How do you like to go up in a swing, Up in the air so blue? Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing Ever a child can do! Up in the air and over the wall, Till I can see so wide, River and trees and cattle and all Over the countryside— Till I look down on the garden green, Down on the roof so brown— Up in the air I go flying again, Up in the air and down!
I remember picking up a fistful of sand, smooth crystals, like hourglass sand and throwing it into the eyes of a boy. Johnny or Danny or Kevin—he was not important. I was five and I knew he would cry. I remember everything about it— the sandbox in the corner of the room at Cinderella Day Care; Ms. Lee, who ran over after the boy wailed for his mother, her stern look as the words No snack formed on her lips. My hands with their gritty, half-mooned fingernails I hid in the pockets of my blue and white dress. How she found them and uncurled small sandy fists. There must have been such rage in me, to give such pain to another person. This afternoon, I saw a man pull a gold chain off the neck of a woman as she crossed the street. She cried out with a sound that bleached me. I walked on, unable to help, knowing that fire in childhood clenched deep in my pockets all the way home.
after practice: right foot to left foot, stepping forward and back, to right foot and left foot, and left foot up to his thigh, holding it on his thigh as he twists around in a circle, until it rolls down the inside of his leg, like a tickle of sweat, not catching and tapping on the soft side of his foot, and juggling once, twice, three times, hopping on one foot like a jump-roper in the gym, now trapping and holding the ball in midair, balancing it on the instep of his weak left foot, stepping forward and forward and back, then lifting it overhead until it hangs there; and squaring off his body, he keeps the ball aloft with a nudge of his neck, heading it from side to side, softer and softer, like a dying refrain, until the ball, slowing, balances itself on his hairline, the hot sun and sweat filling his eyes as he jiggles this way and that, then flicking it up gently, hunching his shoulders and tilting his head back, he traps it in the hollow of his neck, and bending at the waist, sees his shadow, his dangling T-shirt, the bent blades of brown grass in summer heat; and relaxing, the ball slipping down his back. . .and missing his foot. He wheels around, he marches over the ball, as if it were a rock he stumbled into, and pressing his left foot against it, he pushes it against the inside of his right until it pops into the air, is heeled over his head--the rainbow!-- and settles on his extended thigh before rolling over his knee and down his shin, so he can juggle it again from his left foot to his right foot —and right foot to left foot to thigh— as he wanders, on the last day of summer, around the empty field.
Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, Lady, were no crime. We would sit down and think which way To walk and pass our long love's day. Thou by the Indian Ganges' side Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide Of Humber would complain. I would Love you ten years before the Flood, And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews. My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires, and more slow; An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast; But thirty thousand to the rest; An age at least to every part, And the last age should show your heart; For, Lady, you deserve this state, Nor would I love at lower rate. But at my back I always hear Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. Thy beauty shall no more be found, Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound My echoing song: then worms shall try That long preserved virginity, And your quaint honour turn to dust, And into ashes all my lust: The grave's a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace. Now therefore, while the youthful hue Sits on thy skin like morning dew, And while thy willing soul transpires At every pore with instant fires, Now let us sport us while we may, And now, like amorous birds of prey, Rather at once our time devour Than languish in his slow-chapt power. Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life: Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.
But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam's twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, "Life is but an empty dream!" For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; "Dust thou art, to dust returnest," Was not spoken of the soul. Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Finds us farther than to-day. Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave. In the world's broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife! Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act,--act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o'erhead! Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time; Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again. Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing Learn to labor and to wait.
When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And nodding by the fire, take down this book, And slowly read, and dream of the soft look Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; How many loved your moments of glad grace, And loved your beauty with love false or true, But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrows of your changing face; And bending down beside the glowing bars, Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
"Everyone needs one untranslatable song." —Juarroz On hearing the striped contralto of guinea fowl, its mock opera quivers the parsley atop its head— The song makes its imprint in the air, making itself felt, a felt world. Here, there, the stunned silence of knowing I will not remember what I heard; futures that will never happen, a fluidity we cannot achieve except as a child creating possibility. This is the untranslatable song hidden in the earth.
That everything's inevitable. That fate is whatever has already happened. The brain, which is as elemental, as sane, as the rest of the processing universe is. In this world, I am the surest thing. Scrunched-up arms, folded legs, lovely destitute eyes. Please insert your spare coins. I am filling them up. Please insert your spare vision, your vigor, your vim. But yet, I am a vatic one. As vatic as the Vatican. In the temper and the tantrum, in the well-kept arboretum I am waiting, like an animal, For poetry.
Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day You tell me of our future that you planned: Only remember me; you understand It will be late to counsel then or pray. Yet if you should forget me for a while And afterwards remember, do not grieve: For if the darkness and corruption leave A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad.