Literature and Composition - Poetry Anthology (complied by Ms. Tucker for classroom use) Table of Contents “Autumn River Song Poem,” “Alone Looking at the Mountain,” and “Alone and Drinking Under the Moon” by Li Po “Whoso List to Hunt” by Thomas Wyatt “Sonnet 18” “Sonnet 29” and “Sonnet 138” by William Shakespeare “Death be not proud” by John Donne “When I Consider How My Light is Spent” by John Milton “To The Right Honorable William Earl of Dartmouth” by Phyllis Wheatly “Many red devils” and “Fast rode the knight” by Stephen Crane Poems “328” & “754” by Emily Dickinson “The Convergence of the Twain” by Thomas Hardy “Le Dormeur du Val” Arthur Rimbaud “Has My Heart Gone To Sleep?” and “Last Night As I Was Sleeping: by Antonio Machado “Chicago” and “At a Window” by Carl Sandburg “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas “The Sea Elephant” by William Carlos Williams “next to of course god america i” by ee cummings “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening” and “Design” by Robert Frost “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes “Fugue of Death” by Paul Celan “Inscription for a war” by A.D. Hope “The Elm” by Sylvia Plath “Tonight I Could Write the Saddest Lines” by Pablo Neruda “The Fury of Sunsets” by Anne Sexton “The Mother” and “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks “The School Among Ruins” by Adrienne Rich “The Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood “C’mon Pigs of Western Civilization/Eat More Grease” by Alan Ginsberg “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver “A Story about the Body” by Robert Hass “After Years” & “So This is Nebraska” by Ted Kooser “Flouder” by Natasha Tretheway Name: ______________________________________________ Class Period: ______ 1
Tucker's Poetry Anthology Literature and Composition - Poetry
Anthology (complied by Ms. Tucker for classroom use)
Table of Contents “Autumn River Song Poem,” “Alone Looking at the
Mountain,” and “Alone and Drinking Under the Moon” by Li Po “Whoso
List to Hunt” by Thomas Wyatt “Sonnet 18” “Sonnet 29” and “Sonnet
138” by William Shakespeare “Death be not proud” by John Donne
“When I Consider How My Light is Spent” by John Milton “To The
Right Honorable William Earl of Dartmouth” by Phyllis Wheatly “Many
red devils” and “Fast rode the knight” by Stephen Crane Poems “328”
& “754” by Emily Dickinson “The Convergence of the Twain” by
Thomas Hardy “Le Dormeur du Val” Arthur Rimbaud “Has My Heart Gone
To Sleep?” and “Last Night As I Was Sleeping: by Antonio Machado
“Chicago” and “At a Window” by Carl Sandburg “Do Not Go Gentle Into
That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas “The Sea Elephant” by William
Carlos Williams “next to of course god america i” by ee cummings
“Stopping by woods on a snowy evening” and “Design” by Robert Frost
“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes “Fugue of Death” by
Paul Celan “Inscription for a war” by A.D. Hope “The Elm” by Sylvia
Plath “Tonight I Could Write the Saddest Lines” by Pablo Neruda
“The Fury of Sunsets” by Anne Sexton “The Mother” and “We Real
Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks “The School Among Ruins” by Adrienne Rich
“The Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood “C’mon Pigs of Western
Civilization/Eat More Grease” by Alan Ginsberg “Wild Geese” by Mary
Oliver “A Story about the Body” by Robert Hass “After Years” &
“So This is Nebraska” by Ted Kooser “Flouder” by Natasha
Name: ______________________________________________ Class Period:
Li Po (Li Bai) (701 AD - 762 AD,) (Originally in Chinese)
Autumn River Song Poem The moon shimmers in green water. White
herons fly through the moonlight.
The young man hears a girl gathering water-chestnuts: into the
night, singing, they paddle home together.
Alone Looking At The Mountain All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by. We never tire of looking at
each other - Only the mountain and I.
