Raymond Carver |
And all at length are gathered in.
By the time I came around to feeling pain
and woke up, moonlight
flooded the room.
My arm lay paralyzed,
propped up like an old anchor under
You were in a dream,
you said later, where you'd arrived
early for the dance.
a moment's anxiety you were okay
because it was really a sidewalk
sale, and the shoes you were wearing,
or not wearing, were fine for that.
"Help me," I said.
And tried to hoist
But it just lay there, aching,
unable to rise on its own.
you said, "What is it? What's wrong?"
it stayed put -- deaf, unmoved
by any expression of fear or amazement.
We shouted at it, and grew afraid
when it didn't answer.
"It's gone to sleep,"
I said, and hearing those words
knew how absurd this was.
I couldn't laugh.
between the two of us, we managed
to raise it.
This can't be my arm
is what I kept thinking as
we thumped it, squeezed it, and
prodded it back to life.
until that stinging went away.
We said a few words to each other.
I don't remember what.
reassuring things people
who love each other say to each other
given the hour and such odd
I do remember
you remarked how it was light
enough in the room that you could see
circles under my eyes.
You said I needed more regular sleep,
and I agreed.
Each of us went
to the bathroom, and climbed back into bed
on our respective sides.
Pulled the covers up.
you said, for the second time that night.
And fell asleep.
into that same dream, or else another.
I lay until daybreak, holding
both arms fast across my chest.
Working my fingers now and then.
While my thoughts kept circling
around and around, but always going back
where they'd started from.
That one inescapable fact: even while
we undertake this trip,
there's another, far more bizarre,
we still have to make.
Audre Lorde |
An upright abutment in the mouth
of the Willis Avenue bridge
a beige Honda leaps the divider
like a steel gazelle inescapable
sleek leather boots on the pavement
rat-a-tat-tat best intentions
going down for the third time
stuck in the particular
You cannot make love to concrete
if you care about being
non-essential wrong or worn thin
if you fear ever becoming
diamonds or lard
you cannot make love to concrete
if you cannot pretend
concrete needs your loving
To make love to concrete
you need an indelible feather
white dresses before you are ten
a confirmation lace veil milk-large bones
and air raid drills in your nightmares
no stars till you go to the country
and one summer when you are twelve
Con Edison pulls the plug
on the street-corner moons Walpurgisnacht
and there are sudden new lights in the sky
stone chips that forget you need
to become a light rope a hammer
a repeatable bridge
garden-fresh broccoli two dozen dropped eggs
and a hint of you
caught up between my fingers
the lesson of a wooden beam
propped up on barrels
across a mined terrain
between forgiving too easily
and never giving at all.
Charles Bukowski |
washed-up, on shore, the old yellow notebook
I write from the bed
as I did last
will see the doctor,
"yes, doctor, weak legs, vertigo, head-
aches and my back
"are you drinking?" he will ask.
"are you getting your
I think that I am just ill
with life, the same stale yet
even at the track
I watch the horses run by
and it seems
I leave early after buying tickets on the
"taking off?" asks the motel
"yes, it's boring,"
I tell him.
"If you think it's boring
out there," he tells me, "you oughta be
so here I am
propped up against my pillows
just an old guy
just an old writer
with a yellow
walking across the
oh, it's just
Robert William Service |
Is it not strange? A year ago to-day,
With scarce a thought beyond the hum-drum round,
I did my decent job and earned my pay;
Was averagely happy, I'll be bound.
Ay, in my little groove I was content,
Seeing my life run smoothly to the end,
With prosy days in stolid labour spent,
And jolly nights, a pipe, a glass, a friend.
In God's good time a hearth fire's cosy gleam,
A wife and kids, and all a fellow needs;
When presto! like a bubble goes my dream:
I leap upon the Stage of Splendid Deeds.
I yell with rage; I wallow deep in gore:
I, that was clerk in a drysalter's store.
Stranger than any book I've ever read.
Here on the reeking battlefield I lie,
Under the stars, propped up with smeary dead,
Like too, if no one takes me in, to die.
Hit on the arms, legs, liver, lungs and gall;
Damn glad there's nothing more of me to hit;
But calm, and feeling never pain at all,
And full of wonder at the turn of it.
