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Best Famous Living Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Living poems. This is a select list of the best famous Living poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Living poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of living poems.

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Written by Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard 'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I've got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise I rise I rise.


Written by Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings | Create an image from this poem

a total stranger one black day

a total stranger one black day
knocked living the hell out of me-- 

who found forgiveness hard because
my(as it happened)self he was 

-but now that fiend and i are such
Written by George (Lord) Byron | Create an image from this poem

The Dream

 I

Our life is twofold; Sleep hath its own world,
A boundary between the things misnamed
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world,
And a wide realm of wild reality,
And dreams in their development have breath,
And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
They take a weight from off waking toils,
They do divide our being; they become
A portion of ourselves as of our time,
And look like heralds of eternity;
They pass like spirits of the past—they speak
Like sibyls of the future; they have power— 
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
They make us what we were not—what they will,
And shake us with the vision that's gone by,
The dread of vanished shadows—Are they so?
Is not the past all shadow?—What are they?
Creations of the mind?—The mind can make
Substances, and people planets of its own
With beings brighter than have been, and give
A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.
I would recall a vision which I dreamed Perchance in sleep—for in itself a thought, A slumbering thought, is capable of years, And curdles a long life into one hour.
II I saw two beings in the hues of youth Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill, Green and of mild declivity, the last As 'twere the cape of a long ridge of such, Save that there was no sea to lave its base, But a most living landscape, and the wave Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke Arising from such rustic roofs: the hill Was crowned with a peculiar diadem Of trees, in circular array, so fixed, Not by the sport of nature, but of man: These two, a maiden and a youth, were there Gazing—the one on all that was beneath Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her; And both were young, and one was beautiful: And both were young—yet not alike in youth.
As the sweet moon on the horizon's verge, The maid was on the eve of womanhood; The boy had fewer summers, but his heart Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye There was but one beloved face on earth, And that was shining on him; he had looked Upon it till it could not pass away; He had no breath, no being, but in hers: She was his voice; he did not speak to her, But trembled on her words; she was his sight, For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers, Which coloured all his objects;—he had ceased To live within himself: she was his life, The ocean to the river of his thoughts, Which terminated all; upon a tone, A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow, And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart Unknowing of its cause of agony.
But she in these fond feelings had no share: Her sighs were not for him; to her he was Even as a brother—but no more; 'twas much, For brotherless she was, save in the name Her infant friendship had bestowed on him; Herself the solitary scion left Of a time-honoured race.
—It was a name Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why? Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved Another; even now she loved another, And on the summit of that hill she stood Looking afar if yet her lover's steed Kept pace with her expectancy, and flew.
III A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before Its walls there was a steed caparisoned: Within an antique Oratory stood The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone, And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced Words which I could not guess of; then he leaned His bowed head on his hands and shook, as 'twere With a convulsion—then rose again, And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear What he had written, but he shed no tears.
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow Into a kind of quiet: as he paused, The Lady of his love re-entered there; She was serene and smiling then, and yet She knew she was by him beloved; she knew— For quickly comes such knowledge—that his heart Was darkened with her shadow, and she saw That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp He took her hand; a moment o'er his face A tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced, and then it faded, as it came; He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps Retired, but not as bidding her adieu, For they did part with mutual smiles; he passed From out the massy gate of that old Hall, And mounting on his steed he went his way; And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more.
IV A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds Of fiery climes he made himself a home, And his Soul drank their sunbeams; he was girt With strange and dusky aspects; he was not Himself like what he had been; on the sea And on the shore he was a wanderer; There was a mass of many images Crowded like waves upon me, but he was A part of all; and in the last he lay Reposing from the noontide sultriness, Couched among fallen columns, in the shade Of ruined walls that had survived the names Of those who reared them; by his sleeping side Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds Were fastened near a fountain; and a man, Glad in a flowing garb, did watch the while, While many of his tribe slumbered around: And they were canopied by the blue sky, So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful, That God alone was to be seen in heaven.
V A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love was wed with One Who did not love her better: in her home, A thousand leagues from his,—her native home, She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy, Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold! Upon her face there was a tint of grief, The settled shadow of an inward strife, And an unquiet drooping of the eye, As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief be?—she had all she loved, And he who had so loved her was not there To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish, Or ill-repressed affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be?—she had loved him not, Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved, Nor could he be a part of that which preyed Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.
VI A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was returned.
—I saw him stand Before an altar—with a gentle bride; Her face was fair, but was not that which made The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came The selfsame aspect and the quivering shock That in the antique Oratory shook His bosom in its solitude; and then— As in that hour—a moment o'er his face The tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced—and then it faded as it came, And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke The fitting vows, but heard not his own words, And all things reeled around him; he could see Not that which was, nor that which should have been— But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall, And the remembered chambers, and the place, The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade, All things pertaining to that place and hour, And her who was his destiny, came back And thrust themselves between him and the light; What business had they there at such a time? VII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed, As by the sickness of the soul; her mind Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes, They had not their own lustre, but the look Which is not of the earth; she was become The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts Were combinations of disjointed things; And forms impalpable and unperceived Of others' sight familiar were to hers.
And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise Have a far deeper madness, and the glance Of melancholy is a fearful gift; What is it but the telescope of truth? Which strips the distance of its fantasies, And brings life near in utter nakedness, Making the cold reality too real! VIII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore, The beings which surrounded him were gone, Or were at war with him; he was a mark For blight and desolation, compassed round With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mixed In all which was served up to him, until, Like to the Pontic monarch of old days, He fed on poisons, and they had no power, But were a kind of nutriment; he lived Through that which had been death to many men, And made him friends of mountains; with the stars And the quick Spirit of the Universe He held his dialogues: and they did teach To him the magic of their mysteries; To him the book of Night was opened wide, And voices from the deep abyss revealed A marvel and a secret.
—Be it so.
IX My dream is past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom Of these two creatures should be thus traced out Almost like a reality—the one To end in madness—both in misery.
Written by Edgar Allan Poe | Create an image from this poem