Alone And Drinking Under The Moon Amongst the flowers I am alone
with my pot of wine drinking by myself; then lifting my cup I asked
the moon to drink with me, its reflection and mine in the wine cup,
just the three of us; then I sigh for the moon cannot drink, and my
shadow goes emptily along with me never saying a word; with no
other friends here, I can but use these two for company; in the
time of happiness, I too must be happy with all around me; I sit
and sing and it is as if the moon accompanies me; then if I dance,
it is my shadow that dances along with me; while still not drunk, I
am glad to make the moon and my shadow into friends, but then when
I have drunk too much, we all part; yet these are friends I can
always count on these who have no emotion whatsoever; I hope that
one day we three will meet again, deep in the Milky Way.
Thomas Wyatt (Unknown ~1557)
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind, But as for me, hélas,
I may no more. The vain travail hath wearied me so sore, I am of
them that farthest cometh behind. Yet may I by no means my wearied
mind Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore Fainting I follow.
I leave off therefore, Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt, As well as I may spend
his time in vain. And graven with diamonds in letters plain There
is written, her fair neck round about: Noli me tangere, for
Caesar's I am, And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Sonnet 18 Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more
lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of
May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date; Sometime too hot
the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature's
changing course untrimmed; But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st; Nor shall Death brag
thou wander'st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou
grow’st: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives
this and this gives life to thee.
Sonnet 29 When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone
beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless
cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to
one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends
possessed, Desiring this man's art and that man's scope, With what
I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost
despising, Haply I think on thee—and then my state, Like to the
lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at
heaven's gate; For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Sonnet 138 When my love swears that she is made of truth I do
believe her, though I know she lies, That she might think me some
untutored youth, Unlearned in the world's false subtleties. Thus
vainly thinking that she thinks me young, Although she knows my
days are past the best, Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed. But wherefore says
she not she is unjust? And wherefore say not I that I am old? Oh,
love's best habit is in seeming trust, And age in love loves not to
have years told. Therefore I lie with her and she with me, And in
our faults by lies we flattered be.
John Donne (1572-1631)
10. Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and
dreadful, for, thou are not so; For those whom thou think'st thou
dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then
from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee
do go, Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery. Thou’art slave to
fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war,
and sickness dwell, And poppy’, or charms can make us sleep as
well, And better then thy stroke; why swell’st thou then? One short
sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death,
thou shalt die.
John Milton (1608-1674)
When I Consider How My Light is Spent, Ere half my days, in this
dark world and wide, And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent To serve therewith
my Maker, and present My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?" I fondly ask; but
Patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best Bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best. His state Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding
speed And post o'er land and ocean without rest: They also serve
who only stand and wait."
Phillis Wheatley, 1753 - 1784
To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth
HAIL, happy day, when, smiling like the morn, Fair Freedom rose
New-England to adorn: The northern clime beneath her genial ray,
Dartmouth, congratulates thy blissful sway: Elate with hope her
race no longer mourns, Each soul expands, each grateful bosom
burns, While in thine hand with pleasure we behold The silken
reins, and Freedom’s charms unfold. Long lost to realms beneath the
northern skies She shines supreme, while hated faction dies: Soon
as appear’d the Goddess long desir’d, Sick at the view, she
languish’d and expir’d; Thus from the splendors of the morning
light The owl in sadness seeks the caves of night. No more,
America, in mournful strain Of wrongs, and grievance unredress’d
complain, No longer shalt thou dread the iron chain, Which wanton
Tyranny with lawless hand Had made, and with it meant t’ enslave
the land. Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song, Wonder
from whence my love of Freedom sprung, Whence flow these wishes for