For of the dead around me three are mine,
Three foemen vanquished in the whirl of fight;
So if I die I have no right to whine,
I feel I've done my little bit all right.
I don't know how -- but there the beggars are,
As dead as herrings pickled in a jar.
And here am I, worse wounded than I thought;
For in the fight a bullet bee-like stings;
You never heed; the air is metal-hot,
And all alive with little flicking wings.
But on you charge.
You see the fellows fall;
Your pal was by your side, fair fighting-mad;
You turn to him, and lo! no pal at all;
You wonder vaguely if he's copped it bad.
But on you charge.
The heavens vomit death;
And vicious death is besoming the ground.
You're blind with sweat; you're dazed, and out of breath,
And though you yell, you cannot hear a sound.
But on you charge.
Oh, War's a rousing game!
Around you smoky clouds like ogres tower;
The earth is rowelled deep with spurs of flame,
And on your helmet stones and ashes shower.
But on you charge.
It's odd! You have no fear.
Machine-gun bullets whip and lash your path;
Red, yellow, black the smoky giants rear;
The shrapnel rips, the heavens roar in wrath.
But on you charge.
Barbed wire all trampled down.
The ground all gored and rent as by a blast;
Grim heaps of grey where once were heaps of brown;
A ragged ditch -- the Hun first line at last.
All smashed to hell.
Their second right ahead,
So on you charge.
There's nothing else to do.
More reeking holes, blood, barbed wire, gruesome dead;
(Your puttee strap's undone -- that worries you).
You glare around.
You think you're all alone.
But no; your chums come surging left and right.
The nearest chap flops down without a groan,
His face still snarling with the rage of fight.
Ha! here's the second trench -- just like the first,
Only a little more so, more "laid out";
More pounded, flame-corroded, death-accurst;
A pretty piece of work, beyond a doubt.
Now for the third, and there your job is done,
So on you charge.
You never stop to think.
Your cursed puttee's trailing as you run;
You feel you'd sell your soul to have a drink.
The acrid air is full of cracking whips.
You wonder how it is you're going still.
You foam with rage.
Oh, God! to be at grips
With someone you can rush and crush and kill.
Your sleeve is dripping blood; you're seeing red;
You're battle-mad; your turn is coming now.
See! there's the jagged barbed wire straight ahead,
And there's the trench -- you'll get there anyhow.
Your puttee catches on a strand of wire,
And down you go; perhaps it saves your life,
For over sandbag rims you see 'em fire,
Crop-headed chaps, their eyes ablaze with strife.
You crawl, you cower; then once again you plunge
With all your comrades roaring at your heels.
Have at 'em lads! You stab, you jab, you lunge;
A blaze of glory, then the red world reels.
A crash of triumph, then .
you're faint a bit .
That cursed puttee! Now to fasten it.
Well, that's the charge.
And now I'm here alone.
I've built a little wall of Hun on Hun,
To shield me from the leaden bees that drone
(It saves me worry, and it hurts 'em none).
The only thing I'm wondering is when
Some stretcher-men will stroll along my way?
It isn't much that's left of me, but then
Where life is, hope is, so at least they say.
Well, if I'm spared I'll be the happy lad.
I tell you I won't envy any king.
I've stood the racket, and I'm proud and glad;
I've had my crowning hour.
Oh, War's the thing!
It gives us common, working chaps our chance,
A taste of glory, chivalry, romance.
Ay, War, they say, is hell; it's heaven, too.
It lets a man discover what he's worth.
It takes his measure, shows what he can do,
Gives him a joy like nothing else on earth.
It fans in him a flame that otherwise
Would flicker out, these drab, discordant days;
It teaches him in pain and sacrifice
Faith, fortitude, grim courage past all praise.
Yes, War is good.
So here beside my slain,
A happy wreck I wait amid the din;
For even if I perish mine's the gain.
Hi, there, you fellows! won't you take me in?
Give me a *** to smoke upon the way.
We've taken La Boiselle! The hell, you say!
Well, that would make a corpse sit up and grin.
Lead on! I'll live to fight another day.