The Raven

ONCE upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, 
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,¡ª 
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, 
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'T is some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door; 5 Only this and nothing more.
" Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;¡ªvainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow¡ªsorrow for the lost Lenore, 10 For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore: Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me¡ªfilled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating 15 "'T is some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door, Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door: This it is and nothing more.
" Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, "Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; 20 But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you"¡ªhere I opened wide the door:¡ª Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, 25 Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?" This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore:" Merely this and nothing more.
30 Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice; Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore; Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore: 35 'T is the wind and nothing more.
" Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door, 40 Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door: Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,¡ª "Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven, 45 Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore: Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.
" Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning¡ªlittle relevancy bore; 50 For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door, Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as "Nevermore.
" But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only 55 That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered, not a feather then he fluttered, Till I scarcely more than muttered,¡ª"Other friends have flown before; On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.
" Then the bird said, "Nevermore.
" 60 Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken, "Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store, Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore: Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore 65 Of 'Never¡ªnevermore.
' But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door; Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore, 70 What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking "Nevermore.
" This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core; This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining 75 On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er, But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er She shall press, ah, nevermore! Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
80 "Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee¡ªby these angels he hath sent thee Respite¡ªrespite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!" Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore.
" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.
" "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! prophet still, if bird or devil! 85 Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted¡ª On this home by Horror haunted¡ªtell me truly, I implore: Is there¡ªis there balm in Gilead?¡ªtell me¡ªtell me, I implore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.
" 90 "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil¡ªprophet still, if bird or devil! By that Heaven that bends above us, by that God we both adore, Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore: Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore!" 95 Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.
" "Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting: "Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken! quit the bust above my door! 100 Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.
" And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, 105 And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor: And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted¡ªnevermore!
Written by C S Lewis | Create an image from this poem

On Being Human

 Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence 
Behold the Forms of nature.
They discern Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying, Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear, High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal Huge Principles appear.
The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of Arboreal life, how from earth's salty lap The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness Enacted by leaves' fall and rising sap; But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance Of sun from shadow where the trees begin, The blessed cool at every pore caressing us -An angel has no skin.
They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory That from each smell in widening circles goes, The pleasure and the pang --can angels measure it? An angel has no nose.
The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes On death, and why, they utterly know; but not The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.
The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf's billowy curves, Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.
—An angel has no nerves.
Far richer they! I know the senses' witchery Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see; Imminent death to man that barb'd sublimity And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.
Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior, This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares With living men some secrets in a privacy Forever ours, not theirs.


Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

Song at Sunset

 SPLENDOR of ended day, floating and filling me! 
Hour prophetic—hour resuming the past! 
Inflating my throat—you, divine average! 
You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing.
Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness, Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection, Natural life of me, faithfully praising things; Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one! Illustrious what we name space—sphere of unnumber’d spirits; Illustrious the mystery of motion, in all beings, even the tiniest insect; Illustrious the attribute of speech—the senses—the body; Illustrious the passing light! Illustrious the pale reflection on the new moon in the western sky! Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the last.
Good in all, In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals, In the annual return of the seasons, In the hilarity of youth, In the strength and flush of manhood, In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age, In the superb vistas of Death.
Wonderful to depart; Wonderful to be here! The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood! To breathe the air, how delicious! To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand! To prepare for sleep, for bed—to look on my rose-color’d flesh; To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large; To be this incredible God I am; To have gone forth among other Gods—these men and women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself! How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around! How the clouds pass silently overhead! How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on and on! How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is alive!) How the trees rise and stand up—with strong trunks—with branches and leaves! (Surely there is something more in each of the tree—some living Soul.
) O amazement of things! even the least particle! O spirituality of things! O strain musical, flowing through ages and continents—now reaching me and America! I take your strong chords—I intersperse them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher’d, or at noon, or, as now, setting, I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth, and of all the growths of the earth, I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I sail’d down the Mississippi, As I wander’d over the prairies, As I have lived—As I have look’d through my windows, my eyes, As I went forth in the morning—As I beheld the light breaking in the east; As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach of the Western Sea; As I roam’d the streets of inland Chicago—whatever streets I have roam’d; Or cities, or silent woods, or peace, or even amid the sights of war; Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
I sing the Equalities, modern or old, I sing the endless finales of things; I say Nature continues—Glory continues; I praise with electric voice; For I do not see one imperfection in the universe; And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.
O setting sun! though the time has come, I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.
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 Lewis Carroll | Create an image from this poem

Four Riddles

 I 

There was an ancient City, stricken down
With a strange frenzy, and for many a day
They paced from morn to eve the crowded town,
And danced the night away.
I asked the cause: the aged man grew sad: They pointed to a building gray and tall, And hoarsely answered "Step inside, my lad, And then you'll see it all.
" Yet what are all such gaieties to me Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds? x*x + 7x + 53 = 11/3 But something whispered "It will soon be done: Bands cannot always play, nor ladies smile: Endure with patience the distasteful fun For just a little while!" A change came o'er my Vision - it was night: We clove a pathway through a frantic throng: The steeds, wild-plunging, filled us with affright: The chariots whirled along.
Within a marble hall a river ran - A living tide, half muslin and half cloth: And here one mourned a broken wreath or fan, Yet swallowed down her wrath; And here one offered to a thirsty fair (His words half-drowned amid those thunders tuneful) Some frozen viand (there were many there), A tooth-ache in each spoonful.
There comes a happy pause, for human strength Will not endure to dance without cessation; And every one must reach the point at length Of absolute prostration.
At such a moment ladies learn to give, To partners who would urge them over-much, A flat and yet decided negative - Photographers love such.
There comes a welcome summons - hope revives, And fading eyes grow bright, and pulses quicken: Incessant pop the corks, and busy knives Dispense the tongue and chicken.
Flushed with new life, the crowd flows back again: And all is tangled talk and mazy motion - Much like a waving field of golden grain, Or a tempestuous ocean.
And thus they give the time, that Nature meant For peaceful sleep and meditative snores, To ceaseless din and mindless merriment And waste of shoes and floors.
And One (we name him not) that flies the flowers, That dreads the dances, and that shuns the salads, They doom to pass in solitude the hours, Writing acrostic-ballads.
How late it grows! The hour is surely past That should have warned us with its double knock? The twilight wanes, and morning comes at last - "Oh, Uncle, what's o'clock?" The Uncle gravely nods, and wisely winks.
It MAY mean much, but how is one to know? He opens his mouth - yet out of it, methinks, No words of wisdom flow.
II Empress of Art, for thee I twine This wreath with all too slender skill.
Forgive my Muse each halting line, And for the deed accept the will! O day of tears! Whence comes this spectre grim, Parting, like Death's cold river, souls that love? Is not he bound to thee, as thou to him, By vows, unwhispered here, yet heard above? And still it lives, that keen and heavenward flame, Lives in his eye, and trembles in his tone: And these wild words of fury but proclaim A heart that beats for thee, for thee alone! But all is lost: that mighty mind o'erthrown, Like sweet bells jangled, piteous sight to see! "Doubt that the stars are fire," so runs his moan, "Doubt Truth herself, but not my love for thee!" A sadder vision yet: thine aged sire Shaming his hoary locks with treacherous wile! And dost thou now doubt Truth to be a liar? And wilt thou die, that hast forgot to smile? Nay, get thee hence! Leave all thy winsome ways And the faint fragrance of thy scattered flowers: In holy silence wait the appointed days, And weep away the leaden-footed hours.
III.
The air is bright with hues of light And rich with laughter and with singing: Young hearts beat high in ecstasy, And banners wave, and bells are ringing: But silence falls with fading day, And there's an end to mirth and play.
Ah, well-a-day Rest your old bones, ye wrinkled crones! The kettle sings, the firelight dances.
Deep be it quaffed, the magic draught That fills the soul with golden fancies! For Youth and Pleasance will not stay, And ye are withered, worn, and gray.
Ah, well-a-day! O fair cold face! O form of grace, For human passion madly yearning! O weary air of dumb despair, From marble won, to marble turning! "Leave us not thus!" we fondly pray.
"We cannot let thee pass away!" Ah, well-a-day! IV.
My First is singular at best: More plural is my Second: My Third is far the pluralest - So plural-plural, I protest It scarcely can be reckoned! My First is followed by a bird: My Second by believers In magic art: my simple Third Follows, too often, hopes absurd And plausible deceivers.
My First to get at wisdom tries - A failure melancholy! My Second men revered as wise: My Third from heights of wisdom flies To depths of frantic folly.
My First is ageing day by day: My Second's age is ended: My Third enjoys an age, they say, That never seems to fade away, Through centuries extended.
My Whole? I need a poet's pen To paint her myriad phases: The monarch, and the slave, of men - A mountain-summit, and a den Of dark and deadly mazes - A flashing light - a fleeting shade - Beginning, end, and middle Of all that human art hath made Or wit devised! Go, seek HER aid, If you would read my riddle!
Written by Charles Bukowski | Create an image from this poem

