Wallace Stevens |
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passion of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in the comforts of sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, "I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?"
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote as heaven's hill, that has endured
As April's green endures; or will endure
Like her rememberance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow's wings.
She says, "But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires.
Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate.
The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receeding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, "The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsered, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Abiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
Kahlil Gibran |
The power of charity sows deep in my heart, and I reap and gather the wheat in bundles and give them to the hungry.
My soul gives life to the grapevine and I press its bunches and give the juice to the thirsty.
Heaven fills my lamp with oil and I place it at my window to direct the stranger through the dark.
I do all these things because I live in them; and if destiny should tie my hands and prevent me from so doing, then death would be my only desire.
For I am a poet, and if I cannot give, I shall refuse to receive.
Humanity rages like a tempest, but I sigh in silence for I know the storm must pass away while a sigh goes to God.
Human kinds cling to earthly things, but I seek ever to embrace the torch of love so it will purify me by its fire and sear inhumanity from my heart.
Substantial things deaden a man without suffering; love awakens him with enlivening pains.
Humans are divided into different clans and tribes, and belong to countries and towns.
But I find myself a stranger to all communities and belong to no settlement.
The universe is my country and the human family is my tribe.
Men are weak, and it is sad that they divide amongst themselves.
The world is narrow and it is unwise to cleave it into kingdoms, empires, and provinces.
Human kinds unite themselves one to destroy the temples of the soul, and they join hands to build edifices for earthly bodies.
I stand alone listening to the voice of hope in my deep self saying, "As love enlivens a man's heart with pain, so ignorance teaches him the way of knowledge.
" Pain and ignorance lead to great joy and knowledge because the Supreme Being has created nothing vain under the sun.
I have a yearning for my beautiful country, and I love its people because of their misery.
But if my people rose, stimulated by plunder and motivated by what they call "patriotic spirit" to murder, and invaded my neighbor's country, then upon the committing of any human atrocity I would hate my people and my country.
I sing the praise of my birthplace and long to see the home of my children; but if the people in that home refused to shelter and feed the needy wayfarer, I would convert my praise into anger and my longing to forgetfulness.
My inner voice would say, "The house that does not comfort the need is worthy of naught by destruction.
I love my native village with some of my love for my country; and I love my country with part of my love for the earth, all of which is my country; and I love the earth will all of myself because it is the haven of humanity, the manifest spirit of God.
Humanity is the spirit of the Supreme Being on earth, and that humanity is standing amidst ruins, hiding its nakedness behind tattered rags, shedding tears upon hollow cheeks, and calling for its children with pitiful voice.
But the children are busy singing their clan's anthem; they are busy sharpening the swords and cannot hear the cry of their mothers.
Humanity appeals to its people but they listen not.
Were one to listen, and console a mother by wiping her tears, other would say, "He is weak, affected by sentiment.
Humanity is the spirit of the Supreme Being on earth, and that Supreme Being preaches love and good-will.
But the people ridicule such teachings.
The Nazarene Jesus listened, and crucifixion was his lot; Socrates heard the voice and followed it, and he too fell victim in body.
The followers of The Nazarene and Socrates are the followers of Deity, and since people will not kill them, they deride them, saying, "Ridicule is more bitter than killing.
Jerusalem could not kill The Nazarene, nor Athens Socrates; they are living yet and shall live eternally.
Ridicule cannot triumph over the followers of Deity.
They live and grow forever.
Thou art my brother because you are a human, and we both are sons of one Holy Spirit; we are equal and made of the same earth.
You are here as my companion along the path of life, and my aid in understanding the meaning of hidden Truth.
You are a human, and, that fact sufficing, I love you as a brother.
You may speak of me as you choose, for Tomorrow shall take you away and will use your talk as evidence for his judgment, and you shall receive justice.
You may deprive me of whatever I possess, for my greed instigated the amassing of wealth and you are entitled to my lot if it will satisfy you.
You may do unto me whatever you wish, but you shall not be able to touch my Truth.
You may shed my blood and burn my body, but you cannot kill or hurt my spirit.
You may tie my hands with chains and my feet with shackles, and put me in the dark prison, but who shall not enslave my thinking, for it is free, like the breeze in the spacious sky.
You are my brother and I love you.
I love you worshipping in your church, kneeling in your temple, and praying in your mosque.
You and I and all are children of one religion, for the varied paths of religion are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being, extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, anxious to receive all.