Seamus Heaney |
The piper coming from far away is you
With a whitewash brush for a sporran
Wobbling round you, a kitchen chair
Upside down on your shoulder, your right arm
Pretending to tuck the bag beneath your elbow,
Your pop-eyes and big cheeks nearly bursting
With laughter, but keeping the drone going on
Interminably, between catches of breath.
The whitewash brush.
An old blanched skirted thing
On the back of the byre door, biding its time
Until spring airs spelled lime in a work-bucket
And a potstick to mix it in with water.
Those smells brought tears to the eyes, we inhaled
A kind of greeny burning and thought of brimstone.
But the slop of the actual job
Of brushing walls, the watery grey
Being lashed on in broad swatches, then drying out
Whiter and whiter, all that worked like magic.
Where had we come from, what was this kingdom
We knew we'd been restored to? Our shadows
Moved on the wall and a tar border glittered
The full length of the house, a black divide
Like a freshly opened, pungent, reeking trench.
Piss at the gable, the dead will congregate.
The women after dark,
Hunkering there a moment before bedtime,
The only time the soul was let alone,
The only time that face and body calmed
In the eye of heaven.
Buttermilk and urine,
The pantry, the housed beasts, the listening bedroom.
We were all together there in a foretime,
In a knowledge that might not translate beyond
Those wind-heaved midnights we still cannot be sure
Happened or not.
It smelled of hill-fort clay
And cattle dung.
When the thorn tree was cut down
You broke your arm.
I shared the dread
When a strange bird perched for days on the byre roof.
That scene, with Macbeth helpless and desperate
In his nightmare--when he meets the hags agains
And sees the apparitions in the pot--
I felt at home with that one all right.
Steam and ululation, the smoky hair
Curtaining a cheek.
'Don't go near bad boys
In that college that you're bound for.
Do you hear me?
Do you hear me speaking to you? Don't forget!'
And then the postick quickening the gruel,
The steam crown swirled, everything intimate
And fear-swathed brightening for a moment,
Then going dull and fatal and away.
Grey matter like gruel flecked with blood
In spatters on the whitewash.
A clean spot
Where his head had been, other stains subsumed
In the parched wall he leant his back against
That morning like any other morning,
Part-time reservist, toting his lunch-box.
A car came slow down Castle Street, made the halt,
Crossed the Diamond, slowed again and stopped
Level with him, although it was not his lift.
And then he saw an ordinary face
For what it was and a gun in his own face.
His right leg was hooked back, his sole and heel
Against the wall, his right knee propped up steady,
So he never moved, just pushed with all his might
Against himself, then fell past the tarred strip,
Feeding the gutter with his copious blood.
My dear brother, you have good stamina.
You stay on where it happens.
Your big tractor
Pulls up at the Diamond, you wave at people,
You shout and laugh about the revs, you keep
old roads open by driving on the new ones.
You called the piper's sporrans whitewash brushes
And then dressed up and marched us through the kitchen,
But you cannot make the dead walk or right wrong.
I see you at the end of your tether sometimes,
In the milking parlour, holding yourself up
Between two cows until your turn goes past,
Then coming to in the smell of dung again
And wondering, is this all? As it was
In the beginning, is now and shall be?
Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush
Up on the byre door, and keeping going.
Louis Untermeyer |
Can that be you, la mouche? Wait till I lift
This palsied eye-lid and make sure... Ah, true.
Come in, dear fly, and pardon my delay
In thus existing; I can promise you
Next time you come you'll find no dying poet—
Without sufficient spleen to see me through,
The joke becomes too tedious a jest.
I am afraid my mind is dull to-day;
I have that—something—heavier on my chest
And then, you see, I've been exchanging thoughts
With Doctor Franz. He talked of Kant and Hegel
As though he'd nursed them both through whooping cough
And, as he left, he let his finger shake
Too playfully, as though to say, "Now off
With that long face—you've years and years to live."
I think he thinks so. But, for Heaven's sake,
Don't credit it—and never tell Mathilde.
Poor dear, she has enough to bear already....
This was a month! During my lonely weeks
One person actually climbed the stairs
To seek a cripple. It was Berlioz—
But Berlioz always was original.
Meissner was also here; he caught me unawares,
Scribbling to my old mother. "What!" he cried,
"Is the old lady of the Dammthor still alive?