Let It Enfold You

 either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you

when i was a young man
I felt these things were
dumb,unsophisticated.
I had bad blood,a twisted mind, a pecarious upbringing.
I was hard as granite,I leered at the sun.
I trusted no man and especially no woman.
I was living a hell in small rooms, I broke things, smashed things, walked through glass, cursed.
I challenged everything, was continually being evicted,jailed,in and out of fights,in and aout of my mind.
women were something to screw and rail at,i had no male freinds, I changed jobs and cities,I hated holidays, babies,history, newspapers, museums, grandmothers, marriage, movies, spiders, garbagemen, english accents,spain, france,italy,walnuts and the color orange.
algebra angred me, opera sickened me, charlie chaplin was a fake and flowers were for pansies.
peace an happiness to me were signs of inferiority, tenants of the weak an addled mind.
but as I went on with my alley fights, my suicidal years, my passage through any number of women-it gradually began to occur to me that I wasn't diffrent from the others, I was the same, they were all fulsome with hatred, glossed over with petty greivances, the men I fought in alleys had hearts of stone.
everybody was nudging, inching, cheating for some insignificant advantage, the lie was the weapon and the plot was emptey, darkness was the dictator.
cautiously, I allowed myself to feel good at times.
I found moments of peace in cheap rooms just staring at the knobs of some dresser or listening to the rain in the dark.
the less i needed the better i felt.
maybe the other life had worn me down.
I no longer found glamour in topping somebody in conversation.
or in mounting the body of some poor drunken female whose life had slipped away into sorrow.
I could never accept life as it was, i could never gobble down all its poisons but there were parts, tenous magic parts open for the asking.
I re formulated I don't know when, date,time,all that but the change occured.
something in me relaxed, smoothed out.
i no longer had to prove that i was a man, I did'nt have to prove anything.
I began to see things: coffe cups lined up behind a counter in a cafe.
or a dog walking along a sidewalk.
or the way the mouse on my dresser top stopped there with its body, its ears, its nose, it was fixed, a bit of life caught within itself and its eyes looked at me and they were beautiful.
then- it was gone.
I began to feel good, I began to feel good in the worst situations and there were plenty of those.
like say, the boss behind his desk, he is going to have to fire me.
I've missed too many days.
he is dressed in a suit, necktie, glasses, he says, "i am going to have to let you go" "it's all right" i tell him.
He must do what he must do, he has a wife, a house, children.
expenses, most probably a girlfreind.
I am sorry for him he is caught.
I walk onto the blazing sunshine.
the whole day is mine temporailiy, anyhow.
(the whole world is at the throat of the world, everybody feels angry, short-changed, cheated, everybody is despondent, dissillusioned) I welcomed shots of peace, tattered shards of happiness.
I embraced that stuff like the hottest number, like high heels,breasts, singing,the works.
(dont get me wrong, there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism that overlooks all basic problems justr for the sake of itself- this is a sheild and a sickness.
) The knife got near my throat again, I almost turned on the gas again but when the good moments arrived again I did'nt fight them off like an alley adversary.
I let them take me, i luxuriated in them, I bade them welcome home.
I even looked into the mirror once having thought myself to be ugly, I now liked what I saw,almost handsome,yes, a bit ripped and ragged, scares,lumps, odd turns, but all in all, not too bad, almost handsome, better at least than some of those movie star faces like the cheeks of a babys butt.
and finally I discovered real feelings fo others, unhearleded, like latley, like this morning, as I was leaving, for the track, i saw my wif in bed, just the shape of her head there (not forgetting centuries of the living and the dead and the dying, the pyarimids, Mozart dead but his music still there in the room, weeds growing, the earth turning, the toteboard waiting for me) I saw the shape of my wife's head, she so still, i ached for her life, just being there under the covers.
i kissed her in the, forehead, got down the stairway, got outside, got into my marvelous car, fixed the seatbelt, backed out the drive.
feeling warm to the fingertips, down to my foot on the gas pedal, I entered the world once more, drove down the hill past the houses full and emptey of people, i saw the mailman, honked, he waved back at me.
Written by Robert Pinsky | Create an image from this poem

