poem index

Ineffable

A Solid Collection
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What the Living Do
Marie Howe, 1950
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
 
waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
 
the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
 
I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
 
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
 
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.
 
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep
 
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
Ineffable
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Untitled [This is what was bequeathed us]
Gregory Orr, 1947
This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
Ineffable
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I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875 - 1926
I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone 
    enough
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small 
    enough
to be to you just object and thing, 
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying 
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions, 
where something is up, 
to be among those in the know, 
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection, 
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection. 
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent; 
for there I would be dishonest, untrue. 
I want my conscience to be 
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed 
for a long time, one close up, 
like a new word I learned and embraced, 
like the everday jug, 
like my mother's face, 
like a ship that carried me along 
through the deadliest storm.
Ineffable
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Love's Philosophy
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 - 1822
 
The fountains mingle with the river   
And the rivers with the ocean,   
The winds of heaven mix for ever   
With a sweet emotion;   
Nothing in the world is single, 
All things by a law divine   
In one another's being mingle—   
Why not I with thine?   
   
See the mountains kiss high heaven,   
And the waves clasp one another; 
No sister-flower would be forgiven   
If it disdain'd its brother;   
And the sunlight clasps the earth,   
And the moonbeams kiss the sea—   
What is all this sweet work worth 
If thou kiss not me? 
Ineffable
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Auguries of Innocence
William Blake, 1757 - 1827
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage 
A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thr' all its regions 
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State 
A Horse misusd upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood 
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear 
A Skylark wounded in the wing 
A Cherubim does cease to sing 
The Game Cock clipd & armd for fight
Does the Rising Sun affright 
Every Wolfs & Lions howl
Raises from Hell a Human Soul 
The wild deer, wandring here & there 
Keeps the Human Soul from Care 
The Lamb misusd breeds Public Strife
And yet forgives the Butchers knife 
The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that wont Believe
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbelievers fright
He who shall hurt the little Wren
Shall never be belovd by Men 
He who the Ox to wrath has movd
Shall never be by Woman lovd
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spiders enmity 
He who torments the Chafers Sprite
Weaves a Bower in endless Night 
The Catterpiller on the Leaf
Repeats to thee thy Mothers grief 
Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly 
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh 
He who shall train the Horse to War
Shall never pass the Polar Bar 
The Beggars Dog & Widows Cat 
Feed them & thou wilt grow fat 
The Gnat that sings his Summers Song
Poison gets from Slanders tongue 
The poison of the Snake & Newt
Is the sweat of Envys Foot 
The poison of the Honey Bee
Is the Artists Jealousy
The Princes Robes & Beggars Rags
Are Toadstools on the Misers Bags 
A Truth thats told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent 
It is right it should be so 
Man was made for Joy & Woe 
And when this we rightly know 
Thro the World we safely go 
Joy & Woe are woven fine 
A Clothing for the soul divine 
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine 
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands 
Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity 
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight 
The Bleat the Bark Bellow & Roar 
Are Waves that Beat on Heavens Shore 
The Babe that weeps the Rod beneath
Writes Revenge in realms of Death 
The Beggars Rags fluttering in Air
Does to Rags the Heavens tear 
The Soldier armd with Sword & Gun 
Palsied strikes the Summers Sun
The poor Mans Farthing is worth more
Than all the Gold on Africs Shore
One Mite wrung from the Labrers hands
Shall buy & sell the Misers Lands 
Or if protected from on high 
Does that whole Nation sell & buy 
He who mocks the Infants Faith
Shall be mockd in Age & Death 
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall neer get out 
He who respects the Infants faith
Triumphs over Hell & Death 
The Childs Toys & the Old Mans Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two seasons 
The Questioner who sits so sly 
Shall never know how to Reply 
He who replies to words of Doubt
Doth put the Light of Knowledge out 
The Strongest Poison ever known
Came from Caesars Laurel Crown 
Nought can Deform the Human Race
Like to the Armours iron brace 
When Gold & Gems adorn the Plow
To peaceful Arts shall Envy Bow 
A Riddle or the Crickets Cry
Is to Doubt a fit Reply 
The Emmets Inch & Eagles Mile
Make Lame Philosophy to smile 
He who Doubts from what he sees
Will neer Believe do what you Please 
If the Sun & Moon should Doubt 
Theyd immediately Go out 
To be in a Passion you Good may Do 
But no Good if a Passion is in you 
The Whore & Gambler by the State
Licencd build that Nations Fate 
The Harlots cry from Street to Street 
Shall weave Old Englands winding Sheet 
The Winners Shout the Losers Curse 
Dance before dead Englands Hearse 
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to Endless Night 
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night 
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light 
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day
Ineffable
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Eternity
William Blake, 1757 - 1827
He who binds to himself a joy 
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise
Ineffable
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Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks
Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995
I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . . 