the common good,
By feeling hearts alone best understood, I, young in life, by
seeming cruel fate Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest, What sorrows labour in my
parent’s breast? Steel’d was that soul and by no misery mov’d That
from a father seiz’d his babe belov’d: Such, such my case. And can
I then but pray Others may never feel tyrannic sway? For favours
past, great Sir, our thanks are due, And thee we ask thy favours to
renew, Since in thy pow’r, as in thy will before, To sooth the
griefs, which thou did’st once deplore. May heav’nly grace the
sacred sanction give To all thy works, and thou for ever live Not
only on the wings of fleeting Fame, Though praise immortal crowns
the patriot’s name, But to conduct to heav’ns refulgent fane, May
fiery coursers sweep th’ ethereal plain, And bear thee upwards to
that blest abode, Where, like the prophet, thou shalt find thy
Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
Many red devils
Many red devils ran from my heart And out upon the page, They were
so tiny The pen could mash them. And many struggled in the ink. It
was strange To write in this red muck Of things from my
Fast rode the knight
Fast rode the knight With spurs, hot and reeking, Ever waving an
eager sword, "To save my lady!" Fast rode the knIght, And leaped
from saddle to war. Men of steel flickered and gleamed Like riot of
silver lights, And the gold of the knight's good banner Still waved
on a castle wall. . . . . . A horse, Blowing, staggering, bloody
thing, Forgotten at foot of castle wall. A horse Dead at foot of
A Bird came down the Walk – He did not know I saw – He bit an
Angleworm in halves And ate the fellow, raw,
And then he drank a Dew From a convenient Grass – And then hopped
sidewise to the Wall To let a Beetle pass –
He glanced with rapid eyes That hurried all around – They looked
like frightened Beads, I thought – He stirred his Velvet Head
Like one in danger, Cautious, I offered him a Crumb And he unrolled
his feathers And rowed him softer home –
Than Oars divide the Ocean, Too silver for a seam -- Or
Butterflies, off Banks of Noon Leap, plashless as they swim.
My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun— In Corners—till a Day The Owner
passed—identified— And carried Me away—
And now We roam in Sovereign Woods— And now We hunt the Doe— And
every time I speak for Him— The Mountains straight reply—
And do I smile, such cordial light Upon the Valley glow— It is as a
Vesuvian face 2
Had let its pleasure through—
And when at Night—Our good Day done— I guard My Master's Head— 'Tis
better than the Eider-Duck's Deep Pillow —to have shared— 3
To foe of His—I'm deadly foe— None stir the second time— On whom I
lay a Yellow Eye— Or an emphatic Thumb—
Though I than He—may longer live He longer must—than I— For I have
but the power to kill, Without—the power to die—
Le Dormeur du Val
C'est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière Accrochant follement
aux herbes des haillons D'argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne
fière, Luit : c'est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.
Un soldat jeune, lèvre bouche ouverte, tête nue, Et la nuque
baignant dans le frais cresson bleu, Dort ; il est étendu dans
l'herbe sous la nue, Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière
Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme Sourirait un
enfant malade, il fait un somme : Nature, berce-le chaudement : il
Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ; Il dort dans le
soleil, la main sur sa poitrine, Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges
au côté droit.
A small green valley where a slow stream flows And leaves long
strands of silver on the bright Grass; from the mountaintop stream
the Sun's Rays; they fill the hollow full of light.
A soldier, very young, lies open-mouthed, A pillow made of fern
beneath his head, Asleep; stretched in the heavy undergrowth, Pale
in his warm, green, sun-soaked bed.
His feet among the flowers, he sleeps. His smile Is like an
infant's - gentle, without guile. Ah, Nature, keep him warm; he may
The humming insects don't disturb his rest; He sleeps in sunlight,
one hand on his breast; At peace. In his side there are two red
Antonio Machado (1875-1939) (Originally in Spanish)
Has My Heart Gone To Sleep? Has my heart gone to sleep? Have the
beehives of my dreams stopped working, the waterwheel of the mind
run dry, scoops turning empty, only shadow inside?
No, my heart is not asleep. It is awake, wide awake. Not asleep,
not dreaming— its eyes are opened wide watching distant signals,
listening on the rim of vast silence.
Last Night As I Was Sleeping Last night as I was sleeping, I
dreamt—marvelous error!— that a spring was breaking out in my
heart. I said: Along which secret aqueduct, Oh water, are you
coming to me, water of a new life that I have never drunk?
Last night as I was sleeping, I dreamt—marvelous error!— that I had
a beehive here inside my heart. And the golden bees were making
white combs and sweet honey from my old failures.
Last night as I was sleeping, I dreamt—marvelous error!— that a
fiery sun was giving light inside my heart. It was fiery because I
felt warmth as from a hearth, and sun because it gave light and
brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept, I dreamt—marvelous error!— that it was God I
had here inside my heart.
Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of
Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight
Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have
seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I
have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell
me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and
children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger. And having
answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city,
and I give them back the sneer and say to them: Come and show me
another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and
coarse and strong and cunning. Flinging magnetic curses amid the
toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid
against the little soft cities; Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping
for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
breaking, rebuilding, Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth,
laughing with white teeth, Under the terrible burden of destiny
laughing as a young man laughs, Laughing even as an ignorant
fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, Bragging and laughing
that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of
Laughing! Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth,
half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker
of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the
At a Window Give me hunger, O you gods that sit and give The world
it's orders. Give me hunger, pain and want, Shut me out with shame
and failure From your doors of gold and fame, Give me your
shabbiest, weariest hunger
But leave me a little love, A voice to speak to me in the day
A hand to touch me in a dark room Breaking the long loneliness In
the dusk of day-shapes Blurring the sunset, One little wandering
western star Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow. Let me
go to the window. Watch there the day-shapes of dusk And wait and
know the coming Of a little love.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave
at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their
words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds
might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too
late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could
blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the
And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now
with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good
night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Trundled from the strangeness of the sea— a kind of heaven—
Ladies and Gentlemen! the greatest sea-monster ever exhibited
the gigantic sea-elephant! O wallow of flesh where are
there fish enough for that appetite stupidity cannot lessen?
Sick of April's smallness the little leaves—
Flesh has lief of you enormous sea— Speak! Blouaugh! (feed
me) my flesh is riven— fish after fish into his maw
to let them glide down gulching back half spittle half brine
the troubled eyes—torn from the sea. (In
a practical voice) They ought to put it back where it came
Gape. Strange head— told by old sailors— rising
bearded to the surface—and the only sense out of them
is that woman's Yes it's wonderful but they ought to
put it back into the sea where it came from. Blouaugh!
Swing—ride walk on wires—toss balls stoop and
contort yourselves— But I am love. I am from the sea—
Blouaugh! there is no crime save the too-heavy body
the sea held playfully—comes to the surface the water
boiling about the head the cows scattering fish dripping from
the bounty of . . . and Spring they say Spring is icummen in—
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox
and which you were probably saving for breakfast
Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold
“next to of course god america i
"next to of course god america i love you land of the pilgrims' and
so forth oh say can you see by the dawn's early my country 'tis of
centuries come and go and are no more what of it we should worry in
every language even deafanddumb thy sons acclaim your glorious name
by gorry by jingo by gee by gosh by gum 4
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut- iful than these heroic
happy dead who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter they did
not stop to think they died instead then shall the voice of liberty
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
“Jingo” is both part of a mild oath and a reference to jingoism:
extreme nationalism, especially as demonstrated in a 4
belligerent foreign policy. !13
Stopping by woods on a snowy evening
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village
though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up
with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a
farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest
evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
The Negro Speaks of Rivers (To W.E.B. Du Bois)
I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older
flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut
near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile
and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the
Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all
golden in the sunset.
I've known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Fugue of Death
Black milk of daybreak we drink it at nightfall we drink it at noon
in the morning we drink it at night we drink it and drink it we are
digging a grave in the sky it is ample to lie there A man in the
house he plays with the serpents he writes he writes when the night
falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete he writes it and walks
from the house the stars glitter he whistles his dogs up he
whistles his Jews out and orders a grave to be dug in the earth he
commands us strike up for the dance
Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night we drink you in the
morning at noon we drink you at nightfall drink you and drink you A
man in the house he plays with the serpents he writes he writes
when the night falls to Germany your golden hair Margarete Your
ashen hair Shulamith we are digging a grave in the sky it is ample
to lie there
He shouts stab deeper in earth you there and you others you sing
and you play he grabs at the iron in his belt and swings it and
blue are his eyes stab deeper your spades you there and you others
play on for the dancing
Black milk of daybreak we drink you at nightfall we drink you at
noon in the mornings we drink you at nightfall drink you and drink
you a man in the house your golden hair Margarete your ashen hair
Shulamith he plays with the serpents
He shouts play sweeter death’s music death comes as a master from
Germany he shouts stroke darker the strings and as smoke you shall
climb to the sky then you’ll have a grave in the clouds it is ample
to lie there
Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night we drink you at noon
death comes as a master from Germany we drink you at nightfall and
morning we drink you and
drink you a master from Germany death comes with eyes that are blue
with a bullet of lead he will hit in the mark he will hit you a man
in the house your golden hair Margarete he hunts us down with his
dogs in the sky he gives us a grave he plays with the serpents and
dreams death comes as a master from Germany
your golden hair Margarete your ashen hair Shulamith.