And do you write her still?" "Each month or so."
"And is she not unhappy then, to find
How wretched you must be?" "How can she know?
You see," I laughed, "she thinks I am as well
As when she saw me last. She is too blind
To read the papers—some one else must tell
What's in my letters, merely signed by me.
Thus she is happy. For the rest—
That any son should be as sick as I,
No mother could believe."
Ja, so it goes.
Come here, my lotus-flower. It is best
I drop the mask to-day; the half-cracked shield
Of mockery calls for younger hands to wield.
Laugh—or I'll hug it closer to my breast.
So ... I can be as mawkish as I choose
And give my thoughts an airing, let them loose
For one last rambling stroll before—Now look!
Why tears? You never heard me say "the end."
Before ... before I clap them in a book
And so get rid of them once and for all.
This is their holiday—we'll let them run—
Some have escaped already. There goes one ...
What, I have often mused, did Goethe mean?
So many years ago at Weimar, Goethe said
"Heine has all the poet's gifts but love."
Good God! But that is all I ever had.
More than enough! So much of love to give
That no one gave me any in return.
And so I flashed and snapped in my own fires
Until I stood, with nothing left to burn,
A twisted trunk, in chilly isolation.
Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam—you recall?
I was that Northern tree and, in the South,
Amalia... So I turned to scornful cries,
Hot iron songs to save the rest of me;
Plunging the brand in my own misery.
Crouching behind my pointed wall of words,
Ramparts I built of moons and loreleys,
Enchanted roses, sphinxes, love-sick birds,
Giants, dead lads who left their graves to dance,
Fairies and phœnixes and friendly gods—
A curious frieze, half Renaissance, half Greek,
Behind which, in revulsion of romance,
I lay and laughed—and wept—till I was weak.
Words were my shelter, words my one escape,
Words were my weapons against everything.
Was I not once the son of Revolution?
Give me the lyre, I said, and let me sing
My song of battle: Words like flaming stars
Shot down with power to burn the palaces;
Words like bright javelins to fly with fierce
Hate of the oily Philistines and glide
Through all the seven heavens till they pierce
The pious hypocrites who dare to creep
Into the Holy Places. "Then," I cried,
"I am a fire to rend and roar and leap;
I am all joy and song, all sword and flame!"
Ha—you observe me passionate. I aim
To curb these wild emotions lest they soar
Or drive against my will. (So I have said
These many years—and still they are not tame.)
Scraps of a song keep rumbling in my head ...
Listen—you never heard me sing before.
When a false world betrays your trust
And stamps upon your fire,
When what seemed blood is only rust,
Take up the lyre!
How quickly the heroic mood
Responds to its own ringing;
The scornful heart, the angry blood
Leap upward, singing!
Ah, that was how it used to be. But now,
Du schöner Todesengel, it is odd
How more than calm I am. Franz said it shows
Power of religion, and it does, perhaps—
Religion or morphine or poultices—God knows.
I sometimes have a sentimental lapse
And long for saviours and a physical God.
When health is all used up, when money goes,
When courage cracks and leaves a shattered will,
Then Christianity begins. For a sick Jew,
It is a very good religion ... Still,
I fear that I will die as I have lived,
A long-nosed heathen playing with his scars,
A pagan killed by weltschmerz ... I remember,
Once when I stood with Hegel at a window,
I, being full of bubbling youth and coffee,
Spoke in symbolic tropes about the stars.
Something I said about "those high
Abodes of all the blest" provoked his temper.
"Abodes? The stars?" He froze me with a sneer,
"A light eruption on the firmament."
"But," cried romantic I, "is there no sphere
Where virtue is rewarded when we die?"
And Hegel mocked, "A very pleasant whim.
So you demand a bonus since you spent
One lifetime and refrained from poisoning
Your testy grandmother!" ... How much of him
Remains in me—even when I am caught
In dreams of death and immortality.
To be eternal—what a brilliant thought!
It must have been conceived and coddled first
By some old shopkeeper in Nuremberg,
His slippers warm, his children amply nursed,
Who, with his lighted meerschaum in his hand,
His nightcap on his head, one summer night
Sat drowsing at his door. And mused, how grand
If all of this could last beyond a doubt—
This placid moon, this plump gemüthlichkeit;
Pipe, breath and summer never going out—
To vegetate through all eternity ...
