Spring and Fall, Gerard Manley Hopkins

July 9, 2015

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

June 24, 2015
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Source: Poetry (June 1915).

For more Eliot, visit Poetry Foundation


If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda

May 29, 2015

If You Forget Me – Poem by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.


Just Rest

May 25, 2015

Just Rest, Ronald Baatz

just rest
don’t think
of anything

just rest
under leaves
falling and

just rest
under shadows
falling too

don’t think
don’t concern
yourself at all

with this aloneness
that has come
as it has always

don’t shed any
tears or toss
and turn

don’t attempt
trying to see or
trying to understand

nothing will come of it
and only valuable
sleep will be lost

just rest
don’t think
of anything

let the leaves
fall and let them
bury you


Dream Song 29 (in celebration of Berryman’s centennial just a little late)

May 21, 2015

John Berryman, 19141972

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry’s heart
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry’s ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of.  Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late.  This is not for tears;
thinking.

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody’s missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

Good Night!

November 7, 2014
“Good Night!”
She was blushing in the misty green of August
and I tell you that’s a lapidary recollection
although the pitch and cadence of her voice is lost.
A lot of Christmas trees have occurred since then
and ice-skaters by the thousands dead and buried.
There shone softly a bathing suit of pastel stripes
and her thighs “kissed” so that young orthodontists
leaned and leaned smiling on her doorbell.
There is a use in shoveling through these eggshells
orange peels greasy paper bags and stinking bones
from which are stitched together songs to stun the
drunkards.
One sees by the stars and the date on the paper
that the old year is as usual vanishing.
The dim and unintelligible smile in the department
store
a vague and cryptic memorandum. “Get ornaments and
tinsel.”
“Have loving cup engraved.” It falters in men’s
haberdashery
and the heat is too oppressive to be borne.
(from
Selected Poems 1958-1980
, 1981)

To The Light of September

September 3, 2008

To the Light of September
When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

you
who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew
– W. S. Merwin


Bring in the Gods

June 30, 2008

Bring in the gods, I say, and he goes out.  When he comes

back and I know they are with him, I say, Put tables in front

of them so they may be seated, and food upon the tables

so they may eat.  When they have eaten, I ask which of them

will question me.  Let him hold up his hand, I say.

The one on the left raises his hand I tell him to ask.

Where are you now, he says.  I stand on top of myself, I hear

myself answer.  I stand on myself like a hilltop and my life

is spread before me.  Does it surprise you, he asks.  I explain

that in our youth and for a long time after our youth we cannot

see our lives.  Because we are inside of that.  Because we can

see no shape to it, since we have nothing to compare it to.

We have not seen it grow and change because we are too close.

We dion’t know the names of things that would bind them to us,

so we cannot feed on them.  One near the middle asks why not.

Because we don’t have the knack for eating what we are living.

Why is that? she asks.  Because we are too much in a hurry.

Where are you now? the one one left says.  With the ghosts.

I am with Gianna those two years in Perugia.  Meeting secretly

in the thirteenth-century alleys of stone.  Walking in the fields

through the spring light, she well dresed and walking in heels

over the plowed land.  We are just outside the city walls

hidden under the thorny blackberry bushes and her breasts naked.

I am with her those many twilights in the olive orchards,

holding the heart of her as she whimpers.  Now where are you?

he says.  I am with Linda those years and years.  In American

cities, in Copenhagen, on Greek islands season after season.

Lindos and Monolithos and the other places.  I am with Michiko

for eleven years, East and West, holding her clear in my mind

the way a native can hold all of his village at one moment.

Where are you now? he says.  I am standing onmyself the way

a bird sits in her nest, with the babies half asleep underneath

and the world all leaves and morning air.  What do you want?

a glonde one asks.  To keep what I already have, I say.  You ask

too much, he says sternly.  Then you are at peace, she says.

I am not at peace, I tell her.  I want to fail.  I am hungry

for what I am becoming.  What will you do? she asks.  I will

continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

–Jack Gilbert


Waiting For A Ride

June 30, 2008

Standing at the baggage, passing time:

Austin, Texas, airport–my ride hasn’t come yet.

My former wife is making Web sites from her home,

one son’s seldom seen,

the other and his wife have a boy and girl of their own.

My wife and stepdaughter are spending weekdays in town

so she can get to high school.

My mother, ninety-six, still lives alone and she’s in town, too,

always gets her sanity back just barely in time.

My former former wife has become a unique poet;

most of my work,

such as it is, is done.

Full moon was October 2nd this year,

I ate a mooncake, slept out on the deck,

white light beaming through the black boughs of the pine,

owl hoots and rattling antlers,

Castor and Pollux rising strong–

it’s good to know that the polestar drifts!

That even our present night sky slips away;

not that I’ll see it.

Or maybe I will, much later,

some far time walking the spirit path in the sky,

that long walk of spirits–where you fall right back into the

“narrow painful passageway of the Bardo”

squeeze your little skull

and there you are again

waiting for your ride

–Gary Snyder


The Waking

April 7, 2008
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke