Poetry

POETRY: The Definition Of Soul by Boris Pasternak

February 23, 2018

It falls like a ripe pear into the storm with a single clinging leaf. How faithful—it quits its branch— reckless—it chokes in the heat. It falls like a pear, more askew than the wind. How faithful— Look back: it thundered beautifully, bloomed, scattered—into ashes. The storm burned our country. Fledgling, will you know your nest? O my quivering goldfinch, my leaf, why do you flutter against my shy silk? Do not fear, my single clingng song. What should we strive for? O indivisible trembling—you don’t get that deadly phrase “stay [...]

POETRY: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

February 21, 2018

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting— over and over announcing your place in the family of [...]

POETRY: The Definition Of Poetry by Boris Pasternak

February 16, 2018

It’s a tightly filled whistle, it’s the squeaking of jostled ice, it’s night, frosting the leaves, it’s two nightingales dueling. It’s the soundlessness of sweetpeas, the tears of the universe in a pod. It’s a Figaro from music-stands and flutes like hail on garden plots. And all that the night finds hard to find on the sunken floors of bathhouses is carried to the fish pond like a star on damp, trembling palms. It’s a mugginess flatter than sunken boards, alders banked over the horizon. The laughter of the stars is welcome in this universe—this soundless [...]

POETRY: Station Island XI by Seamus Heaney / John of the Cross

February 13, 2018

As if the prisms of the kaleidoscope I plunged once in a butt of muddied water Surfaced like a marvelous lightship And out of its silted crystals a monk’s face That had spoken years ago from behind a grille Spoke again about the need and chance To salvage everything, to re-envisage The zenith and glimpsed jewels of any gift Mistakenly abased …. What came to nothing could always be replenished. “Read poems as prayers,” he said, “and for your penance Translate me something by Juan de la Cruz.” Returned from Spain to our chapped wilderness, His consonants aspirate, his forehead shining, He had made me feel there was nothing to confess. Now his sandaled passage stirred me on to this: How well I know that fountain, filling, running, [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 11 by John Berryman

February 9, 2018

Germanicus leapt upon the wild lion in Smyrna, wishing to pass quickly from a lawless life. The crowd shook the stadium. The proconsul marveled. “Eighty & six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no harm. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Polycarp, John’s pupil, facing the fire. Make too me acceptable at the end of time in my degree, which then Thou wilt award. Cancer, senility, mania, I pray I may be ready with my [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 10 by John Berryman

February 7, 2018

Fearful I peer upon the mountain path where once Your shadow passed, Limner of the clouds up their phantastic guesses. I am afraid, I never until now confessed. I fell back in love with you, Father, for two reasons: You were good to me, & a delicious author, rational & passionate. Come on me again, as twice you came to Azarias & Misael. President of the brethren, our mild assemblies inspire, & bother the priest not to be dull; keep us week-long in order; love my children, my mother far & ill, far brother, my spouse. Oil all my turbulence as at Thy dictation I sweat out my wayward works. Father Hopkins said the only true literary critic is Christ. Let me lie down exhausted, content with [...]

POETRY: Matins by George Herbert

February 7, 2018

I cannot ope mine eyes, But thou art ready there to catch My morning-soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match. My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things, or all of them in one? My God, what is a heart, That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo, Pouring upon it all thy art, As if that thou hadst nothing else to do? Indeed man’s whole estate Amounts (and richly) to serve thee: He did not heav’n and earth create, Yet studies them, not him by whom they be. Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 9 by John Berryman

February 2, 2018

Surprise me on some ordinary day with a blessing gratuitous. Even I’ve done good beyond their expectations. What count we then upon Your bounty? Interminable: an old theologian asserts that even to say You exist is misleading. Uh-huh. I buy that Second-century fellow. I press his withered glorifying hand. You certainly do not as I exist, impersonating as well the meteorite & flaring in your sun your waterfall or blind in caves pallid fishes. Bear in mind me, Who have forgotten nothing, & Who continues. I may not foreknow & fail much to remember. You sustain imperial desuetudes, at the kerb a [...]