I love you for your Truth, derived from your knowledge; that Truth which I cannot see because of my ignorance.
But I respect it as a divine thing, for it is the deed of the spirit.
Your Truth shall meet my Truth in the coming world and blend together like the fragrance of flowers and becoming one whole and eternal Truth, perpetuating and living in the eternity of Love and Beauty.
I love you because you are weak before the strong oppressor, and poor before the greedy rich.
For these reasons I shed tears and comfort you; and from behind my tears I see you embraced in the arms of Justice, smiling and forgiving your persecutors.
You are my brother and I love you.
You are my brother, but why are you quarreling with me? Why do you invade my country and try to subjugate me for the sake of pleasing those who are seeking glory and authority?
Why do you leave your wife and children and follow Death to the distant land for the sake of those who buy glory with your blood, and high honor with your mother's tears?
Is it an honor for a man to kill his brother man? If you deem it an honor, let it be an act of worship, and erect a temple to Cain who slew his brother Abel.
Is self-preservation the first law of Nature? Why, then, does Greed urge you to self-sacrifice in order only to achieve his aim in hurting your brothers? Beware, my brother, of the leader who says, "Love of existence obliges us to deprive the people of their rights!" I say unto you but this: protecting others' rights is the noblest and most beautiful human act; if my existence requires that I kill others, then death is more honorable to me, and if I cannot find someone to kill me for the protection of my honor, I will not hesitate to take my life by my own hands for the sake of Eternity before Eternity comes.
Selfishness, my brother, is the cause of blind superiority, and superiority creates clanship, and clanship creates authority which leads to discord and subjugation.
The soul believes in the power of knowledge and justice over dark ignorance; it denies the authority that supplies the swords to defend and strengthen ignorance and oppression - that authority which destroyed Babylon and shook the foundation of Jerusalem and left Rome in ruins.
It is that which made people call criminals great mean; made writers respect their names; made historians relate the stories of their inhumanity in manner of praise.
The only authority I obey is the knowledge of guarding and acquiescing in the Natural Law of Justice.
What justice does authority display when it kills the killer? When it imprisons the robber? When it descends on a neighborhood country and slays its people? What does justice think of the authority under which a killer punishes the one who kills, and a thief sentences the one who steals?
You are my brother, and I love you; and Love is justice with its full intensity and dignity.
If justice did not support my love for you, regardless of your tribe and community, I would be a deceiver concealing the ugliness of selfishness behind the outer garment of pure love.
My soul is my friend who consoles me in misery and distress of life.
He who does not befriend his soul is an enemy of humanity, and he who does not find human guidance within himself will perish desperately.
Life emerges from within, and derives not from environs.
I came to say a word and I shall say it now.
But if death prevents its uttering, it will be said tomorrow, for tomorrow never leaves a secret in the book of eternity.
I came to live in the glory of love and the light of beauty, which are the reflections of God.
I am here living, and the people are unable to exile me from the domain of life for they know I will live in death.
If they pluck my eyes I will hearken to the murmers of love and the songs of beauty.
If they close my ears I will enjoy the touch of the breeze mixed with the incebse of love and the fragrance of beauty.
If they place me in a vacuum, I will live together with my soul, the child of love and beauty.
I came here to be for all and with all, and what I do today in my solitude will be echoed by tomorrow to the people.
What I say now with one heart will be said tomorrow by many hearts
Aleister Crowley |
[Dedicated to Austin Osman Spare]
Have pity ! show no pity !
Those eyes that send such shivers
Into my brain and spine : oh let them
Flame like the ancient city
Swallowed up by the sulphurous rivers
When men let angels fret them !
Yea ! let the south wind blow,
And the Turkish banner advance,
And the word go out : No quarter !
But I shall hod thee -so !
While the boys and maidens dance
About the shambles of slaughter !
I know thee who thou art,
The inmost fiend that curlest
Thy vampire tounge about
Earth's corybantic heart,
Hell's warrior that whirlest
The darts of horror and doubt !
Thou knowest me who I am
The inmost soul and saviour
Of man ; what hieroglyph
Of the dragon and the lamb
Shall thou and I engrave here
On Time's inscandescable cliff ?
Look ! in the plished granite,
Black as thy cartouche is with sins,
I read the searing sentence
That blasts the eyes that scan it :
"HOOR and SET be TWINS.
A fico for repentance !
