Best Famous In Your Face Poems

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Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Ghosts

 Smith, great writer of stories, drank; found it immortalized his pen;
Fused in his brain-pan, else a blank, heavens of glory now and then;
Gave him the magical genius touch; God-given power to gouge out, fling
Flat in your face a soul-thought -- Bing!
Twiddle your heart-strings in his clutch.
"Bah!" said Smith, "let my body lie stripped to the buff in swinish shame, If I can blaze in the radiant sky out of adoring stars my name.
Sober am I nonentitized; drunk am I more than half a god.
Well, let the flesh be sacrificed; spirit shall speak and shame the clod.
Who would not gladly, gladly give Life to do one thing that will live?" Smith had a friend, we'll call him Brown; dearer than brothers were those two.
When in the wassail Smith would drown, Brown would rescue and pull him through.
When Brown was needful Smith would lend; so it fell as the years went by, Each on the other would depend: then at the last Smith came to die.
There Brown sat in the sick man's room, still as a stone in his despair; Smith bent on him his eyes of doom, shook back his lion mane of hair; Said: "Is there one in my chosen line, writer of forthright tales my peer? Look in that little desk of mine; there is a package, bring it here.
Story of stories, gem of all; essence and triumph, key and clue; Tale of a loving woman's fall; soul swept hell-ward, and God! it's true.
I was the man -- Oh, yes, I've paid, paid with mighty and mordant pain.
Look! here's the masterpiece I've made out of my sin, my manhood slain.
Art supreme! yet the world would stare, know my mistress and blaze my shame.
I have a wife and daughter -- there! take it and thrust it in the flame.
" Brown answered: "Master, you have dipped pen in your heart, your phrases sear.
Ruthless, unflinching, you have stripped naked your soul and set it here.
Have I not loved you well and true? See! between us the shadows drift; This bit of blood and tears means You -- oh, let me have it, a parting gift.
Sacred I'll hold it, a trust divine; sacred your honour, her dark despair; Never shall it see printed line: here, by the living God I swear.
" Brown on a Bible laid his hand; Smith, great writer of stories, sighed: "Comrade, I trust you, and understand.
Keep my secret!" And so he died.
Smith was buried -- up soared his sales; lured you his books in every store; Exquisite, whimsy, heart-wrung tales; men devoured them and craved for more.
So when it slyly got about Brown had a posthumous manuscript, Jones, the publisher, sought him out, into his pocket deep he dipped.
"A thousand dollars?" Brown shook his head.
"The story is not for sale, " he said.
Jones went away, then others came.
Tempted and taunted, Brown was true.
Guarded at friendship's shrine the fame of the unpublished story grew and grew.
It's a long, long lane that has no end, but some lanes end in the Potter's field; Smith to Brown had been more than friend: patron, protector, spur and shield.
Poor, loving-wistful, dreamy Brown, long and lean, with a smile askew, Friendless he wandered up and down, gaunt as a wolf, as hungry too.
Brown with his lilt of saucy rhyme, Brown with his tilt of tender mirth Garretless in the gloom and grime, singing his glad, mad songs of earth: So at last with a faith divine, down and down to the Hunger-line.
There as he stood in a woeful plight, tears a-freeze on his sharp cheek-bones, Who should chance to behold his plight, but the publisher, the plethoric Jones; Peered at him for a little while, held out a bill: "NOW, will you sell?" Brown scanned it with his twisted smile: "A thousand dollars! you go to hell!" Brown enrolled in the homeless host, sleeping anywhere, anywhen; Suffered, strove, became a ghost, slave of the lamp for other men; For What's-his-name and So-and-so in the abyss his soul he stripped, Yet in his want, his worst of woe, held he fast to the manuscript.
Then one day as he chewed his pen, half in hunger and half despair, Creaked the door of his garret den; Dick, his brother, was standing there.
Down on the pallet bed he sank, ashen his face, his voice a wail: "Save me, brother! I've robbed the bank; to-morrow it's ruin, capture, gaol.
Yet there's a chance: I could to-day pay back the money, save our name; You have a manuscript, they say, worth a thousand -- think, man! the shame.
.
.
.
" Brown with his heart pain-pierced the while, with his stern, starved face, and his lips stone-pale, Shuddered and smiled his twisted smile: "Brother, I guess you go to gaol.
" While poor Brown in the leer of dawn wrestled with God for the sacred fire, Came there a woman weak and wan, out of the mob, the murk, the mire; Frail as a reed, a fellow ghost, weary with woe, with sorrowing; Two pale souls in the legion lost; lo! Love bent with a tender wing, Taught them a joy so deep, so true, it seemed that the whole-world fabric shook, Thrilled and dissolved in radiant dew; then Brown made him a golden book, Full of the faith that Life is good, that the earth is a dream divinely fair, Lauding his gem of womanhood in many a lyric rich and rare; Took it to Jones, who shook his head: "I will consider it," he said.
While he considered, Brown's wife lay clutched in the tentacles of pain; Then came the doctor, grave and grey; spoke of decline, of nervous strain; Hinted Egypt, the South of France -- Brown with terror was tiger-gripped.
Where was the money? What the chance? Pitiful God! .
.
.
the manuscript! A thousand dollars! his only hope! he gazed and gazed at the garret wall.
.
.
.
Reached at last for the envelope, turned to his wife and told her all.
Told of his friend, his promise true; told like his very heart would break: "Oh, my dearest! what shall I do? shall I not sell it for your sake?" Ghostlike she lay, as still as doom; turned to the wall her weary head; Icy-cold in the pallid gloom, silent as death .
.
.
at last she said: "Do! my husband? Keep your vow! Guard his secret and let me die.
.
.
.
Oh, my dear, I must tell you now -- the women he loved and wronged was I; Darling! I haven't long to live: I never told you -- forgive, forgive!" For a long, long time Brown did not speak; sat bleak-browed in the wretched room; Slowly a tear stole down his cheek, and he kissed her hand in the dismal gloom.
To break his oath, to brand her shame; his well-loved friend, his worshipped wife; To keep his vow, to save her name, yet at the cost of what? Her life! A moment's space did he hesitate, a moment of pain and dread and doubt, Then he broke the seals, and, stern as fate, unfolded the sheets and spread them out.
.
.
.
On his knees by her side he limply sank, peering amazed -- each page was blank.
(For oh, the supremest of our art are the stories we do not dare to tell, Locked in the silence of the heart, for the awful records of Heav'n and Hell.
) Yet those two in the silence there, seemed less weariful than before.
Hark! a step on the garret stair, a postman knocks at the flimsy door.
"Registered letter!" Brown thrills with fear; opens, and reads, then bends above: "Glorious tidings! Egypt, dear! The book is accepted -- life and love.
"
Written by Rafael Guillen | Create an image from this poem

