poem index

Eng 223: Revolution

Eng 223: Revolution
from The Vision of Sir Launfal
James Russell Lowell, 1819 - 1891
And what is so rare as a day in June?
     Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
     And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
     An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
     Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
     Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
     The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
     To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
     Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
     With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,—
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
     And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
     Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop over-fills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
     That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;
     We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,—
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
     Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Eng 223: Revolution
On Liberty and Slavery
George Moses Horton
Alas! and am I born for this,
   To wear this slavish chain?
Deprived of all created bliss,
   Through hardship, toil, and pain!
How long have I in bondage lain,
   And languished to be free!
Alas! and must I still complain--
   Deprived of liberty.

Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief
   This side the silent grave--
To soothe the pain--to quell the grief
   And anguish of a slave?
Come, Liberty, thou cheerful sound,
   Roll through my ravished ears!
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,
   And drive away my fears.
Say unto foul oppression, Cease:
   Ye tyrants rage no more,
And let the joyful trump of peace,
   Now bid the vassal soar.
Soar on the pinions of that dove
   Which long has cooed for thee,
And breathed her notes from Afric's grove,
   The sound of Liberty.
Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,
   So often sought by blood--
We crave thy sacred sun to rise,
   The gift of nature's God!
Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,
   And barbarism fly:
I scorn to see the sad disgrace
   In which enslaved I lie.
Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,
   I languish to respire;
And like the Swan upon her nest,
   I'd to thy smiles retire.
Oh, blest asylum--heavenly balm!
   Unto thy boughs I flee--
And in thy shades the storm shall calm,
   With songs of Liberty!
Eng 223: Revolution
John Banister Tabb
Out of the dusk a shadow,
   Then, a spark;
Out of the cloud a silence,
   Then, a lark;
Out of the heart a rapture,
   Then, a a pain;
Out of the dead, cold ashes,
   Life again.
Eng 223: Revolution
Ruin and Beauty
Patricia Young
It's so quiet now the children have decided to stop 
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze. 
Through the open window we hear nothing-- 
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city's traffic. 
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.

The brick school at the five points crosswalk 
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets 
festooning this coastal town. 
Will the eventual forest rise up 
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement, 
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble, 
already wolves come down from the hills 
to forage among us. We are like them now, 
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.

They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow, 
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs 
in school hallways, as children they lay down 
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.

It wasn't supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century's architecture; it wasn't supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,

a man and woman collecting rain 
in old coffee tins. Darling, 
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves. 
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes. 
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure? 
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time 
doing what people have always done 
and say it was not enough?
Eng 223: Revolution
La Coursier de Jeanne D'Arc
Linda McCarriston
You know that they burned her horse 
before her. Though it is not recorded,
you know that they burned her Percheron 
first, before her eyes, because you

know that story, so old that story, 
the routine story, carried to its 
extreme, of the cruelty that can make 
of what a woman hears a silence,

that can make of what a woman sees 
a lie. She had no son for them to burn, 
for them to take from her in the world 
not of her making and put to its pyre,

so they layered a greater one in front of 
where she was staked to her own-- 
as you have seen her pictured sometimes, 
her eyes raised to the sky. But they were

not raised. This is yet one of their lies. 
They were not closed. Though her hands 
were bound behind her, and her feet were 
bound deep in what would become fire,

she watched. Of greenwood stakes 
head-high and thicker than a man's waist 
they laced the narrow corral that would not 
burn until flesh had burned, until

bone was burning, and laid it thick 
with tinder--fatted wicks and sulphur, 
kindling and logs--and ran a ramp 
up to its height from where the gray horse

waited, his dapples making of his flesh 
a living metal, layers of life 
through which the light shone out 
in places as it seems to through the flesh

of certain fish, a light she knew 
as purest, coming, like that, from within. 
Not flinching, not praying, she looked 
the last time on the body she knew

better than the flesh of any man, or child, 
or woman, having long since left the lap 
of her mother--the chest with its 
perfect plates of muscle, the neck

with its perfect, prow-like curve, 
the hindquarters'--pistons--powerful cleft 
pennoned with the silk of his tail. 
Having ridden as they did together