Ay ! O Son of my mother
That snarled and clawed in her womb
As now we rave in our rapture,
I know thee, I love thee, brother !
Incestuous males that consumes
The light and the life that we capture.
Starve thou the soul of the world,
Brother, as I the body !
Shall we not glut our lust
On these wretches whom Fate hath hurled
To a hell of jesus and shoddy,
Dung and ethics and dust ?
Thou as I art Fate.
Coe then, conquer and kiss me !
Come ! what hinders? Believe me :
This is the thought we await.
The mark is fair ; can you miss me ?
See, how subtly I writhe !
Strange runes and unknown sigils
I trace in the trance that thrills us.
Death ! how lithe, how blithe
Are these male incestuous vigils !
Ah ! this is the spasm that kills us !
Wherefore I solemnly affirm
This twofold Oneness at the term.
Asar on Asi did beget
Horus twin brother unto Set.
Now Set and Horus kiss, to call
The Soul of the Unnatural
Forth from the dusk ; then nature slain
Lets the Beyond be born again.
This weird is of the tongue of Khem,
The Conjuration used of them.
Whoso shall speak it, let him die,
His bowels rotting inwardly,
Save he uncover and caress
The God that lighteth his liesse.
Anne Sexton |
"You speak to me of narcissism but I reply that it is
a matter of my life" - Artaud
"At this time let me somehow bequeath all the leftovers
to my daughters and their daughters" - Anonymous
despite the worms talking to
the mare's hoof in the field;
despite the season of young girls
dropping their blood;
to drop myself quickly
into an old room.
Better (someone said)
not to be born
and far better
not to be born twice
where the boardinghouse,
each year a bedroom,
I will have to sink with hundreds of others
on a dumbwaiter into hell.
I will be a light thing.
I will enter death
like someone's lost optical lens.
Life is half enlarged.
The fish and owls are fierce today.
Life tilts backward and forward.
Even the wasps cannot find my eyes.
eyes that were immediate once.
Eyes that have been truly awake,
eyes that told the whole story—
poor dumb animals.
Eyes that were pierced,
little nail heads,
light blue gunshots.
And once with
a mouth like a cup,
clay colored or blood colored,
open like the breakwater
for the lost ocean
and open like the noose
for the first head.
Once upon a time
my hunger was for Jesus.
O my hunger! My hunger!
Before he grew old
he rode calmly into Jerusalem
in search of death.
do not ask for understanding
and yet I hope everyone else
will turn their heads when an unrehearsed fish jumps
on the surface of Echo Lake;
its bass note turned up loud,
hurts some building in Boston,
when the truly beautiful lie together.
I think of this, surely,
and would think of it far longer
if I were not… if I were not
at that old fire.
I could admit
that I am only a coward
crying me me me
and not mention the little gnats, the moths,
forced by circumstance
to suck on the electric bulb.
But surely you know that everyone has a death,
his own death,
waiting for him.
So I will go now
without old age or disease,
wildly but accurately,
knowing my best route,
carried by that toy donkey I rode all these years,
never asking, “Where are we going?”
We were riding (if I'd only known)
please do not think
that I visualize guitars playing
or my father arching his bone.
I do not even expect my mother's mouth.
I know that I have died before—
once in November, once in June.
How strange to choose June again,
so concrete with its green breasts and bellies.
Of course guitars will not play!
The snakes will certainly not notice.
New York City will not mind.
At night the bats will beat on the trees,
knowing it all,
seeing what they sensed all day.
Sylvia Plath |
I have no wit, I have no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
A lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is like the falling leaf;
O Jesus, quicken me.
Charlotte Bronte |
Lough, vessel, plough the British main,
Seek the free ocean's wider plain;
Leave English scenes and English skies,
Unbind, dissever English ties;
Bear me to climes remote and strange,
Where altered life, fast-following change,
Hot action, never-ceasing toil,
Shall stir, turn, dig, the spirit's soil;
Fresh roots shall plant, fresh seed shall sow,
Till a new garden there shall grow,
Cleared of the weeds that fill it now,
Mere human love, mere selfish yearning,
Which, cherished, would arrest me yet.
I grasp the plough, there's no returning,
Let me, then, struggle to forget.
But England's shores are yet in view,
And England's skies of tender blue
Are arched above her guardian sea.
I cannot yet Remembrance flee;
I must again, then, firmly face
That task of anguish, to retrace.