Inscription for a war
Stranger, go tell the Spartans we died here obedient to their
— Inscription at Thermopylae
Linger not, stranger. Shed no tear. Go back to those who sent us
We are the young they drafted out To wars their folly brought
Go tell those old men, safe in bed, We took their orders and are
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
The Elm For Ruth Fainlight
I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap
root: It is what you fear. I do not fear it: I have
been there. Is it the sea you hear in me, Its
dissatisfactions? Or the voice of nothing, that was your
madness? Love is a shadow. How you lie and cry after
it. Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a
horse. All night I shall gallop thus, impetuously, Till your
head is a stone, your pillow a little turf, Echoing,
echoing. Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, this big hush. And this is the fruit of it:
tin-white, like arsenic. I have suffered the atrocity of
sunsets. Scorched to the root My red filaments burn and
stand, a hand of wires. Now I break up in pieces that fly
about like clubs. A wind of such violence Will tolerate
no bystanding: I must shriek. The moon, also, is merciless:
she would drag me Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me. Or perhaps I have caught her. I let
her go. I let her go Diminished and flat, as after radical
surgery. How your bad dreams possess and endow me. I am
inhabited by a cry. Nightly it flaps out Looking, with
its hooks, for something to love. I am terrified by this dark
thing That sleeps in me; All day I feel its soft,
feathery turnings, its malignity. Clouds pass and
disperse. Are those the faces of love, those pale
irretrievables? Is it for such I agitate my heart? I am
incapable of more knowledge. What is this, this face So
murderous in its strangle of branches?— Its snaky acids
kiss. It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow
faults That kill, that kill, that kill.
Tonight I Can Write The Saddest Lines
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example,'The night is shattered and the blue stars
shiver in the distance.'
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines. I loved her, and sometimes
she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms I kissed her
again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too. How could one not have
loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines. To think that I do not have
her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her. And the
verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her. The night is
shattered and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight searches for her as though to go to her. My heart looks
for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees. We, of that time, are no
longer the same.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her. My voice
tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before. Her voice.
Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her. Love is
so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms my soul
is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer and these the
last verses that I write for her.
25. Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
The Fury Of Sunsets
Something cold is in the air, an aura of ice and phlegm. All day
I've built a lifetime and now the sun sinks to undo it. The horizon
bleeds and sucks its thumb. The little red thumb goes out of sight.
And I wonder about this lifetime with myself, this dream I'm
living. I could eat the sky like an apple but I'd rather ask the
first star: why am I here? why do I live in this house? who's
Abortions will not let you forget. You remember the children you
got that you did not get, The damp small pulps with a little or
with no hair, The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat Them, or silence or buy with a
sweet. You will never wind up the sucking-thumb Or scuttle off
ghosts that come. You will never leave them, controlling your
luscious sigh, Return for a snack of them, with gobbling
mother-eye. I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my
dim killed children. I have contracted. I have eased My dim dears
at the breasts they could never suck. I have said, Sweets, if I
sinned, if I seized Your luck And your lives from your unfinished
reach, If I stole your births and your names, Your straight baby
tears and your games, Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults,
your marriages, aches, and your deaths, If I poisoned the
beginnings of your breaths, Believe that even in my deliberateness
I was not deliberate. Though why should I whine, Whine that the
crime was other than mine?-- Since anyhow you are dead. Or rather,
or instead, You were never made. But that too, I am afraid, Is
faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said? You were
born, you had body, you died. It is just that you never giggled or
planned or cried. Believe me, I loved you all. Believe me, I knew
you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you All.