POETRY: Going Home The Longest Way Around by Pat Schneider

January 31, 2018

we tell stories, build from fragments of our lives maps to guide us to each other. We make collages of the way it might have been had it been as we remembered, as we think perhaps it was, tallying in our middle age diminishing returns. Last night the lake was still; all along the shoreline bright pencil marks of light, and children in the dark canoe pleading “Tell us scary stories.” Fingers trailing in the water, I said someone I loved who died told me in a dream to not be lonely, told me not to ever be afraid. And they were silent, the children, listening to the water lick the sides of the canoe. It’s what we love the most can make us most afraid, can make us for the first time understand how we are rocking in a dark boat on the [...]

POETRY: Psalm 55 by Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess Of Pembroke

January 31, 2018

Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise; Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 8 by John Berryman

January 26, 2018

A Prayer For The Self Who am I worthless that You spent such pains and take may pains again? I do not understand; but I believe. Jonquils respond with wit to the teasing breeze. Induct me down my secrets. Stiffen this heart to stand their horrifying cries, O cushion the first the second shocks, will to a halt in mid-air there demons who would be at me. May fade before, sweet morning on sweet morning, I wake my dreams, my fan-mail go astray, and do me little goods I have not thought of, ingenious & beneficial Father. Ease in their passing my beloved friends, all others too I have cared for in a travelling life, anyone anywhere indeed. Lift up sober toward truth a scared [...]

POETRY: The Patience Of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider

January 24, 2018

It is a kind of love, is it not? How the cup holds the tea, How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare, How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes Or toes. How soles of feet know Where they’re supposed to be. I’ve been thinking about the patience Of ordinary things, how clothes Wait respectfully in closets And soap dries quietly in the dish, And towels drink the wet From the skin of the back. And the lovely repetition of stairs. And what is more generous than a [...]

POETRY: The Innkeeper: An Epiphany Poem by Carol Penner

January 24, 2018

They were grateful lodgers, considering the humble accommodations. We did the best we could, the place full up, our stable the last corner we had. Mary, who had a baby coming, wanting only peace and privacy, was happy with anything. It was a birth like any other, the mother spent, the baby crying, the father bewildered. I gave her swaddling clothes, the ones my Daniel used. Daniel was on my hip as I gave them, and he wanted down, and toddled over to the baby, leaning close, patting his face. We all laughed. They stayed a couple of weeks, we had no trouble with them. Some shepherds came to visit, the night that bright star had us all out and staring. Then there were those foreign fellows, I don’t know how they knew them… but they [...]

POETRY: Third Sunday After Epiphany by John Keble

January 21, 2018

When Jesus heard it he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. (Matthew 8:10) I mark’d a rainbow in the north, What time the wild autumnal sun From his dark veil at noon look’d forth, As glorying in his course half done, Flinging soft radiance far and wide Over the dusky Heaven and bleak hillside. It was a gleam to memory dear, And as I walk and muse apart, When all seems faithless round and drear, I would revive it in my heart, And watch how light can find its way To regions farthest from the fount of day. Light flashes in the gloomiest sky, And Music in the dullest plain, For there the lark is soaring high Over her flat and leafless reign, And chanting in so [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 7 by John Berryman

January 19, 2018

After a Stoic, a Peripatetic, a Pythagorean, Justin Martyr studied the words of the Savior, finding them short, precise, terrible & full of refreshment. I am tickled to learn this. Let one day desolate Sherry, fair, thin, tall, at 29 today her life the Sahara Desert, who never has once enjoyed a significant relation, so find His lightning [...]