But no such everlastingness for me!
God, if he can, keep me from such a blight.
Death, it is but the long, cool night,
And Life's a dull and sultry day.
It darkens; I grow sleepy;
I am weary of the light.
Over my bed a strange tree gleams
And there a nightingale is loud.
She sings of love, love only ...
I hear it, even in dreams.
My Mouche, the other day as I lay here,
Slightly propped up upon this mattress-grave
In which I've been interred these few eight years,
I saw a dog, a little pampered slave,
Running about and barking. I would have given
Heaven could I have been that dog; to thrive
Like him, so senseless—and so much alive!
And once I called myself a blithe Hellene,
Who am too much in love with life to live.
(The shrug is pure Hebraic) ... For what I've been,
A lenient Lord will tax me—and forgive.
Dieu me pardonnera—c'est son metier.
But this is jesting. There are other scandals
You haven't heard ... Can it be dusk so soon?
Or is this deeper darkness ...? Is that you,
Mother? How did you come? Where are the candles?...
Over my bed a strange tree gleams—half filled
With stars and birds whose white notes glimmer through
Its seven branches now that all is stilled.
What? Friday night again and all my songs
Forgotten? Wait ... I still can sing—
Sh'ma Yisroel Adonai Elohenu,
Adonai Echod ...
James Dickey |
Memory: I can take my head and strike it on a wall on Cumberland Island
Where the night tide came crawling under the stairs came up the first
Two or three steps and the cottage stood on poles all night
With the sea sprawled under it as we dreamed of the great fin circling
Under the bedroom floor.
In daylight there was my first brassy taste of beer
And Payton Ford and I came back from the Glynn County slaughterhouse
With a bucket of entrails and blood.
We tied one end of a hawser
To a spindling porch-pillar and rowed straight out of the house
Three hundred yards into the vast front yard of windless blue water
The rope out slithering its coil the two-gallon jug stoppered and sealed
With wax and a ten-foot chain leader a drop-forged shark-hook nestling.
We cast our blood on the waters the land blood easily passing
For sea blood and we sat in it for a moment with the stain spreading
Out from the boat sat in a new radiance in the pond of blood in the sea
Waiting for fins waiting to spill our guts also in the glowing water.
We dumped the bucket, and baited the hook with a run-over collie pup.
Bobbed, trying to shake off the sun as a dog would shake off the sea.
We rowed to the house feeling the same water lift the boat a new way,
All the time seeing where we lived rise and dip with the oars.
We tied up and sat down in rocking chairs, one eye on the other responding
To the blue-eye wink of the jug.
Payton got us a beer and we sat
All morning sat there with blood on our minds the red mark out
In the harbor slowly failing us then the house groaned the rope
Sprang out of the water splinters flew we leapt from our chairs
And grabbed the rope hauled did nothing the house coming subtly
Apart all around us underfoot boards beginning to sparkle like sand
Pulling out the tarred poles we slept propped-up on leaning to sea
As in land-wind crabs scuttling from under the floor as we took runs about
Two more porch-pillars and looked out and saw something a fish-flash
An almighty fin in trouble a moiling of secret forces a false start
Of water a round wave growing in the whole of Cumberland Sound the one ripple.
Payton took off without a word I could not hold him either
But clung to the rope anyway it was the whole house bending
Its nails that held whatever it was coming in a little and like a fool
I took up the slack on my wrist.
The rope drew gently jerked I lifted
Clean off the porch and hit the water the same water it was in
I felt in blue blazing terror at the bottom of the stairs and scrambled
Back up looking desperately into the human house as deeply as I could
Stopping my gaze before it went out the wire screen of the back door
Stopped it on the thistled rattan the rugs I lay on and read
On my mother's sewing basket with next winter's socks spilling from it
The flimsy vacation furniture a bucktoothed picture of myself.
Payton came back with three men from a filling station and glanced at me
Dripping water inexplicable then we all grabbed hold like a tug-of-war.
We were gaining a little from us a cry went up from everywhere
People came running.