Impossible To Tell

 to Robert Hass and in memory of Elliot Gilbert


Slow dulcimer, gavotte and bow, in autumn,
Bashõ and his friends go out to view the moon;
In summer, gasoline rainbow in the gutter,

The secret courtesy that courses like ichor
Through the old form of the rude, full-scale joke,
Impossible to tell in writing.
"Bashõ" He named himself, "Banana Tree": banana After the plant some grateful students gave him, Maybe in appreciation of his guidance Threading a long night through the rules and channels Of their collaborative linking-poem Scored in their teacher's heart: live, rigid, fluid Like passages etched in a microscopic cicuit.
Elliot had in his memory so many jokes They seemed to breed like microbes in a culture Inside his brain, one so much making another It was impossible to tell them all: In the court-culture of jokes, a top banana.
Imagine a court of one: the queen a young mother, Unhappy, alone all day with her firstborn child And her new baby in a squalid apartment Of too few rooms, a different race from her neighbors.
She tells the child she's going to kill herself.
She broods, she rages.
Hoping to distract her, The child cuts capers, he sings, he does imitations Of different people in the building, he jokes, He feels if he keeps her alive until the father Gets home from work, they'll be okay till morning.
It's laughter versus the bedroom and the pills.
What is he in his efforts but a courtier? Impossible to tell his whole delusion.
In the first months when I had moved back East From California and had to leave a message On Bob's machine, I used to make a habit Of telling the tape a joke; and part-way through, I would pretend that I forgot the punchline, Or make believe that I was interrupted-- As though he'd be so eager to hear the end He'd have to call me back.
The joke was Elliot's, More often than not.
The doctors made the blunder That killed him some time later that same year.
One day when I got home I found a message On my machine from Bob.
He had a story About two rabbis, one of them tall, one short, One day while walking along the street together They see the corpse of a Chinese man before them, And Bob said, sorry, he forgot the rest.
Of course he thought that his joke was a dummy, Impossible to tell--a dead-end challenge.
But here it is, as Elliot told it to me: The dead man's widow came to the rabbis weeping, Begging them, if they could, to resurrect him.
Shocked, the tall rabbi said absolutely not.
But the short rabbi told her to bring the body Into the study house, and ordered the shutters Closed so the room was night-dark.
Then he prayed Over the body, chanting a secret blessing Out of Kabala.
"Arise and breathe," he shouted; But nothing happened.
The body lay still.
So then The little rabbi called for hundreds of candles And danced around the body, chanting and praying In Hebrew, then Yiddish, then Aramaic.
He prayed In Turkish and Egyptian and Old Galician For nearly three hours, leaping about the coffin In the candlelight so that his tiny black shoes Seemed not to touch the floor.
With one last prayer Sobbed in the Spanish of before the Inquisition He stopped, exhausted, and looked in the dead man's face.
Panting, he raised both arms in a mystic gesture And said, "Arise and breathe!" And still the body Lay as before.
Impossible to tell In words how Elliot's eyebrows flailed and snorted Like shaggy mammoths as--the Chinese widow Granting permission--the little rabbi sang The blessing for performing a circumcision And removed the dead man's foreskin, chanting blessings In Finnish and Swahili, and bathed the corpse From head to foot, and with a final prayer In Babylonian, gasping with exhaustion, He seized the dead man's head and kissed the lips And dropped it again and leaping back commanded, "Arise and breathe!" The corpse lay still as ever.