Wedded to homeI home forsake,
Fearful of changeI changes make;
Too fond of easeI plunge in toil;
Lover of calmI seek turmoil:
Nature and hostile Destiny
Stir in my heart a conflict wild;
And long and fierce the war will be
Ere duty both has reconciled.
What other tie yet holds me fast
To the divorced, abandoned past?
Smouldering, on my heart's altar lies
The fire of some great sacrifice,
Not yet half quenched.
The sacred steel
But lately struck my carnal will,
My life-long hope, first joy and last,
What I loved well, and clung to fast;
What I wished wildly to retain,
What I renounced with soul-felt pain;
Whatwhen I saw it, axe-struck, perish
Left me no joy on earth to cherish;
A man bereftyet sternly now
I do confirm that Jephtha vow:
Shall I retract, or fear, or flee ?
Did Christ, when rose the fatal tree
Before him, on Mount Calvary ?
'Twas a long fight, hard fought, but won,
And what I did was justly done.
Yet, Helen ! from thy love I turned,
When my heart most for thy heart burned;
I dared thy tears, I dared thy scorn
Easier the death-pang had been borne.
Helen ! thou mightst not go with me,
I could notdared not stay for thee !
I heard, afar, in bonds complain
The savage from beyond the main;
And that wild sound rose o'er the cry
Wrung out by passion's agony;
And even when, with the bitterest tear
I ever shed, mine eyes were dim,
Still, with the spirit's vision clear,
I saw Hell's empire, vast and grim,
Spread on each Indian river's shore,
Each realm of Asia covering o'er.
There the weak, trampled by the strong,
Live but to sufferhopeless die;
There pagan-priests, whose creed is Wrong,
Extortion, Lust, and Cruelty,
Crush our lost raceand brimming fill
The bitter cup of human ill;
And Iwho have the healing creed,
The faith benign of Mary's Son;
Shall I behold my brother's need
And selfishly to aid him shun ?
Iwho upon my mother's knees,
In childhood, read Christ's written word,
Received his legacy of peace,
His holy rule of action heard;
Iin whose heart the sacred sense
Of Jesus' love was early felt;
Of his pure full benevolence,
His pitying tenderness for guilt;
His shepherd-care for wandering sheep,
For all weak, sorrowing, trembling things,
His mercy vast, his passion deep
Of anguish for man's sufferings;
Ischooled from childhood in such lore
Dared I draw back or hesitate,
When called to heal the sickness sore
Of those far off and desolate ?
Dark, in the realm and shades of Death,
Nations and tribes and empires lie,
But even to them the light of Faith
Is breaking on their sombre sky:
And be it mine to bid them raise
Their drooped heads to the kindling scene,
And know and hail the sunrise blaze
Which heralds Christ the Nazarene.
I know how Hell the veil will spread
Over their brows and filmy eyes,
And earthward crush the lifted head
That would look up and seek the skies;
I know what war the fiend will wage
Against that soldier of the cross,
Who comes to dare his demon-rage,
And work his kingdom shame and loss.
Yes, hard and terrible the toil
Of him who steps on foreign soil,
Resolved to plant the gospel vine,
Where tyrants rule and slaves repine;
Eager to lift Religion's light
Where thickest shades of mental night
Screen the false god and fiendish rite;
Reckless that missionary blood,
Shed in wild wilderness and wood,
Has left, upon the unblest air,
The man's deep moanthe martyr's prayer.
I know my lotI only ask
Power to fulfil the glorious task;
Willing the spirit, may the flesh
Strength for the day receive afresh.
May burning sun or deadly wind
Prevail not o'er an earnest mind;
May torments strange or direst death
Nor trample truth, nor baffle faith.
Though such blood-drops should fall from me
As fell in old Gethsemane,
Welcome the anguish, so it gave
More strength to workmore skill to save.
And, oh ! if brief must be my time,
If hostile hand or fatal clime
Cut short my coursestill o'er my grave,
Lord, may thy harvest whitening wave.
So I the culture may begin,
Let others thrust the sickle in;
If but the seed will faster grow,
May my blood water what I sow !
What ! have I ever trembling stood,
And feared to give to God that blood ?
What ! has the coward love of life
Made me shrink from the righteous strife ?
Have human passions, human fears
Severed me from those Pioneers,
Whose task is to march first, and trace
Paths for the progress of our race ?
It has been so; but grant me, Lord,
Now to stand steadfast by thy word !
