Category Archives: Poetry

A Lazy Day


A Lazy Day

By Paul Laurence Dunbar

The trees bend down along the stream,
Where anchored swings my tiny boat.
The day is one to drowse and dream
And list the thrush’s throttling note.
When music from his bosom bleeds
Among the river’s rustling reeds.

No ripple stirs the placid pool,
When my adventurous line is cast,
A truce to sport, while clear and cool,
The mirrored clouds slide softly past.
The sky gives back a blue divine,
And all the world’s wide wealth is mine.

A pickerel leaps, a bow of light,
The minnows shine from side to side.
The first faint breeze comes up the tide—
I pause with half uplifted oar,
While night drifts down to claim the shore.


August

August
by Helen Hunt Jackson

Silence again. The glorious symphony
Hath need of pause and interval of peace.
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease,
Save hum of insects’ aimless industry.
Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry
Of color to conceal her swift decrease.
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece
A blossom, and lay bare her poverty.
Poor middle-agèd summer! Vain this show!
Whole fields of golden-rod cannot offset
One meadow with a single violet;
And well the singing thrush and lily know,
Spite of all artifice which her regret
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!


L’Envoi

L’Envoi
by Willa Cather

Where are the loves that we have loved before
When once we are alone, and shut the door?
No matter whose the arms that held me fast,
The arms of Darkness hold me at the last.
No matter down what primrose path I tend,
I kiss the lips of Silence in the end.
No matter on what heart I found delight,
I come again unto the breast of Night.
No matter when or how love did befall,
’Tis Loneliness that loves me best of all,
And in the end she claims me, and I know
That she will stay, though all the rest may go.
No matter whose the eyes that I would keep
Near in the dark, ’tis in the eyes of Sleep
That I must look and look forever more,
When once I am alone, and shut the door.


Sonnet 55

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn:
The living record of your memory.

'Gainst death, and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So till the judgment that your self arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

Talking directly to his beloved, the speaker begins with some confident words of assurance: no other memorials, however beautiful or permanent, can outdo this sonnet, which will live longer and shine brighter. Other human creations have to deal with time and violent war, but this poem escapes both of these downers.

And because this poem is a poem of praise, preserving the memory of the beloved's beauty and all-round awesomeness, there's good news: the beloved will also escape destruction. In fact, he will live comfortably inside the sonnet and the minds of readers until the end of the world itself.


A Better Life

A Better Life
by Randall Mann

after Julio Cortázar

It’s silly to think
fourteen years ago
I turned thirty.

How I made it that far
I’ll never know.
In this city of hills,

if there was a hill
I was over it. Then.
(In queer years,

years
are more than.)
Soon it will be fifteen

since the day I turned thirty.
It’s so remote.
I didn’t think I’d make it

to fourteen years ago.
Fear lives in the chest
like results.

You say my gray, it makes
me look extinguished;
you make me cringe.

I haven’t cracked
the spines of certain paperbacks,
or learned a sense of direction,

even with a slick device.
But the spleen doesn’t ask twice,
and soon it will be fifteen years

since I turned thirty.
Which may not sound like a lot.
Which sounds like the hinge

of a better life:
It is, and it is not.


Bed In Summer

Bed In Summer

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanks again, Susan, for another great suggestion.


Knoxville, Tennessee 

Knoxville, Tennessee
by Nikki Giovanni, 1943

I always like summer
best
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy’s garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
barbecue
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
outside
at the church
homecoming
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep


Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18)
William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

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 wand’rest 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.
Summer begins tomorrow.


Near Miss

Near Miss

Fanny Howe
I almost met you
On a Saturday
In Gloucester.
The wind blew easterly.
There was a jar of mums
On a table near the window.

Their yellows were calling
To each other.

Place-names
Were put back
In the pencil drawer
Before I noticed your shadow.

About This Poem

“This is a poem composed by the words themselves, calling out their sounds to each other. Compared to them, listless human longing for an unknown friend amounts to nothing. I can say that the name Gloucester, so resonant in my mind, set off the poem in the first place.”
—Fanny Howe

This poem remind me of the “Missed Connections” section on Craig’s list. Some are very funny to read. I’ve often wondered if they worked.


D-Day

I must return
I must go back to Normandy
to look out upon the sea,
Where once a great armada
carried troops, including me.

I must go back to Omaha
to walk along the shore,
and let my mind go back in time
to when there was a war.

When I go back I know I’ll mourn,
and shed some tears and feel the pain.
But I must go back and reminisce,
and think, and pray for those who there remain.

For they, too, were out upon that sea,
and then they died in Normandy.
Now from their graves above the shore,
they’ll keep their watch out on that sea, forever more.

I must go back to Normandy,
and, with them, once more,
look out upon that sea.

Sergeant Frank J. Wawrynovic landed on Omaha Brach on D-Day with C Company of the First Battalion, 115th Regiment, 29th Division. On June 17, he was wounded while scouting ahead of the American line in an orchard near the Norman city of St. Lô. He was evacuated, hospitalized for nearly two years, and discharged with a medical disability. After the war he returned to school and had a successful business career. Over the years he and his wife, Stella, gave very generous support to a variety of charities and non-profit organizations, including Normandy Allies. Many years after the war, his thoughts returned to that episode, leading him to write the poem shown above. He died in 2005, and his wife followed him in 2013.

D-Day occurred 73 years ago today and led to the liberation of Europe from Hitler’s Nazi regime.


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