We Real Cool We real cool. We Sing sin. We Left school. We Thin
gin. We Lurk late. We Jazz June. We Strike straight. We Die
The School Among the Ruins
Bierut. Baghdad. Sarajevo. Bethlehem. Kabul. Not of course here. To
this list add Gaza. Add Halabja. Add Fallujah. Add many more.
1 Teaching the first lesson and the last —great falling light of
summer will you last longer than schooltime? When children flow in
columns at the doors BOYS GIRLS and the busy teachers open or close
high windows with hooked poles drawing dark green shades closets
unlocked, locked questions unasked, asked, when love of the fresh
impeccable sharp-pencilled yes order without cruelty a street on
earth neither heaven nor hell busy with commerce and worship young
teachers walking to school fresh bread and early-open
2 When the offensive rocks the sky when nightglare misconstrues day
and night when lived-in rooms from the upper city tumble cratering
lower streets cornices of olden ornament human debris when fear
vacuums out the streets When the whole town flinches blood on the
undersole thickening to glass Whoever crosses hunched knees bent a
contested zone knows why she does this suicidal thing School’s now
in session day and night children sleep in the classrooms teachers
3 How the good teacher loved his school the students the lunchroom
with fresh sandwiches lemonade and milk the classroom glass cages
of moss and turtles teaching responsibility A morning breaks
without bread or fresh-poured milk parents or lesson plans diarrhea
first question of the day children shivering it’s September Second
question: where is my mother?
4 One: I don’t know where your mother is Two: I don’t know why they
are trying to hurt us Three: or the latitude and longitude of their
hatred Four: I don’t know if we hate them as much I think there’s
more toilet paper in the supply closet I’m going to break it
5 There’s a young cat sticking her head through window bars she’s
hungry like us but can feed on mice her bronze erupting fur speaks
of a life already wild her golden eyes don’t give quarter She’ll
teach us Let’s call her Sister when we get milk we’ll give her
6 I’ve told you, let’s try to sleep in this funny camp All night
pitiless pilotless things go shrieking above us to somewhere Don’t
let your faces turn to stone Don’t stop asking me why Let’s pay
attention to our cat she needs us Maybe tomorrow the bakers can fix
7 “We sang them to naps told stories made shadow-animals with our
hands wiped human debris off boots and coats sat learning by heart
the names some were too young to write some had forgotten
This is the one song everyone would like to learn: the song that is
irresistible: the song that forces men to leap overboard in
squadrons even though they see beached skulls the song nobody knows
because anyone who had heard it is dead, and the others can’t
remember. Shall I tell you the secret and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit? I don’t enjoy it here squatting on this
island looking picturesque and mythical with these two feathery
maniacs, I don’t enjoy singing this trio, fatal and valuable. I
will tell the secret to you, to you, only to you. Come closer. This
song is a cry for help: Help me! Only you, only you can, you are
unique at last. Alas it is a boring song but it works every
C’mon Pigs of Western Civilization Eat More Grease.
Eat Eat more marbled Sirloin more Pork 'n gravy! Lard up the
dressing, fry chicken in boiling oil Carry it dribbling to gray
climes, snowed with salt, Little lambs covered with mint roast in
rack surrounded by roast potatoes wet with buttersauce. Buttered
veal medallions in creamy saliva buttered beef, glistening
mountains of french fries Stroganoffs in white hot sour cream,
chops soaked in olive oil surrounded by olives, salty feta cheese,
followed by Roquefort & Bleu & Stilton thirsty for wine,
beer Cocacola Fanta Champagne Pepsi retsina arak whiskey vodka Agh!