POETRY: Revelation by Christos Victor

January 17, 2018

Father breathes with us; true maiden bears a son census in a tribal village hosts herald good tidings acquit sleeping shepherd’s quake to visit scant inn’s trough three sibylline kings seek infant thwart vassal Herod’s cunning route; swathe him in myrrh, frankincense, gold seraph warns Joseph flee to Egypt, in Bethlehem swords sing; first-blood spilled rewind path to Nazareth, carpenter’s son teaches priests; on blighted tree hung spurned lamb’s sacrifice frees dead to receive resurrection; children sing, dance, and open gifts “the happy give don’t take”; jews and “dogs” eat at the groom’s wedding [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 6 by John Berryman

January 12, 2018

Under new management, Your Majesty: Thine. I have solo’d mine since childhood, since my father’s blow-it-all when I was twelve blew out my most bright candle faith, and look at me. I served at Mass six dawns a week from five, adoring Father Boniface & you, memorizing the Latin he explained. Mostly we worked alone. One or two women. Then my poor father frantic. Confusions & afflictions followed my days. Wives left me. Bankrupt I closed my doors. You pierced the roof twice & again. Finally you opened my eyes. My double nature fused in that point of time three weeks ago day before yesterday. Now, brooding thro’ a history of the early Church, I identify with everybody, even the [...]

POETRY: The Magi by William Butler Yeats

January 10, 2018

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye, In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones, And all their helms of silver hovering side by side, And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more, Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied, The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial [...]

POETRY: Twelfth Night by Phyllis McGinley

January 6, 2018

Down from the window take the withered holly. Feed the torn tissue to the literal blaze. Now, now at last are come the melancholy Anticlimactic days. Here in the light of morning, hard, unvarnished, Let us with haste dismantle the tired tree Of ornaments, a trifle chipped and tarnished, Pretend we do not see How all the rooms seem shabbier and meaner And the tired house a little less than snug. Fold up the tinsel. Run the vacuum cleaner Over the littered rug. Nothing is left. The postman passes by, now, Bearing no gifts, no kind or seasonal word. The icebox yields no wing, no nibbled thigh, now, From any holiday bird. Sharp in the streets the north wind plagues its betters While Christmas snow to gutters is consigned. Nothing remains [...]

POETRY: Epiphany by Robert Fitzgerald

January 6, 2018

Unearthly lightning of presage In any dark day’s iron age May come to lift the hair and bless Even our tired earthliness, And sundown bring an age of gold, Forgèd in faëry, far and old, An elsewhere and an elfin light, And kings rise eastward in the [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 5 by John Berryman

January 5, 2018

Holy & holy. The damned are said to say “We never thought we would come into this place.” I’m fairly clear, my Friend, there’s no such place ordained for inappropriate & evil man. Surely they fall dull, & forget. We too, the more or less just, I feel fall asleep dreamless forever while the world hurl out. Rest may be your ultimate gift. Rest or transfiguration! come & come whenever Thou wilt. My daughter & my son fend will without me, when my work is done in Your opinion. Strengthen my widow, let her dream on me thro’ tranquil hours less & down to less. Abrupt elsewhere her heart, I sharply hope. I leave her in wise [...]

POETRY: Untrimming The Tree by John N. Morris

January 4, 2018

Now all that scintillation is a chore. What they so recently assembled Piece by piece in imitation Of every year for twenty years ago Each day became more everyday. The delicate contrivances ignored, This clutter in a corner of the eye Now is an hour on the stepladder And woman’s work. This afternoon, The sunlight brave and January thin Reflecting on her, she sets down Lightlier than they lifted them Angel and orb and cardboard cornucopia, The candy cane old as the eldest child. Once she has packed away the annual farm (Each cotton sheep plump as a thumb), Hanging the glassy surface of the lake Up on its hook in the back bedroom, She sends the snowy field out to the laundry. Arms full of a great weightlessness she arises Toward the [...]

POETRY: Mother Christmas by Roald Dahl

January 3, 2018

“Where art thou, Mother Christmas? I only wish I knew Why Father should get all the praise And no one mentions you. I’ll bet you buy the presents And wrap them large and small While all the time that rotten swine Pretends he’s done it all. So Hail To Mother Christmas Who shoulders all the work! And down with Father Christmas, That unmitigated [...]