Not Fear

 Not fear.
Maybe, out there somewhere, the possibility of fear; the wall that might tumble down, because it's for sure that behind it is the sea.
Not fear.
Fear has a countenance; It's external, concrete, like a rifle, a shot bolt, a suffering child, like the darkness that's hidden in every human mouth.
Not fear.
Maybe only the brand of the offspring of fear.
It's a narrow, interminable street with all the windows darkened, a thread spun out from a sticky hand, friendly, yes, not a friend.
It's a nightmare of polite ritual wearing a frightwig.
Not fear.
Fear is a door slammed in your face.
I'm speaking here of a labyrinth of doors already closed, with assumed reasons for being, or not being, for categorizing bad luck or good, bread, or an expression — tenderness and panic and frigidity - for the children growing up.
And the silence.
And the cities, sparkling, empty.
and the mediocrity, like a hot lava, spewed out over the grain, and the voice, and the idea.
It's not fear.
The real fear hasn't come yet.
But it will.
It's the doublethink that believes peace is only another movement.
And I say it with suspicion, at the top of my lungs.
And it's not fear, no.
It's the certainty that I'm betting, on a single card, the whole haystack I've piled up, straw by straw, for my fellow man.
Written by Billy Collins | Create an image from this poem

The Art Of Drowning

 I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.
After falling off a steamship or being swept away in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand turning the pages of an album of photographs- you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.
How about a short animated film, a slide presentation? Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph? Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash? Your whole existence going off in your face in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography- nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.
Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance here, some bolt of truth forking across the water, an ultimate Light before all the lights go out, dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes as you go under, it will probably be a fish, a quick blur of curved silver darting away, having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom, leaving behind what you have already forgotten, the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.
Written by Tony Hoagland | Create an image from this poem

Reading Moby-Dick at 30000 Feet

 At this height, Kansas
is just a concept,
a checkerboard design of wheat and corn

no larger than the foldout section
of my neighbor's travel magazine.
At this stage of the journey I would estimate the distance between myself and my own feelings is roughly the same as the mileage from Seattle to New York, so I can lean back into the upholstered interval between Muzak and lunch, a little bored, a little old and strange.
I remember, as a dreamy backyard kind of kid, tilting up my head to watch those planes engrave the sky in lines so steady and so straight they implied the enormous concentration of good men, but now my eyes flicker from the in-flight movie to the stewardess's pantyline, then back into my book, where men throw harpoons at something much bigger and probably better than themselves, wanting to kill it, wanting to see great clouds of blood erupt to prove that they exist.
Imagine being born and growing up, rushing through the world for sixty years at unimaginable speeds.
Imagine a century like a room so large, a corridor so long you could travel for a lifetime and never find the door, until you had forgotten that such a thing as doors exist.
Better to be on board the Pequod, with a mad one-legged captain living for revenge.
Better to feel the salt wind spitting in your face, to hold your sharpened weapon high, to see the glisten of the beast beneath the waves.
What a relief it would be to hear someone in the crew cry out like a gull, Oh Captain, Captain! Where are we going now?
Written by Adrienne Rich | Create an image from this poem