Behind us the house filled with men and boys.
On the third step from the sea I took my place looking down the rope
Going into the ocean, humming and shaking off drops.
Of people put their backs into it going up the steps from me
Into the living room through the kitchen down the back stairs
Up and over a hill of sand across a dust road and onto a raised field
Of dunes we were gaining the rope in my hands began to be wet
With deeper water all other haulers retreated through the house
But Payton and I on the stairs drawing hand over hand on our blood
Drawing into existence by the nose a huge body becoming
A hammerhead rolling in beery shallows and I began to let up
But the rope strained behind me the town had gone
Pulling-mad in our house far away in a field of sand they struggled
They had turned their backs on the sea bent double some on their knees
The rope over their shoulders like a bag of gold they strove for the ideal
Esso station across the scorched meadow with the distant fish coming up
The front stairs the sagging boards still coming in up taking
Another step toward the empty house where the rope stood straining
By itself through the rooms in the middle of the air.
"Pass the word,"
Payton said, and I screamed it "Let up, good God, let up!" to no one there.
The shark flopped on the porch, grating with salt-sand driving back in
The nails he had pulled out coughing chunks of his formless blood.
The screen door banged and tore off he scrambled on his tail slid
Curved did a thing from another world and was out of his element and in
Our vacation paradise cutting all four legs from under the dinner table
With one deep-water move he unwove the rugs in a moment throwing pints
Of blood over everything we owned knocked the buckteeth out of my picture
His odd head full of crashed jelly-glass splinters and radio tubes thrashing
Among the pages of fan magazines all the movie stars drenched in sea-blood
Each time we thought he was dead he struggled back and smashed
One more thing in all coming back to die three or four more times after death.
At last we got him out logrolling him greasing his sandpaper skin
With lard to slide him pulling on his chained lips as the tide came,
Tumbled him down the steps as the first night wave went under the floor.
He drifted off head back belly white as the moon.
What could I do but buy
That house for the one black mark still there against death a forehead-
toucher in the room he circles beneath and has been invited to wreck?
Blood hard as iron on the wall black with time still bloodlike
Can be touched whenever the brow is drunk enough.
Something like three-dimensional dancing in the limbs with age
Feeling more in two worlds than one in all worlds the growing encounters.
Copyright © James Dickey 1965
Online Source - http://www.
Eugene Field |
Though care and strife
Elsewhere be rife,
Upon my word I do not heed 'em;
In bed I lie
With books hard by,
And with increasing zest I read 'em.
Propped up in bed,
So much I've read
Of musty tomes that I've a headful
Of tales and rhymes
Of ancient times,
Which, wife declares, are "simply dreadful!"
They give me joy
And isn't that what books are made for?
And yet--and yet--
(Ah, vain regret!)
I would to God they all were paid for!
No festooned cup
Filled foaming up
Can lure me elsewhere to confound me;
Sweeter than wine
This love of mine
For these old books I see around me!
A plague, I say,
On maidens gay;
I'll weave no compliments to tell 'em!
Vain fool I were,
Did I prefer
Those dolls to these old friends in vellum!
At dead of night
My chamber's bright
Not only with the gas that's burning,
But with the glow
Of long ago,--
Of beauty back from eld returning.
Fair women's looks
I see in books,
I see them, and I hear their laughter,--
Proud, high-born maids,
Unlike the jades
Which men-folk now go chasing after!
Speak valiant men
Of all nativities and ages;
I hear and smile
With rapture while
I turn these musty, magic pages.
The sword, the lance,
The morris dance,
The highland song, the greenwood ditty,
Of these I read,
Or, when the need,
My Miller grinds me grist that's gritty!
When of such stuff
We've had enough,
Why, there be other friends to greet us;
In solemn wise
With Plato or with Epictetus.
Sneer as you may,
I'm proud to say
That I, for one, am very grateful
To Heaven, that sends
These genial friends
To banish other friendships hateful!
And when I'm done,
I'd have no son
Pounce on these treasures like a vulture;
Nay, give them half
And let them share in my sepulture.
Then, when the crack
Of doom rolls back
The marble and the earth that hide me,
I'll smuggle home
Each precious tome,
Without a fear my wife shall chide me!