Hold me against the dark: I am afraid.Circle me with your arms. I am madeSo tiny and my atoms so unstable That at any moment I may explode. I am unableTo contain myself in unity. My outlines shiver With the shock of living, I endeavourTo hold the I as one only for the cloudOf which I am a fragment, yet to which I'm vowedTo be responsible. Its light against my faceReveals the witness of the stars, each in its placeSinging, each compassed by the rest,The many joined to one, the mightiest to the least. It is so great a thing to be an infinitesimal partOf this immeasurable orchestra the music bursts the heart, Joy orders the disunity until the song is one.
In visions of the dark night I have dreamed of joy departed— But a waking dream of life and light Hath left me broken-hearted. Ah! what is not a dream by day To him whose eyes are cast On things around him with a ray Turned back upon the past? That holy dream—that holy dream, While all the world were chiding, Hath cheered me as a lovely beam A lonely spirit guiding. What though that light, thro' storm and night, So trembled from afar— What could there be more purely bright In Truth's day-star?
I was always leaving, I was about to get up and go, I was on my way, not sure where. Somewhere else. Not here. Nothing here was good enough. It would be better there, where I was going. Not sure how or why. The dome I cowered under would be raised, and I would be released into my true life. I would meet there the ones I was destined to meet. They would make an opening for me among the flutes and boulders, and I would be taken up. That this might be a form of death did not occur to me. I only know that something held me back, a doubt, a debt, a face I could not leave behind. When the door fell open, I did not go through.
It is time now, I said,for the deepening and quieting of the spiritamong the flux of happenings.Something had pestered me so muchI thought my heart would break.I mean, the mechanical part.I went down in the afternoonto the seawhich held me, until I grew easy.About tomorrow, who knows anything.Except that it will be time, again,for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,Those of mechanics, each one signing his as it should be blithe and strong,The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,The mason singing his as he makes ready for work or leaves off work,The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,The day what belongs to day - at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in Summer wear A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.
Sitting between the sea and the buildingsHe enjoyed painting the sea’s portrait.But just as children imagine a prayerIs merely silence, he expected his subjectTo rush up the sand, and, seizing a brush,Plaster its own portrait on the canvas.So there was never any paint on his canvasUntil the people who lived in the buildingsPut him to work: “Try using the brushAs a means to an end. Select, for a portrait,Something less angry and large, and more subjectTo a painter’s moods, or, perhaps, to a prayer.”How could he explain to them his prayerThat nature, not art, might usurp the canvas?He chose his wife for a new subject,Making her vast, like ruined buildings,As if, forgetting itself, the portraitHad expressed itself without a brush.Slightly encouraged, he dipped his brushIn the sea, murmuring a heartfelt prayer:“My soul, when I paint this next portraitLet it be you who wrecks the canvas.”The news spread like wildfire through the buildings:He had gone back to the sea for his subject.Imagine a painter crucified by his subject!Too exhausted even to lift his brush,He provoked some artists leaning from the buildingsTo malicious mirth: “We haven’t a prayerNow, of putting ourselves on canvas,Or getting the sea to sit for a portrait!”Others declared it a self-portrait.Finally all indications of a subjectBegan to fade, leaving the canvasPerfectly white. He put down the brush.At once a howl, that was also a prayer,Arose from the overcrowded buildings.They tossed him, the portrait, from the tallest of the buildings;And the sea devoured the canvas and the brushAs though his subject had decided to remain a prayer.
Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twigand lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,a cracked bell, or a torn heart.Something from far off it seemeddeep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,a shout muffled by huge autumns,by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprigsang under my tongue, its drifting fragranceclimbed up through my conscious mindas if suddenly the roots I had left behindcried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood---and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.
