easy got on shore.
Now, in his last long voyage he had sailed
From Plymouth Sound to where sweet odours fan
The Cingalese at work, and then back home --
But came not near my kin till pay was spent.
He was not old, yet seemed so; for his face
Looked like the drowned man's in the morgue, when it
Has struck the wooden wharves and keels of ships.
And all his flesh was pricked with Indian ink,
His body marked as rare and delicate
As dead men struck by lightning under trees
And pictured with fine twigs and curlèd ferns;
Chains on his neck and anchors on his arms;
Rings on his fingers, bracelets on his wrist;
And on his breast the Jane of Appledore
Was schooner rigged, and in full sail at sea.
He could not whisper with his strong hoarse voice,
No more than could a horse creep quietly;
He laughed to scorn the men that muffled close
For fear of wind, till all their neck was hid,
Like Indian corn wrapped up in long green leaves;
He knew no flowers but seaweeds brown and green,
He knew no birds but those that followed ships.
Full well he knew the water-world; he heard
A grander music there than we on land,
When organ shakes a church; swore he would make
The sea his home, though it was always roused
By such wild storms as never leave Cape Horn;
Happy to hear the tempest grunt and squeal
Like pigs heard dying in a slaughterhouse.
A true-born mariner, and this his hope --
His coffin would be what his cradle was,
A boat to drown in and be sunk at sea;
Salted and iced in Neptune's larder deep.
This man despised small coasters, fishing-smacks;
He scorned those sailors who at night and morn
Can see the coast, when in their little boats
They go a six days' voyage and are back
Home with their wives for every Sabbath day.
Much did he talk of tankards of old beer,
And bottled stuff he drank in other lands,
Which was a liquid fire like Hell to gulp,
But Paradise to sip.
And so he talked;
Nor did those people listen with more awe
To Lazurus -- whom they had seen stone dead --
Than did we urchins to that seaman's voice.
He many a tale of wonder told: of where,
At Argostoli, Cephalonia's sea
Ran over the earth's lip in heavy floods;
And then again of how the strange Chinese
Conversed much as our homely Blackbirds sing.
He told us how he sailed in one old ship
Near that volcano Martinique, whose power
Shook like dry leaves the whole Caribbean seas;
And made the sun set in a sea of fire
Which only half was his; and dust was thick
On deck, and stones were pelted at the mast.
Into my greedy ears such words that sleep
Stood at my pillow half the night perplexed.
He told how isles sprang up and sank again,
Between short voyages, to his amaze;
How they did come and go, and cheated charts;
Told how a crew was cursed when one man killed
A bird that perched upon a moving barque;
And how the sea's sharp needles, firm and strong,
Ripped open the bellies of big, iron ships;
Of mighty icebergs in the Northern seas,
That haunt the far hirizon like white ghosts.
He told of waves that lift a ship so high
That birds could pass from starboard unto port
Under her dripping keel.
Oh, it was sweet
To hear that seaman tell such wondrous tales:
How deep the sea in parts, that drownèd men
Must go a long way to their graves and sink
Day after day, and wander with the tides.
He spake of his own deeds; of how he sailed
One summer's night along the Bosphorus,
And he -- who knew no music like the wash
Of waves against a ship, or wind in shrouds --
Heard then the music on that woody shore
Of nightingales,and feared to leave the deck,
He thought 'twas sailing into Paradise.
To hear these stories all we urchins placed
Our pennies in that seaman's ready hand;
Until one morn he signed on for a long cruise,
And sailed away -- we never saw him more.
Could such a man sink in the sea unknown?
Nay, he had found a land with something rich,
That kept his eyes turned inland for his life.
'A damn bad sailor and a landshark too,
No good in port or out' -- my granddad said.
Anthony Hecht |
1) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.
2) In the year of my birth, money was shredded into
A loaf of bread cost a million marks.
course I do not remember this.
3) Parents and grandparents hovered around me.
world I lived in had a soft voice and no claws.
4) A cornucopia filled with treats took me into a building
A wide-bosomed teacher took me in.
5) At home the bookshelves connected heaven and earth.
6) On Sundays the city child waded through pinecones
and primrose marshes, a short train ride away.
7) My country was struck by history more deadly than
earthquakes or hurricanes.
8) My father was busy eluding the monsters.
told me the walls had ears.
I learned the burden of secrets.
9) I moved into the too bright days, the too dark nights
10) Two parents, two daughters, we followed the sun
and the moon across the ocean.
My grandparents stayed
behind in darkness.
11) In the new language everyone spoke too fast.
I caught up with them.
12) When I met you, the new language became the language
13) The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry.
The daughter became a mother of daughters.
14) Ordinary life: the plenty and thick of it.
threads to everywhere.
The past pushed away, the future left
unimagined for the sake of the glorious, difficult, passionate
15) Years and years of this.
16) The children no longer children.
An old man's pain, an
old man's loneliness.
17) And then my father too disappeared.
18) I tried to go home again.
I stood at the door to my
childhood, but it was closed to the public.
19) One day, on a crowded elevator, everyone's face was younger
20) So far, so good.
The brilliant days and nights are
breathless in their hurry.
We follow, you and I.
Ogden Nash |
People live forever in Jacksonville and St.
Petersburg and Tampa,
But you don't have to live forever to become a grampa.
The entrance requirements for grampahood are comparatively mild,
You only have to live until your child has a child.
From that point on you start looking both ways over your shoulder,
Because sometimes you feel thirty years younger and sometimes
thirty years older.
Now you begin to realize who it was that reached the height of
It was whoever said that grandparents have all the fun and none of
This is the most enticing spiderwebs of a tarradiddle ever spun,
Because everybody would love to have a baby around who was no
responsibility and lots of fun,
But I can think of no one but a mooncalf or a gaby
Who would trust their own child to raise a baby.
So you have to personally superintend your grandchild from diapers
to pants and from bottle to spoon,
Because you know that your own child hasn't sense enough to come
in out of a typhoon.
You don't have to live forever to become a grampa, but if you do
want to live forever,
Don't try to be clever;
If you wish to reach the end of the trail with an uncut throat,
Don't go around saying Quote I don't mind being a grampa but I
hate being married to a gramma Unquote.
Thomas Lux |
More like a vault -- you pull the handle out
and on the shelves: not a lot,
and what there is (a boiled potato
in a bag, a chicken carcass
under foil) looking dispirited,
This is not
a place to go in hope or hunger.
But, just to the right of the middle
of the middle door shelf, on fire, a lit-from-within red,
heart red, sexual red, wet neon red,
shining red in their liquid, exotic,
in such company: a jar
of maraschino cherries.
full, fiery globes, like strippers
at a church social.
Maraschino cherries, maraschino,
the only foreign word I knew.
did I see these cherries employed: not
in a drink, nor on top
of a glob of ice cream,
or just pop one in your mouth.
The same jar there through an entire
childhood of dull dinners -- bald meat,
pocked peas and, see above,
they came over from the old country,
family heirlooms, or were status symbols
bought with a piece of the first paycheck
from a sweatshop,
which beat the pig farm in Bohemia,
handed down from my grandparents
to my parents
to be someday mine,
then my child's?
They were beautiful
and, if I never ate one,
it was because I knew it might be missed
or because I knew it would not be replaced
and because you do not eat
that which rips your heart with joy.