Watch out heart attack, pop more angina pills order a plate of
Bratwurst, fried frankfurters, couple billion Wimpys', MacDonald
burger to the moon & burp! Salt on those fries! Boil onions
& breaded mushrooms even zucchini in deep hot Crisco pans
Turkeys die only once, look nice, next to tall white glasses
sugarmilk & icecream vanilla balls Strawberrry for sweeter
color milkshakes with hot dogs Forget greenbeans, everyday a few
carrots, a mini big spoonful of salty rice'll do, make the plate
pretty; throw in some vinegar pickles, briney sauerkraut check yr.
cholesterol, swallow a pill and order a sugar Cream donut, pack 2
under the size 44 belt Pass out in the vomitorium come back cough
up strands of sandwich still chewing pastrami at Katz's
delicatessen Back to central Europe & gobble Kielbasa in Lodz
swallow salami in Munich with beer,Liverwurst on pumpernickel in
Berlin, greasy cheese in a 3 star Hotel near Syntagma, on white
Set an example for developing nations, salt, sugar, animal fat,
coffee tobacco Schnapps Drop dead faster! make room for Chinese
guestworkers with alien soybean curds green cabbage & rice!
Africans Latins with rice beans & calabash can stay thin &
crowd in apartments for working class foodfreaks —
Not like western cuisine rich in protein cancer heart attack
hypertension sweat bloated liver & spleen megaly Diabetes &
stroke — monuments to carnivorous civilizations presently murdering
Belfast Bosnia Cypress Ngorno Karabach Georgia mailing love letter
bombs in Vienna or setting houses afire in East Germany — have
another coffee, here's a cigar. And this is a plate of black forest
chocolate cake, you deserve it.
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 things.
Robert Hass (1941)
A Story about the Body
The young composer, working that summer at an artist's colony, had
watched her for a week. She was Japanese, a painter, almost
sixty, and he thought he was in love with her. He loved her
work, and her work was like the way she moved her body, used her
hands, looked at him directly when she made amused or considered
answers to his questions. One night, walking back from a
concert, they came to her door and she turned to him and said, "I
think you would like to have me. I would like that too, but I
must tell you I have had a double mastectomy," and when he didn't
understand, "I've lost both my breasts." The radiance that he
had carried around in his belly and chest cavity – like music –
withered, very quickly, and he made himself look at her when he
said, "I'm sorry. I don't think I could." He walked
back to his own cabin through the pines, and in the morning he
found a small blue bowl on the porch outside his door. It
looked to be full of rose petals, but he found when he picked it up
that the rose petals were on top; the rest of the bowl – she must
have swept them from the corners of her studio – was full of dead
Ted Kooser (1939)
After Years Today, from a distance, I saw you walking away, and
without a sound the glittering face of a glacier slid into the sea.
An ancient oak fell in the Cumberlands, holding only a handful of
leaves, and an old woman scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side of the galaxy, a star thirty-five
times the size of our own sun exploded and vanished, leaving a
small green spot on the astronomer's retina as he stood on the
great open dome of my heart with no one to tell.
So This Is Nebraska The gravel road rides with a slow gallop over
the fields, the telephone lines streaming behind, its billow of
dust full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.
On either side, those dear old ladies, the loosening barns, their
little windows dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs hide broken
tractors under their skirts.
So this is Nebraska. A Sunday afternoon; July. Driving along with
your hand out squeezing the air, a meadowlark waiting on every
Behind a shelterbelt of cedars, top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and
bees, a pickup kicks its fenders off and settles back to read the
You feel like that; you feel like letting your tires go flat, like
letting the mice build a nest in your muffler, like being no more
than a truck in the weeds,
clucking with chickens or sticky with honey or holding a skinny old
man in your lap while he watches the road, waiting for someone to
wave to. You feel like
waving. You feel like stopping the car and dancing around on the
road. You wave instead and leave your hand out gliding larklike
over the wheat, over the houses.
Here, she said, put this on your head. She handed me a hat. You
’bout as white as your dad, and you gone stay like that.
Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down around each bony ankle, and I
rolled down my white knee socks letting my thin legs dangle,
circling them just above water and silver backs of minnows flitting
here then there between the sun spots and the shadows.
This is how you hold the pole to cast the line out straight. Now
put that worm on your hook, throw it out and wait.
She sat spitting tobacco juice into a coffee cup. Hunkered down
when she felt the bite, jerked the pole straight up
reeling and tugging hard at the fish that wriggled and tried to
fight back. A flounder, she said, and you can tell ’cause one of
its sides is black.
The other side is white, she said. It landed with a thump. I stood
there watching that fish flip-flop, switch sides with every