Protected by salvation's helm,
Shielded by faithwith truth begirt,
To smile when trials seek to whelm
And stand 'mid testing fires unhurt !
Hurling hell's strongest bulwarks down,
Even when the last pang thrills my breast,
When Death bestows the Martyr's crown,
And calls me into Jesus' rest.
Then for my ultimate reward
Then for the world-rejoicing word
The voice from FatherSpiritSon:
" Servant of God, well hast thou done !"
Robert Hayden |
Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,
sharks following the moans the fever and the dying;
horror the corposant and compass rose.
voyage through death
to life upon these shores.
"10 April 1800--
Our linguist says
their moaning is a prayer for death,
our and their own.
Some try to starve themselves.
Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter
to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home
black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies, of his bones
New England pews are made, those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus Saviour Pilot Me
Over Life's Tempestuous Sea
We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,
safe passage to our vessels bringing
heathen souls unto Thy chastening.
I cannot sleep, for I am sick
with fear, but writing eases fear a little
since still my eyes can see these words take shape
upon the page & so I write, as one
would turn to exorcism.
4 days scudding,
but now the sea is calm again.
follows in our wake like sharks (our grinning
Which one of us
has killed an albatross? A plague among
our blacks--Ophthalmia: blindness--& we
have jettisoned the blind to no avail.
It spreads, the terrifying sickness spreads.
Its claws have scratched sight from the Capt.
& there is blindness in the fo'c'sle
& we must sail 3 weeks before we come
What port awaits us, Davy Jones' or home? I've
heard of slavers drifting, drifting, playthings of wind and storm and
chance, their crews gone blind, the jungle hatred crawling
up on deck.
Thou Who Walked On Galilee
"Deponent further sayeth The Bella J
left the Guinea Coast
with cargo of five hundred blacks and odd
for the barracoons of Florida:
"That there was hardly room 'tween-decks for half
the sweltering cattle stowed spoon-fashion there;
that some went mad of thirst and tore their flesh
and sucked the blood:
"That Crew and Captain lusted with the comeliest
of the savage girls kept naked in the cabins;
that there was one they called The Guinea Rose
and they cast lots and fought to lie with her:
"That when the Bo's'n piped all hands, the flames
spreading from starboard already were beyond
control, the negroes howling and their chains
entangled with the flames:
"That the burning blacks could not be reached,
that the Crew abandoned ship,
leaving their shrieking negresses behind,
that the Captain perished drunken with the wenches:
"Further Deponent sayeth not.
Pilot Oh Pilot Me
Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,
Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;
have watched the artful mongos baiting traps
of war wherein the victor and the vanquished
Were caught as prizes for our barracoons.
Have seen the ****** kings whose vanity
and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,
Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.
And there was one--King Anthracite we named him--
fetish face beneath French parasols
of brass and orange velvet, impudent mouth
whose cups were carven skulls of enemies:
He'd honor us with drum and feast and conjo
and palm-oil-glistening wenches deft in love,
and for tin crowns that shone with paste,
red calico and German-silver trinkets
Would have the drums talk war and send
his warriors to burn the sleeping villages
and kill the sick and old and lead the young
in coffles to our factories.
Twenty years a trader, twenty years,
for there was wealth aplenty to be harvested
from those black fields, and I'd be trading still
but for the fevers melting down my bones.
Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,
the dark ships move, the dark ships move,
their bright ironical names
like jests of kindness on a murderer's mouth;
plough through thrashing glister toward
fata morgana's lucent melting shore,
weave toward New World littorals that are
mirage and myth and actual shore.
Voyage through death,
voyage whose chartings are unlove.
A charnel stench, effluvium of living death
spreads outward from the hold,
where the living and the dead, the horribly dying,
lie interlocked, lie foul with blood and excrement.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies, the corpse of mercy
rots with him, rats eat love's rotten gelid eyes.
But, oh, the
living look at you with human eyes whose suffering accuses you, whose
hatred reaches through the swill of dark to strike you like a leper's
You cannot stare that hatred down or chain the fear that stalks
the watches and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath; cannot
kill the deep immortal human wish, the timeless will.
"But for the storm that flung up barriers
of wind and wave, The Amistad, señores,
would have reached the port of Príncipe in two,
three days at most; but for the storm we should
have been prepared for what befell.
Swift as a puma's leap it came.
that interval of moonless calm filled only
with the water's and the rigging's usual sounds,
then sudden movement, blows and snarling cries
and they had fallen on us with machete
It was as though the very
air, the night itself were striking us.