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . . 

I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . . 

I am water rushing to the wellhead, 
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . . 

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . . 

I am the heart contracted by joy. . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . . 

I am there in the basket of fruit 
presented to the widow. . . .

I am the musk rose opening 
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . . 

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .
Ineffable
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What Came to Me
Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.

Ineffable
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It's all I have to bring today (26)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

It's all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

Ineffable
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The Soul unto itself (683)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
The Soul unto itself
Is an imperial friend  –  
Or the most agonizing Spy  –  
An Enemy  –  could send  – 

Secure against its own  –  
No treason it can fear  –  
Itself  –  its Sovereign  –  of itself
The Soul should stand in Awe  –  
Ineffable
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There's a certain Slant of light (258)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons – 
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes – 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are – 

None may teach it – Any – 
'Tis the Seal Despair – 
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air – 

When it comes, the Landscape listens – 
Shadows – hold their breath – 
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death – 
Ineffable
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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.
Ineffable
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Asphodel, That Greeny Flower [excerpt]
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
		like a buttercup
				upon its branching stem-
save that it's green and wooden-
		I come, my sweet,
				to sing to you.
We lived long together
		a life filled,
				if you will,
with flowers.  So that 
		I was cheered
				when I came first to know
that there were flowers also
		in hell.
				Today
I'm filled with the fading memory of those flowers
		that we both loved,
				even to this poor
colorless thing-
		I saw it
				when I was a child-
little prized among the living
		but the dead see,
				asking among themselves:
What do I remember
		that was shaped
				as this thing is shaped?
while our eyes fill
		with tears.
				Of love, abiding love
it will be telling
		though too weak a wash of crimson
				colors it
to make it wholly credible.
		There is something
				something urgent
I have to say to you
		and you alone
				but it must wait
while I drink in
		the joy of your approach,
				perhaps for the last time.
And so
		with fear in my heart
				I drag it out
and keep on talking
		for I dare not stop.
				Listen while I talk on
against time.
		It will not be
				for long.
I have forgot
		and yet I see clearly enough
				something
central to the sky
		which ranges round it.
				An odor
springs from it!
		A sweetest odor!
				Honeysuckle!  And now
there comes the buzzing of a bee!
		and a whole flood
				of sister memories!
Only give me time,
		time to recall them
				before I shall speak out.
Give me time,
		time.
When I was a boy
		I kept a book
				to which, from time
to time,
		I added pressed flowers
				until, after a time,
I had a good collection.
		The asphodel,
				forebodingly,
among them.
		I bring you,
				reawakened,
a memory of those flowers.
		They were sweet
				when I pressed them
and retained
		something of their sweetness
				a long time.
It is a curious odor,
		a moral odor,
				that brings me
near to you.
		The color
				was the first to go.
There had come to me
		a challenge,
				your dear self,
mortal as I was,
		the lily's throat
				to the hummingbird!
Endless wealth,
		I thought,
				held out its arms to me.
A thousand tropics
		in an apple blossom.
				The generous earth itself
gave us lief.
		The whole world
				became my garden!
But the sea
		which no one tends
				is also a garden
when the sun strikes it
		and the waves
				are wakened.
I have seen it
		and so have you
				when it puts all flowers
to shame.
		Too, there are the starfish
				stiffened by the sun
and other sea wrack
		and weeds.  We knew that
				along with the rest of it
for we were born by the sea,
		knew its rose hedges
				to the very water's brink.
There the pink mallow grows
		and in their season
				strawberries
and there, later,
		we went to gather
				the wild plum.
I cannot say
		that I have gone to hell
				for your love
but often
		found myself there
				in your pursuit.
I do not like it
		and wanted to be
				in heaven.  Hear me out.
Do not turn away.
I have learned much in my life
		from books
				and out of them
about love.
		Death
				is not the end of it.
There is a hierarchy
		which can be attained,
				I think,
in its service.
		Its guerdon
				is a fairy flower;
a cat of twenty lives.
		If no one came to try it
				the world
would be the loser.
		It has been
				for you and me
as one who watches a storm
		come in over the water.
				We have stood
from year to year
		before the spectacle of our lives
				with joined hands.
The storm unfolds.
		Lightning
				plays about the edges of the clouds.
The sky to the north
		is placid,
				blue in the afterglow
as the storm piles up.
		It is a flower
				that will soon reach
the apex of its bloom.
		We danced,
				in our minds,
and read a book together.
		You remember?
				It was a serious book.
And so books
		entered our lives.
The sea!  The sea!
		Always
				when I think of the sea
there comes to mind
		the Iliad
				and Helen's public fault
that bred it.
		Were it not for that
				there would have been
 no poem but the world
		if we had remembered,
				those crimson petals
spilled among the stones,
		would have called it simply
				murder.
The sexual orchid that bloomed then
		sending so many 
				disinterested
men to their graves
		has left its memory
				to a race of fools
or heroes
		if silence is a virtue.
				The sea alone
with its multiplicity
		holds any hope.
				The storm
has proven abortive
		but we remain
				after the thoughts it roused
to 
		re-cement our lives.
				It is the mind
the mind
		that must be cured
				short of death's
intervention,
		and the will becomes again
				a garden.  The poem
is complex and the place made
		in our lives
				for the poem.
Silence can be complex too,
		but you do not get far
				with silence.
Begin again.
		It is like Homer's
				catalogue of ships:
it fills up the time.
		I speak in figures,
				well enough, the dresses
you wear are figures also,
		we could not meet
				otherwise.  When I speak
of flowers
		it is to recall
				that at one time
we were young.
		All women are not Helen,
				I know that,
but have Helen in their hearts.
		My sweet,
				you have it also, therefore
I love you
		and could not love you otherwise.
				Imagine you saw
a field made up of women
		all silver-white.
				What should you do
but love them?
		The storm bursts
				or fades!  it is not
the end of the world.
		Love is something else,
				or so I thought it,
a garden which expands,
		though I knew you as a woman
				and never thought otherwise,
until the whole sea
		has been taken up
				and all its gardens.
It was the love of love,
		the love that swallows up all else,
				a grateful love,
a love of nature, of people,
		of animals,
				a love engendering
gentleness and goodness
		that moved me
				and that I saw in you.
I should have known,
		though I did not,
				that the lily-of-the-valley
is a flower makes many ill
		who whiff it.
				We had our children,
rivals in the general onslaught.
		I put them aside
				though I cared for them.
as well as any man
		could care for his children
				according to my lights.
You understand
		I had to meet you
				after the event
and have still to meet you.
		Love
				to which you too shall bow
along with me-
		a flower
				a weakest flower
shall be our trust
		and not because
				we are too feeble
to do otherwise
		but because
				at the height of my power
I risked what I had to do,
		therefore to prove
				that we love each other
while my very bones sweated
		that I could not cry to you
				in the act.
Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
		I come, my sweet,
				to sing to you!
My heart rouses
		thinking to bring you news
				of something
that concerns you
		and concerns many men.  Look at
				what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
		despised poems.
				It is difficult
to get the news from poems
		yet men die miserably every day
				for lack
of what is found there.
		Hear me out
				for I too am concerned
and every man
		who wants to die at peace in his bed
				besides.
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This Is Just To Say
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
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The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.
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Never give all the heart
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