December 24th and we’re through again.This time for good I know because I didn’tthrow you out — and anyway we waved.No shoes. No angry doors.We folded clothes and wentour separate ways.You left behind that flannel shirtof yours I liked but remembered to takeyour toothbrush. Where are you tonight?Richard, it’s Christmas Eve againand old ghosts come back home.I’m sitting by the Christmas treewondering where did we go wrong.Okay, we didn’t work, and allmemories to tell you the truth aren’t good.But sometimes there were good times.Love was good. I loved your crooked sleepbeside me and never dreamed afraid.There should be stars for great warslike ours. There ought to be awardsand plenty of champagne for the survivors.After all the years of degradations,the several holidays of failure,there should be somethingto commemorate the pain.Someday we’ll forget that great Brazil disaster.Till then, Richard, I wish you well.I wish you love affairs and plenty of hot water,and women kinder than I treated you.I forget the reason, but I loved you once,remember?Maybe in this season, drunkand sentimental, I’m willing to admita part of me, crazed and kamikaze,ripe for anarchy, loves still.
COME into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown, Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, And the musk of the rose is blown. For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high, Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky, To faint in the light of the sun she loves, To faint in his light, and to die. All night have the roses heard The flute, violin, bassoon; All night has the casement jessamine stirr’d To the dancers dancing in tune; Till silence fell with the waking bird, And a hush with the setting moon. I said to the lily, “There is but one With whom she has heart to be gay. When will the dancers leave her alone? She is weary of dance and play.” Now half to the setting moon are gone, And half to the rising day; Low on the sand and loud on the stone The last wheel echoes away. I said to the rose, “The brief night goes In babble and revel and wine. O young lord-lover, what sighs are those, For one that will never be thine? But mine, but mine,” I sware to the rose, “For ever and ever, mine.” And the soul of the rose went into my blood, As the music clash’d in the hall: And long by the garden lake I stood, For I heard your rivulet fall From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood, Our wood, that is dearer than all; From the meadow your walks have left so sweet That whenever a March-wind sighs He sets the jewel-print of your feet In violets blue as your eyes, To the woody hollows in which we meet And the valleys of Paradise. The slender acacia would not shake One long milk-bloom on the tree; The white lake-blossom fell into the lake As the pimpernel doz’d on the lea; But the rose was awake all night for your sake, Knowing your promise to me; The lilies and roses were all awake, They sigh’d for the dawn and thee. Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls, Come hither, the dances are done, In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls, Queen lily and rose in one; Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls, To the flowers, and be their sun. There has fallen a splendid tear From the passion-flower at the gate. She is coming, my dove, my dear; She is coming, my life, my fate; The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;” And the white rose weeps, “She is late;” The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;” And the lily whispers, “I wait.” She is coming, my own, my sweet; Were it ever so airy a tread, My heart would hear her and beat, Were it earth in an earthy bed; My dust would hear her and beat, Had I lain for a century dead; Would start and tremble under her feet, And blossom in purple and red.
THE POOL PLAYERS. SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.We real cool. WeLeft school. WeLurk late. WeStrike straight. WeSing sin. WeThin gin. WeJazz June. WeDie soon.
You ask me again this evening at what priceDoes wisdom finally come in any lifeOr at any age & now I think I knowThe answer swear to me that when I tell you It is only everything you believe You will travel as far from this city as you can beforeThe streets grow smeared & lost to the smug& promiscuous coming of the day
AN old man's thought of School;An old man, gathering youthful memories and blooms, that youth itselfcannot.Now only do I know you!O fair auroral skies! O morning dew upon the grass!And these I see--these sparkling eyes,These stores of mystic meaning--these young lives,Building, equipping, like a fleet of ships--immortal ships!Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,On the Soul's voyage.Only a lot of boys and girls? Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?Only a Public School?Ah more--infinitely more;(As George Fox rais'd his warning cry, "Is it this pile of brick andmortar--these dead floors, windows, rails--you call the church?Why this is not the church at all--the Church is living, ever livingSouls.")And you, America,Cast you the real reckoning for your present?The lights and shadows of your future--good or evil?To girlhood, boyhood look--the Teacher and the School.
We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clayof this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchardwhen suddenly the wind cools and for a momentyou get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almostbelieve something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,something massive, irrational, and so powerful eventhe mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.You probably think I'm nuts saying the mountainshave no word for ocean, but if you live hereyou begin to believe they know everything.They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,a silence that grows in autumn when snow fallsslowly between the pines and the wind diesto less than a whisper and you can barely catchyour breath because you're thrilled and terrified.You have to remember this isn't your land.It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived besideand thought was yours. Remember the small boatsthat bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the menwho carved a living from it only to find themselvescarved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.
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