Exhausted by the rigors of the storm,
we were no match for them.
Our men went down
before the murderous Africans.
Celestino ran from below with gun
and lantern and I saw, before the cane-
knife's wounding flash, Cinquez,
that surly brute who calls himself a prince,
directing, urging on the ghastly work.
He hacked the poor mulatto down, and then
he turned on me.
The decks were slippery
when daylight finally came.
It sickens me
to think of what I saw, of how these apes
threw overboard the butchered bodies of
our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsam.
The rest is quickly told:
Cinquez was forced to spare the two of us
you see to steer the ship to Africa,
and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea
voyaged east by day and west by night,
deceiving them, hoping for rescue,
prisoners on our own vessel, till
at length we drifted to the shores of this
your land, America, where we were freed
from our unspeakable misery.
demand, good sirs, the extradition of
Cinquez and his accomplices to La
And it distresses us to know
there are so many here who seem inclined
to justify the mutiny of these blacks.
We find it paradoxical indeed
that you whose wealth, whose tree of liberty
are rooted in the labor of your slaves
should suffer the august John Quincey Adams
to speak with so much passion of the right
of chattel slaves to kill their lawful masters
and with his Roman rhetoric weave a hero's
garland for Cinquez.
I tell you that
we are determined to return to Cuba
with our slaves and there see justice done.
or let us say 'the Prince'--Cinquez shall die.
The deep immortal human wish,
the timeless will:
Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,
life that transfigures many lives.
Voyage through death
to life upon these shores.
Countee Cullen |
What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?
So I lie, who all day long
Want no sound except the song
Sung by wild barbaric birds
Goading massive jungle herds,
Juggernauts of flesh that pass
Trampling tall defiant grass
Where young forest lovers lie,
Plighting troth beneath the sky.
So I lie, who always hear,
Though I cram against my ear
Both my thumbs, and keep them there,
Great drums throbbing through the air.
So I lie, whose fount of pride,
Dear distress, and joy allied,
Is my somber flesh and skin,
With the dark blood dammed within
Like great pulsing tides of wine
That, I fear, must burst the fine
Channels of the chafing net
Where they surge and foam and fret.
Africa?A book one thumbs
Listlessly, till slumber comes.
Unremembered are her bats
Circling through the night, her cats
Crouching in the river reeds,
Stalking gentle flesh that feeds
By the river brink; no more
Does the bugle-throated roar
Cry that monarch claws have leapt
From the scabbards where they slept.
Silver snakes that once a year
Doff the lovely coats you wear,
Seek no covert in your fear
Lest a mortal eye should see;
What's your nakedness to me?
Here no leprous flowers rear
Fierce corollas in the air;
Here no bodies sleek and wet,
Dripping mingled rain and sweat,
Tread the savage measures of
Jungle boys and girls in love.
What is last year's snow to me,
Last year's anything?The tree
Budding yearly must forget
How its past arose or set
Bough and blossom, flower, fruit,
Even what shy bird with mute
Wonder at her travail there,
Meekly labored in its hair.
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?
So I lie, who find no peace
Night or day, no slight release
From the unremittent beat
Made by cruel padded feet
Walking through my body's street.
Up and down they go, and back,
Treading out a jungle track.
So I lie, who never quite
Safely sleep from rain at night--
I can never rest at all
When the rain begins to fall;
Like a soul gone mad with pain
I must match its weird refrain;
Ever must I twist and squirm,
Writhing like a baited worm,
While its primal measures drip
Through my body, crying, "Strip!
Doff this new exuberance.
Come and dance the Lover's Dance!"
In an old remembered way
Rain works on me night and day.
Quaint, outlandish heathen gods
Black men fashion out of rods,
Clay, and brittle bits of stone,
In a likeness like their own,
My conversion came high-priced;
I belong to Jesus Christ,
Preacher of humility;
Heathen gods are naught to me.
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
So I make an idle boast;
Jesus of the twice-turned cheek,
Lamb of God, although I speak
With my mouth thus, in my heart
Do I play a double part.
Ever at Thy glowing altar
Must my heart grow sick and falter,
Wishing He I served were black,
Thinking then it would not lack
Precedent of pain to guide it,
Let who would or might deride it;
Surely then this flesh would know
Yours had borne a kindred woe.