In A Classroom

 Talking of poetry, hauling the books
arm-full to the table where the heads
bend or gaze upward, listening, reading aloud,
talking of consonants, elision,
caught in the how, oblivious of why:
I look in your face, Jude,
neither frowning nor nodding,
opaque in the slant of dust-motes over the table:
a presence like a stone, if a stone were thinking
What I cannot say, is me.
For that I came.
Written by Bertolt Brecht | Create an image from this poem

O Germany Pale Mother!

 Let others speak of her shame,
I speak of my own.
O Germany, pale mother! How soiled you are As you sit among the peoples.
You flaunt yourself Among the besmirched.
The poorest of your sons Lies struck down.
When his hunger was great.
Your other sons Raised their hands against him.
This is notorious.
With their hands thus raised, Raised against their brother, They march insolently around you And laugh in your face.
This is well known.
In your house Lies are roared aloud.
But the truth Must be silent.
Is it so? Why do the oppressors praise you everywhere, The oppressed accuse you? The plundered Point to you with their fingers, but The plunderer praises the system That was invented in your house! Whereupon everyone sees you Hiding the hem of your mantle which is bloody With the blood Of your best sons.
Hearing the harangues which echo from your house, men laugh.
But whoever sees you reaches for a knife As at the approach of a robber.
O Germany, pale mother! How have your sons arrayed you That you sit among the peoples A thing of scorn and fear!
Written by Rudyard Kipling | Create an image from this poem

Screw-Guns

 Smokin' my pipe on the mountings, sniffin' the mornin' cool,
I walks in my old brown gaiters along o' my old brown mule,
With seventy gunners be'ind me, an' never a beggar forgets
It's only the pick of the Army that handles the dear little pets -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
 For you all love the screw-guns -- the screw-guns they all love you!
 So when we call round with a few guns, o' course you will know what to do -- hoo! hoo!
 Jest send in your Chief an' surrender -- it's worse if you fights or you runs:
 You can go where you please, you can skid up the trees, but you don't get away from the guns!

They sends us along where the roads are, but mostly we goes where they ain't:
We'd climb up the side of a sign-board an' trust to the stick o' the paint:
We've chivied the Naga an' Looshai, we've give the Afreedeeman fits,
For we fancies ourselves at two thousand, we guns that are built in two bits -- 'Tss! 'Tss!
 For you all love the screw-guns .
.
.
If a man doesn't work, why, we drills 'im an' teaches 'im 'ow to behave; If a beggar can't march, why, we kills 'im an' rattles 'im into 'is grave.
You've got to stand up to our business an' spring without snatchin' or fuss.
D'you say that you sweat with the field-guns? By God, you must lather with us -- 'Tss! 'Tss! For you all love the screw-guns .
.
.
The eagles is screamin' around us, the river's a-moanin' below, We're clear o' the pine an' the oak-scrub, we're out on the rocks an' the snow, An' the wind is as thin as a whip-lash what carries away to the plains The rattle an' stamp o' the lead-mules -- the jinglety-jink o' the chains -- 'Tss! 'Tss! For you all love the screw-guns .
.
.
There's a wheel on the Horns o' the Mornin', an' a wheel on the edge o' the Pit, An' a drop into nothin' beneath you as straight as a beggar can spit: With the sweat runnin' out o' your shirt-sleeves, an' the sun off the snow in your face, An' 'arf o' the men on the drag-ropes to hold the old gun in 'er place -- 'Tss! 'Tss! For you all love the screw-guns .
.
.
Smokin' my pipe on the mountings, sniffin' the mornin' cool, I climbs in my old brown gaiters along o' my old brown mule.
The monkey can say what our road was -- the wild-goat 'e knows where we passed.
Stand easy, you long-eared old darlin's! Out drag-ropes! With shrapnel! Hold fast -- 'Tss! 'Tss! For you all love the screw-guns -- the screw-guns they all love you! So when we take tea with a few guns, o' course you will know what to do -- hoo! hoo! Jest send in your Chief an' surrender -- it's worse if you fights or you runs: You may hide in the caves, they'll be only your graves, but you can't get away from the guns!
Written by Marilyn Hacker | Create an image from this poem