POETRY: Christmas In India by Rudyard Kipling

January 2, 2018

Dim dawn behind the tamerisks—the sky is saffron-yellow— As the women in the village grind the corn, And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow That the Day, the staring Easter Day, is born. O the white dust on the highway! O the stenches in the byway! O the clammy fog that hovers over earth! And at Home they’re making merry ‘neath the white and scarlet berry— What part have India’s exiles in their mirth? Full day behind the tamarisks—the sky is blue and staring— As the cattle crawl afield beneath the yoke, And they bear One o’er the field-path, who is past all hope or caring, To the ghat below the curling wreaths of smoke. Call on Rama, going slowly, as ye bear a brother lowly— Call [...]

POETRY: New Year Poem by Philip Larkin

January 1, 2018

The short afternoon ends, and the year is over; Above trees at the end of the garden the sky is unchanged, An endless sky; and the west street, as ever, Between standing houses are empty and unchallenged. From roads where men go home I walk apart —The buses bearing their loads away from works, Through the dusk the bicycles coming home from bricks— There evening like a derelict lorry is alone and mute. These houses are deserted, felt over smashed windows, No milk on the step, a note pinned to the door Telling of departure: only shadows Move when in the day the sun is seen for an hour, Yet to me this decaying landscape has its uses: To make me remember, who am always inclined to forget. That there is always a changing at the root, And a [...]

POETRY: Dirge For The Year by Percy Bysshe Shelly

January 1, 2018

Orphan Hours, the year is dead, Come and sigh, come and weep! Merry Hours, smile instead, For the Year is but asleep. See, it smiles as it is sleeping, Mocking your untimely weeping. As an earthquake rocks a corse In its coffin in the clay, So White Winter, that rough nurse, Rocks the death-cold Year today; Solemn Hours! wail aloud For your mother in her shroud. As the wild air stirs and sways The tree-swung cradle of a child, So the breath of these rude days Rocks the Year:—be calm and mild, Trembling Hours; she will arise With new love within her eyes. January grey is here, Like a sexton by her grave; February bears the bier, March with grief doth howl and rave, And April weeps—but, O ye Hours, Follow with May’s fairest [...]

POETRY: A Christmas Ghost-Story by Thomas Hardy

December 30, 2017

Christmas Eve 1899 South of the Line, inland from far Durban, A mouldering soldier lies – your countryman. Awry and doubled up are his gray bones, And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans Nightly to clear Canopus: “I would know By whom and when the All-Earth-Gladdening Law of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified, Was ruled to be inept, and set aside? And what of logic or of truth appears In tackling “Anno Domini” to the years? Near twenty-hundred liveried thus have hied, But tarries yet the Cause for which He [...]

POETRY: Eleven Addresses To The Lord — 4 by John Berryman

December 29, 2017

If I say Thy name, art Thou there? It may be so. Thou art not absent-minded, as I am. I am so much so I had to give up driving. You attend, I feel, to the matters of man. Across the ages certain blessings swarm, horrors accumulate, the best men fail: Socrates, Lincoln, Christ mysterious. Who can search Thee out? except Isaiah & Pascal, who saw. I dare not ask that vision, though a piece of it at last in crisis was vouchsafèd me. I altered then for good, to become yours. Caretaker! take care, for we run in straight. Daily, by night, we walk naked to storm, some threat of wholesale loss, to ruinous fear. Gift us with long cloaks & adrenaline. Who haunt the avenues of Angkor Wat recalling all that prayer, that glory dispersed, haunt [...]

POETRY: December by John Clare

December 28, 2017

Christmas is come and every hearth Makes room to give him welcome now, E’en want will dry its tears in mirth, And crown him with a holly bough; Though tramping ‘neath a winter sky. O’er snowy track paths and rimy stiles, The housewife sets her spinning by And bids him welcome with her smiles. Each house is swept the day before, And windows stuck with evergreens, The snow is besom’d from the door, And comfort crowns the cottage scenes. Gilt holly, with its thorny pricks, And yew and box, with berries small, These deck the unused candlesticks, And pictures hanging by the wall. Neighbors resume their annual cheer, Wishing with smiles and spirits high, Glad Christmas and a happy year, To every morning passer-by; Milkmaids, their [...]