Lord, I fashion dark gods, too,
Daring even to give You
Dark despairing features where,
Crowned with dark rebellious hair,
Patience wavers just so much as
Mortal grief compels, while touches
Quick and hot, of anger, rise
To smitten cheek and weary eyes.
Lord, forgive me if my need
Sometimes shapes a human creed.
All day long and all night through,
One thing only must I do:
Quench my pride and cool my blood,
Lest I perish in the flood.
Lest a hidden ember set
Timber that I thought was wet
Burning like the dryest flax,
Melting like the merest wax,
Lest the grave restore its dead.
Not yet has my heart or head
In the least way realized
They and I are civilized.
Anne Sexton |
Mother, my Mary Gray,
once resident of Gloucester
and Essex County,
a photostat of your will
arrived in the mail today.
This is the division of money.
I am one third
of your daughters counting my bounty
or I am a queen alone
in the parlor still,
eating the bread and honey.
It is Good Friday.
Black birds pick at my window sill.
Your coat in my closet,
your bright stones on my hand,
the gaudy fur animals
I do not know how to use,
settle on me like a debt.
A week ago, while the hard March gales
beat on your house,
we sorted your things: obstacles
of letters, family silver,
eyeglasses and shoes.
Like some unseasoned Christmas, its scales
rigged and reset,
I bundled out gifts I did not choose.
Now the houts of The Cross
In Boston, the devout
work their cold knees
toward that sweet martyrdom
that Christ planned.
My timely loss
is too customary to note; and yet
I planned to suffer
and I cannot.
It does not please
my yankee bones to watch
where the dying is done
in its usly hours.
Black birds peck
at my window glass
and Easter will take its ragged son.
The clutter of worship
that you taught me, Mary Gray,
a memory of belief
that I do not own.
on your death and jesus, my stranger
floats up over
my Christian home, wearing his straight
I have cast my lot
and am one third thief
Time, that rearranger
of estates, equips
me with your garments, but not with grief.
This winter when
cancer began its ugliness
I grieved with you each day
for three months
and found you in your private nook
of the medicinal palace
for New England Women
and never once
forgot how long it took.
I read to you
from The New Yorker, ate suppers
you wouldn't eat, fussed
with your flowers,
joked with your nurses, as if I
were the balm among lepers,
as if I could undo
a life in hours
if I never said goodbye.
But you turned old,
all your fifty-eight years sliding
like masks from your skull;
and at the end
I packed your nightgowns in suitcases,
paid the nurses, came riding
home as if I'd been told
I could pretend
people live in places.
Since then I have pretended ease,
loved with the trickeries of need, but not enough
to shed my daughterhood
or sweeten him as a man.
I drink the five o' clock martinis
and poke at this dry page like a rough
Fool! I fumble my lost childhood
for a mother and lounge in sad stuff
with love to catch and catch as catch can.
And Christ still waits.
I have tried
to exorcise the memory of each event
and remain still, a mixed child,
heavy with cloths of you.
Sweet witch, you are my worried guide.
Such dangerous angels walk through Lent.
Their walls creak Anne! Convert! Convert!
My desk moves.
Its cavr murmurs Boo
and I am taken and beguiled.
For all the way I've come
I'll have to go again.
Instead, I must convert
to love as reasonable
as Latin, as sold as earthenware:
I never knew.
And Lent will keep its hurt
for someone else.
Christ knows enough
staunch guys have hitched him in trouble.
thinking his sticks were badges to wear.
Spring rusts on its skinny branch
and last summer's lawn
is soggy and brown.
Yesterday is just a number.
All of its winters avalanche
out of sight.
What was, is gone.
Mother, last night I slept
in your Bonwit Teller nightgown.
Divided, you climbed into my head.
There in my jabbering dream
I heard my own angry cries
and I cursed you, Dame
keep out of my slumber.
My good Dame, you are dead.
And Mother, three stones
slipped from your glittering eyes.
Now it's Friday's noon
and I would still curse
you with my rhyming words
and bring you flapping back, old love,
old circus knitting, god-in-her-moon,
all fairest in my lang syne verse,
the gauzy bride among the children,
the fancy amid the absurd
and awkward, that horn for hounds
that skipper homeward, that museum
keeper of stiff starfish, that blaze
within the pilgrim woman,
a clown mender, a dove's
cheek among the stones,
my Lady of first words,
this is the division of ways.
And now, while Christ stays
fastened to his Crucifix
so that love may praise
and not the grotesque metaphor,
you come, a brave ghost, to fix
in my mind without praise
to make me your inheritor.
