The Little Ghost
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
I knew her for a little ghost
That in my garden walked;
The wall is high—higher than most—
And the green gate was locked.
And yet I did not think of that
Till after she was gone—
I knew her by the broad white hat,
All ruffled, she had on.
By the dear ruffles round her feet,
By her small hands that hung
In their lace mitts, austere and sweet,
Her gown’s white folds among.
I watched to see if she would stay,
What she would do—and oh!
She looked as if she liked the way
I let my garden grow!
She bent above my favourite mint
With conscious garden grace,
She smiled and smiled—there was no hint
Of sadness in her face.
She held her gown on either side
To let her slippers show,
And up the walk she went with pride,
The way great ladies go.
And where the wall is built in new
And is of ivy bare
She paused—then opened and passed through
A gate that once was there.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
Is it that in some brighter sphere
We part from friends we meet with here?
Or do we see the Future pass
Over the Present’s dusky glass?
Or what is that that makes us seem
To patch up fragments of a dream,
Part of which comes true, and part
Beats and trembles in the heart?
The Wings of Daylight
by W. S. Merwin
Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
By Georgia Douglas Johnson
The phantom happiness I sought
O’er every crag and moor;
I paused at every postern gate,
And knocked at every door;
In vain I searched the land and sea,
E’en to the inmost core,
The curtains of eternal night
Descend—my search is o’er.
Georgia Douglas Johnson was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1880. A member of the Harlem Renaissance, her collections of poetry include The Heart of a Woman (The Cornhill Company, 1918) and Share My World (Halfway House, 1962). She died in 1966.
by Timothy Donnelly
I saw a yellow butterfly
in my opinion
the wrong way, flying across
I saw a cormorant
close to the sea’s surface
as I floated on it on
my back in
the attitude of the crucifixion
minerals in my body
the minerals of the sea
about the sun
how can I possibly
to what’s already been said
by the ancients
and said with
an austerity I’ll never
it is an honor to take
a backseat to the ancients
who knew how
I was a fat white fish
under the sold-out stadium sun
like a god
but like a god
I could live through anything.
About This Poem
“I wrote the first three stanzas of ‘The Endless’ in my head while floating on my back with my eyes closed under the sun over Long Island Sound. I felt invincible. I left the water with the sense that the poem would end up taking off in an eco-theological direction, probably concluding with an indictment of human greed and destructiveness (or something like that). Later that night, when I started typing it up, the poem turned out to have other ambitions for itself, so I stepped out of the way and let it go where it wanted to.”
Timothy Donnelly is the author of The Cloud Corporation (Wave Books, 2010). He is a poetry editor at Boston Review and chair of the writing program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn with his family.
The Sailor Boy
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
He rose at dawn and fired with hope,
Shot o’er the seething harbor-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
And whistled to the morning star.
And while he whistled long and loud
He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
‘O boy, tho’ thou are young and proud,
I see the place where thou wilt lie.
‘The sands and yeasty surges mix
In caves about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.’
‘Fool,’ he answer’d , ‘death is sure
To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
To sit with empty hands at home.
‘My mother clings about my neck,
My sisters crying, :”Stay for shame;”
My father raves of death and wreck,-
They are all to blame, they are all to blame.
‘God help me! save I take my part
Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
Far worse than any death to me.’
I watched the Moon around the House
by Emily Dickinson
I watched the Moon around the House
Until upon a Pane—
She stopped—a Traveller’s privilege—for Rest—
And there upon
I gazed—as at a stranger—
The Lady in the Town
Doth think no incivility
To lift her Glass—upon—
But never Stranger justified
Like Mine—for not a Foot—nor Hand—
Nor Formula—had she—
But like a Head—a Guillotine
Slid carelessly away—
Did independent, Amber—
Sustain her in the sky—
Or like a Stemless Flower—
Upheld in rolling Air
By finer Gravitations—
Than bind Philosopher—
No Hunger—had she—nor an Inn—
Her Toilette—to suffice—
Nor Avocation—nor Concern
For little Mysteries
As harass us—like Life—and Death—
And Afterwards—or Nay—
But seemed engrossed to Absolute—
With shining—and the Sky—
The privilege to scrutinize
Was scarce upon my Eyes
When, with a Silver practise—
She vaulted out of Gaze—
And next—I met her on a Cloud—
Myself too far below
To follow her superior Road—
Or its advantage—Blue—
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
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.