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The Lake Isle of Innisfree
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping
     slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
     sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
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When You are Old
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
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.
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Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,   
Enwrought with golden and silver light,   
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths   
Of night and light and the half light,   
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;   
I have spread my dreams under your feet;   
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
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How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
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First Fig
Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 - 1950
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
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What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 - 1950
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, 
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain 
Under my head till morning; but the rain 
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh 
Upon the glass and listen for reply, 
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain 
For unremembered lads that not again 
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. 
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree, 
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, 
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: 
I cannot say what loves have come and gone, 
I only know that summer sang in me 
A little while, that in me sings no more.
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Dreams
Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967
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.
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The Coming of Light
Mark Strand, 1934 - 2014
Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light. 
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves, 
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows, 
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine 
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.
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She Walks in Beauty
George Gordon Byron, 1788 - 1824
I.

She walks in beauty, like the night 
   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright 
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light 
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

II.

One shade the more, one ray the less, 
   Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress, 
   Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express 
   How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

III.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow, 
   So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow, 
   But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below, 
   A heart whose love is innocent!
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This Living Hand
John Keats, 1795 - 1821

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed--see here it is--
I hold it towards you.

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Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)
John Donne, 1572 - 1631
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Ineffable
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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
T. S. Eliot, 1888 - 1965

     S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
     A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
     Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
     Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
     Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
     Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
     So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
     And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
     And should I then presume?
     And how should I begin?

          . . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

          . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
     Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
     That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
     "That is not it at all,
     That is not what I meant, at all."

          . . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Ineffable
next
Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Ineffable
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Archaic Torso of Apollo
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875 - 1926
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could 
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
Ineffable
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A Drinking Song
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
Wine comes in at the mouth   
And love comes in at the eye;   
That’s all we shall know for truth   
Before we grow old and die.   
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.