Sidney Lanier |
At midnight, death's and truth's unlocking time,
When far within the spirit's hearing rolls
The great soft rumble of the course of things --
A bulk of silence in a mask of sound, --
When darkness clears our vision that by day
Is sun-blind, and the soul's a ravening owl
For truth and flitteth here and there about
Low-lying woody tracts of time and oft
Is minded for to sit upon a bough,
Dry-dead and sharp, of some long-stricken tree
And muse in that gaunt place, -- 'twas then my heart,
Deep in the meditative dark, cried out:
"Ye companies of governor-spirits grave,
Bards, and old bringers-down of flaming news
From steep-wall'd heavens, holy malcontents,
Sweet seers, and stellar visionaries, all
That brood about the skies of poesy,
Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars;
Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
With total lustre blazeth, no, not one
But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
Of defect; yea, you masters all must ask
Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
Your largesse so with love, and interplight
Your geniuses with our mortalities.
Thus unto thee, O sweetest Shakespeare sole,
A hundred hurts a day I do forgive
('Tis little, but, enchantment! 'tis for thee):
Small curious quibble; Juliet's prurient pun
In the poor, pale face of Romeo's fancied death;
Cold rant of Richard; Henry's fustian roar
Which frights away that sleep he invocates;
Wronged Valentine's unnatural haste to yield;
Too-silly shifts of maids that mask as men
In faint disguises that could ne'er disguise --
Viola, Julia, Portia, Rosalind;
Fatigues most drear, and needless overtax
Of speech obscure that had as lief be plain;
Last I forgive (with more delight, because
'Tis more to do) the labored-lewd discourse
That e'en thy young invention's youngest heir
Besmirched the world with.
Father Homer, thee,
Thee also I forgive thy sandy wastes
Of prose and catalogue, thy drear harangues
That tease the patience of the centuries,
Thy sleazy scrap of story, -- but a rogue's
Rape of a light-o'-love, -- too soiled a patch
To broider with the gods.
Thou dear and very strong one, I forgive
Thy year-worn cloak, thine iron stringencies
That were but dandy upside-down, thy words
Of truth that, mildlier spoke, had mainlier wrought.
So, Buddha, beautiful! I pardon thee
That all the All thou hadst for needy man
Was Nothing, and thy Best of being was
But not to be.
Worn Dante, I forgive
The implacable hates that in thy horrid hells
Or burn or freeze thy fellows, never loosed
By death, nor time, nor love.
And I forgive
Thee, Milton, those thy comic-dreadful wars
Where, armed with gross and inconclusive steel,
Immortals smite immortals mortalwise
And fill all heaven with folly.
Brave Aeschylus, thee I forgive, for that
Thine eye, by bare bright justice basilisked,
Turned not, nor ever learned to look where Love
So, unto thee, Lucretius mine
(For oh, what heart hath loved thee like to this
That's now complaining?), freely I forgive
Thy logic poor, thine error rich, thine earth
Whose graves eat souls and all.
Yea, all you hearts
Of beauty, and sweet righteous lovers large:
Aurelius fine, oft superfine; mild Saint
A Kempis, overmild; Epictetus,
Whiles low in thought, still with old slavery tinct;
Rapt Behmen, rapt too far; high Swedenborg,
O'ertoppling; Langley, that with but a touch
Of art hadst sung Piers Plowman to the top
Of English songs, whereof 'tis dearest, now,
And most adorable; Caedmon, in the morn
A-calling angels with the cow-herd's call
That late brought up the cattle; Emerson,
Most wise, that yet, in finding Wisdom, lost
Thy Self, sometimes; tense Keats, with angels' nerves
Where men's were better; Tennyson, largest voice
Since Milton, yet some register of wit
Wanting; -- all, all, I pardon, ere 'tis asked,
Your more or less, your little mole that marks
You brother and your kinship seals to man.
But Thee, but Thee, O sovereign Seer of time,
But Thee, O poets' Poet, Wisdom's Tongue,
But Thee, O man's best Man, O love's best Love,
O perfect life in perfect labor writ,
O all men's Comrade, Servant, King, or Priest, --
What `if' or `yet', what mole, what flaw, what lapse,
What least defect or shadow of defect,
What rumor, tattled by an enemy,
Of inference loose, what lack of grace
Even in torture's grasp, or sleep's, or death's, --
Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee,
Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ?"