For K. J. Leaving and Coming Back

 August First: it was a year ago
we drove down from St.
-Guilhem-le-Désert to open the house in St.
Guiraud rented unseen.
I'd stay; you'd go; that's where our paths diverged.
I'd settle down to work, you'd start the next month of your Wanderjahr.
I turned the iron key in the rusted lock (it came, like a detective-story clue, in a manila envelope, postmarked elsewhere, unmarked otherwise) while you stood behind me in the midday heat.
Somnolent shudders marked our progress.
Two horses grazed on a roof across the street.
You didn't believe me until you turned around.
They were both old, one mottled gray, one white.
Past the kitchen's russet dark, we found bookshelves on both sides of the fireplace: Verlaine, L'Étranger, Notes from the Underground.
Through an archway, a fresh-plastered staircase led steeply upward.
In a white room stood a white-clad brass bed.
Sunlight in your face came from the tree-filled window.
"You did good.
" We laid crisp sheets we would inaugurate that night, rescued from the grenier a wood- en table we put under the window.
Date our homes from that one, to which you returned the last week of August, on a late bus, in shorts, like a crew-cut, sunburned bidasse.
Sunburned, in shorts, a new haircut, with Auden and a racing pulse I'd earned by "not being sentimental about you," I sprinted to "La Populaire.
" You walked into my arms when you got out.
At a two minute bus stop, who would care? "La Populaire" puffed onward to Millau while we hiked up to the hiatus where we'd left ourselves when you left St.
Guiraud after an unambiguous decade of friendship, and some months of something new.
A long week before either of us said a compromising word acknowledging what happened every night in the brass bed and every bird-heralded blue morning was something we could claim and keep and use; was, like the house, a place where we could bring our road-worn, weary selves.
Now, we've a pause in a year we wouldn't have wagered on.
Dusk climbs the tiled roof opposite; the blue's still sun-soaked; it's a week now since you've gone to be a daughter in the capital.
(I came north with you as far as Beaune.
) I cook things you don't like.
Sometimes I fall asleep, book open, one A.
M.
, sometimes I long for you all night in Provencal or langue d'oc, or wish I could, when I'm too much awake.
My early walk, my late walk mark the day's measures like rhyme.
(There's nothing I hate---perhaps I hate the adipose deposits on my thighs ---as much as having to stay put and wait!) Although a day alone cuts tight or lies too limp sometimes, I know what I didn't know a year ago, that makes it the right size: owned certainty; perpetual surprise.
Written by James Thomson | Create an image from this poem

Hymn on Solitude

 Hail, mildly pleasing solitude,
Companion of the wise and good;
But, from whose holy, piercing eye,
The herd of fools, and villains fly.
Oh! how I love with thee to walk, And listen to thy whisper'd talk, Which innocence, and truth imparts, And melts the most obdurate hearts.
A thousand shapes you wear with ease, And still in every shape you please.
Now wrapt in some mysterious dream, A lone philosopher you seem; Now quick from hill to vale you fly, And now you sweep the vaulted sky; A shepherd next, you haunt the plain, And warble forth your oaten strain; A lover now, with all the grace Of that sweet passion in your face: Then, calm'd to friendship, you assume The gentle-looking Hertford's bloom, As, with her Musidora, she, (Her Musidora fond of thee) Amid the long withdrawing vale, Awakes the rival'd nightingale.
Thine is the balmy breath of morn, Just as the dew-bent rose is born; And while meridian fervours beat, Thine is the woodland dumb retreat; But chief, when evening scenes decay, And the faint landskip swims away, Thine is the doubtful soft decline, And that best hour of musing thine.
Descending angels bless thy train, The virtues of the sage, and swain; Plain Innocence in white array'd, Before thee lifts her fearless head: Religion's beams around thee shine, And cheer thy glooms with light divine: About thee sports sweet Liberty; And rapt Urania sings to thee.
Oh, let me pierce thy secret cell! And in thy deep recesses dwell! Perhaps from Norwood's oak-clad hill, When meditation has her fill, I just may cast my careless eyes Where London's spiry turrets rise, Think of its crimes, its cares, its pain, Then shield me in the woods again.
Written by Maria Mazziotti Gillan | Create an image from this poem

My Daughter at 14 Christmas Dance 1981

 Panic in your face, you write questions
to ask him.
When he arrives, you are serene, your fear unbetrayed.
How unlike me you are.
After the dance, I see your happiness; he holds your hand.
Though you barely speak, your body pulses messages I can read all too well.
He kisses you goodnight, his body moving toward yours, and yours responding.
I am frightened, guard my tongue for fear my mother will pop out of my mouth.
"He is not shy," I say.
You giggle, a little girl again, but you tell me he kissed you on the dance floor.
"Once?" I ask.
"No, a lot.
" We ride through rain-shining 1 a.
m.
streets.
I bite back words which long to be said, knowing I must not shatter your moment, fragile as a spun-glass bird, you, the moment, poised on the edge of flight, and I, on the ground, afraid.
Maria Mazziotti Gillan Copyright © 1995
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