At this, as when Bashõ's disciples wind Along the curving spine that links the renga Across the different voices, each one adding A transformation according to the rules Of stasis and repetition, all in order And yet impossible to tell beforehand, Elliot changes for the punchline: the wee Rabbi, still panting, like a startled boxer, Looks at the dead one, then up at all those watching, A kind of Mel Brooks gesture: "Hoo boy!" he says, "Now that's what I call really dead.
" O mortal Powers and princes of earth, and you immortal Lords of the underground and afterlife, Jehovah, Raa, Bol-Morah, Hecate, Pluto, What has a brilliant, living soul to do with Your harps and fires and boats, your bric-a-brac And troughs of smoking blood? Provincial stinkers, Our languages don't touch you, you're like that mother Whose small child entertained her to beg her life.
Possibly he grew up to be the tall rabbi, The one who washed his hands of all those capers Right at the outset.
Or maybe he became The author of these lines, a one-man renga The one for whom it seems to be impossible To tell a story straight.
It was a routine Procedure.
When it was finished the physicians Told Sandra and the kids it had succeeded, But Elliot wouldn't wake up for maybe an hour, They should go eat.
The two of them loved to bicker In a way that on his side went back to Yiddish, On Sandra's to some Sicilian dialect.
He used to scold her endlessly for smoking.
When she got back from dinner with their children The doctors had to tell them about the mistake.
Oh swirling petals, falling leaves! The movement Of linking renga coursing from moment to moment Is meaning, Bob says in his Haiku book.
Oh swirling petals, all living things are contingent, Falling leaves, and transient, and they suffer.
But the Universal is the goal of jokes, Especially certain ethnic jokes, which taper Down through the swirling funnel of tongues and gestures Toward their preposterous Ithaca.
There's one A journalist told me.
He heard it while a hero Of the South African freedom movement was speaking To elderly Jews.
The speaker's own right arm Had been blown off by right-wing letter-bombers.
He told his listeners they had to cast their ballots For the ANC--a group the old Jews feared As "in with the Arabs.
" But they started weeping As the old one-armed fighter told them their country Needed them to vote for what was right, their vote Could make a country their children could return to From London and Chicago.
The moved old people Applauded wildly, and the speaker's friend Whispered to the journalist, "It's the Belgian Army Joke come to life.
" I wish I could tell it To Elliot.
In the Belgian Army, the feud Between the Flemings and Walloons grew vicious, So out of hand the army could barely function.
Finally one commander assembled his men In one great room, to deal with things directly.
They stood before him at attention.
"All Flemings," He ordered, "to the left wall.
" Half the men Clustered to the left.
"Now all Walloons," he ordered, "Move to the right.
" An equal number crowded Against the right wall.
Only one man remained At attention in the middle: "What are you, soldier?" Saluting, the man said, "Sir, I am a Belgian.
" "Why, that's astonishing, Corporal--what's your name?" Saluting again, "Rabinowitz," he answered: A joke that seems at first to be a story About the Jews.
But as the renga describes Religious meaning by moving in drifting petals And brittle leaves that touch and die and suffer The changing winds that riffle the gutter swirl, So in the joke, just under the raucous music Of Fleming, Jew, Walloon, a courtly allegiance Moves to the dulcimer, gavotte and bow, Over the banana tree the moon in autumn-- Allegiance to a state impossible to tell.
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