--those places, that hard, that long-- 
their eyes found easiest that day 
the way to each other, their bodies 
wedded in a sacrament unmediated

by man. With fire they drove him 
up the ramp and off into the pyre 
and tossed the flame in with him. 
This was the last chance they gave her

to recant her world, in which their power 
came not from God. Unmoved, the Men 
of God began watching him burn, and better, 
watching her watch him burn, hearing

the long mad godlike trumpet of his terror, 
his crashing in the wood, the groan 
of stakes that held, the silverblack hide, 
the pricked ears catching first

like driest bark, and the eyes. 
and she knew, by this agony, that she 
might choose to live still, if she would 
but make her sign on the parchment

they would lay before her, which now 
would include this new truth: that it 
did not happen, this death in the circle, 
the rearing, plunging, raging, the splendid

armour-colored head raised one last time
above the flames before they took him
--like any game untended on the spit--into
their yellow-green, their blackening red.
Eng 223: Revolution
Bruce Beasley
Lord Nelson's hand, blasted
off by musket-fire at Tenerife,
stayed clutched into a fist

in the gap below his stump,
the unbeholdable
fingers stabbing

their ever-longer nails
into his palm. Daily
in the amputated place

the gone
fingers cut deeper
into the gone & welted

skin. If a hand
can outlast
its shearing-off & still

inflict its scratch & cramp,
he thought, how much
more must the soul

go on when the whole
body's a phantom
body, rid

of all but
its spirit's
fist-kinks & stabs?
Eng 223: Revolution
Adelaide Crapsey, 1878 - 1915
These be 
three silent things: 
The falling snow . . . the hour 
Before the dawn . . . the mouth of one 
Just dead.
Eng 223: Revolution
William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.   
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.   
Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
  Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.   
It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.
Eng 223: Revolution
O Captain! My Captain!
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather'd every rack,
      the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
      While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart!
      O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.
      O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for
      you the bugle trills, 
         For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths- for you the shores
          For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
             Here Captain! dear father!
               This arm beneath your head!
                 It is some dream that on the deck,
                   You've fallen cold and dead.

          My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
          My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
          The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
          From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
               Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                 But I with mournful tread,
                   Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                     Fallen cold and dead.
Eng 223: Revolution
Naming the land
Elana Bell
Because we named the land in blood and ink
and everything held by the land
to our use     we named—
                                        dirty with the name—

because we bought this land
when ash became sky
and the smell of burning

because my grandmother dreamed it
instead of eating death
and now new trees 
grow over the graves

because the ruined promise
because two pounds of shrapnel drawn from Noams back
because Salim's house forced open like a jaw
a bag of pita scattered where the kitchen was

because we can survive in any soil
like rats
because until the end of the world
we will scratch out the name
Eng 223: Revolution
Archeology, p. 28
Vanessa Place, 1968
We must ask ourselves                         what purpose is
ultimately served by this                                 suspension of
all the accepted                                              unities
if, in the end, we return to                               the unities
that we pretended to question                at the outset.
        In fact,
the systemic erasure of                         all given unities
enables us first of all                                       to restore to
the statement                                                 the specificity
of its occurrence,                                  and to show
        that                                                       discontinuity
is one of those great                                       accidents
        that                                             create cracks

not only in the geology                          of history,
but also in the simple                                      fact
of the statement;

it emerges in its historical     irruption;
what we try to examine is     the incision

that it
makes, that
          irreducible—                                  and very often tiny
However banal it may be,
however unimportant its consequences may appear to be,
however quickly it may be forgotten after its appearance,
however little heard or however badly deciphered
                                                 we may suppose it to be,

a statement is always an event

that neither the language (langue) nor the meaning
                                                    can quite exhaust.
It is certainly a strange event:
first, because on the one hand
                                           it is linked to the gesture of
                                           writing or to the articulation of

            and also on the other hand
it opens up to itself a residual                                      existence
in the field of a memory, or in the materiality of            manuscripts,
books, or any other form of recording;
secondly, because, like every

                        it is unique, yet subject to repetition, transformation, and reactivation;
thirdly, because it is linked not only to the situations that provoke it, and to the consequences
that it gives rise to, but at the same time, and in accordance with a quite different modality, to 
the statements that precede and
                                                                                      follow it.
Eng 223: Revolution
Russian Letter
John Yau, 1950
It is said, the past
sticks to the present

like glue,
that we are flies

struggling to pull free
It is said, someone

cannot change
the clothes

in which
their soul

was born.
I, however,

would not
go so far

Nor am I Rembrandt,
master of the black

and green darkness,
the hawk's plumes

as it shrieks
down from the sky
Eng 223: Revolution
Yes, it can be admitted now
Kathleen Jesme
Yes, it can be admitted now: she had a secret once

carried like a stone in her pocket until

(is this how what we are
becomes unspeakable.)

what if years later running her hands down her body she found
that stone, worn now,

and named it
or God
or something