poem index

Max Nix

Just some of my favorites. Words that have meaning.
Max Nix
next
Iowa
Robbie Klein
It never completely gets dark on those back roads.
There are stars, deceptively few.
And velvet consumes and velvet erupts:
the softness is the leaves and the dirt paths and stables and skin. And eyes.

The dark places, the secret places: abrupt, always, fleeting
but indelibly there, like a muscle memory.
The ridiculous and impudent course of years means nothing:
the touch is the same, the taste. Iowa's sweet ground. I close my eyes to the
darkness and fall into it more and awake to the street disappearing into
fields and lost time.

A drive through the cemetery, a different place now
Winding up the hill marking a route in the dark with the pond
To stand breathless at the crest, arms wide open
I chart movements with a cartographer's conscience:
throw open my shirt and open my self to the sky flawed and stitched
     and whole
and welcome my mother and forgive my father and
know the slap shock of being born.
Max Nix
next
Sunrise, Grand Canyon
John Barton
We stand on the edge, the fall
into depth, the ascent

of light revelatory, the canyon walls moving
up out of

shadow, lit
colours of the layers cutting

down through darkness, sunrise as it 
passes a

precipitate of the river, its burnt tangerine 
flare brief, jagged

bleeding above the far rim for a split
second I have imagined

you here with me, watching day's onslaught 
standing in your bones--they seem

implied in the record almost
by chance--fossil remains held

in abundance in the walls, exposed 
by freeze and thaw, beautiful like a theory

stating who we are
is carried forward by the X

chromosome down the matrilineal line 
recessive and riverine, you like

me aberrant and bittersweet, and losing 
your hair just when we have begun

to know the limits of beauty, you so 
distant from me now but at ease

in a chair in your kitchen, pensive, mind 
wandering away from yesterday's Times, the ink

rubbing off on your hands, dermatoglyphic 
and telltale, but unread

on the chair arms after you
had pushed yourself to your feet such

awhile ago, I'd say, for here I am 
three hours behind you, riding the high

Colorado Plateau as the opposing 
continental plates force it over

a mile upward without buckling, smooth 
tensed, muscular fundament, your bones yet

to be wrapped around mine--
this will come later, when I return

to your place and time, I know it, you not 
ready for past or future, our combined

bones so inconsequent yet
personal, the geo

logic cross
section of the canyon dropping

from where I stand, hundreds
millions of shades of terra cotta, of copper

manganese and rust, the many varieties of stone--
silt, sand, and slate, even "green

river rock," a rough misidentified
fragment of it once unknowingly

dropped when I was a boy into my as of yet un 
settled sediments by a man who tried

to explain how slowly the Earth meta 
morphosed from my meagre

Wolf Cub's collection of rocks, his sheer 
casual physicality enough to negate

all received wisdom, my body voicing its immense 
genetic imperatives, human

geology falling away
into a

depth I am still unprepared for
the canyon cutting down to

the great unconformity, a layer
so named by the lack

of any fossil evidence to hypothesize
about and date such

a remote time by, at last no possible 
retrospective certainties, what a

relief, your face illegible
these words when I began not what I had

intended to say--something new about 
the natural dynamic between

earth and history, beauty and art--
but you are my subject, unavoidable

and volatile, the canyon
floor a mile from where I objectively

stand taking photos I will later develop of 
the ripe, trans

formative light on these surreal
buttes to show you on the surface

how beautiful and diverse
and unimportant our time together

or with anyone else
really is--
Max Nix
next
A Bird came down the Walk (328)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.
Max Nix
next
Design
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.
Max Nix
next
Quilts
Nikki Giovanni, 1943
(for Sally Sellers)

Like a fading piece of cloth
I am a failure

No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter
My seams are frayed my hems falling my strength no longer able
To hold the hot and cold

I wish for those first days
When just woven I could keep water
From seeping through
Repelled stains with the tightness of my weave
Dazzled the sunlight with my 
Reflection

I grow old though pleased with my memories
The tasks I can no longer complete
Are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past

I offer no apology only
this plea: 

When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end
Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt
That I might keep some child warm

And some old person with no one else to talk to
Will hear my whispers

And cuddle
near
Max Nix
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Advice From the Geese
Robert Bly, 1926

 

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Max Nix
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To His Coy Mistress
Andrew Marvell, 1621 - 1678
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.
Max Nix
next
When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
1

When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd,   
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,   
I mourn'd—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.   
   
O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;   
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.   
   

2

O powerful, western, fallen star!   
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!   
O great star disappear'd! O the black murk that hides the star!   
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!   
   

3

In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash'd
   palings,   
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich
   green,   
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume
   strong I love,   
With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich
   green,   
A sprig, with its flower, I break.   
   

4

In the swamp, in secluded recesses,   
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.   
   
Solitary, the thrush,
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,   
Sings by himself a song.   
   
Song of the bleeding throat!   
Death's outlet song of life—(for well, dear brother, I know   
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would'st surely die.)
   

5

Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,   
Amid lanes, and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep'd
   from the ground, spotting the gray debris;)   
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes—passing the
   endless grass;   
Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat, every grain from its shroud in the
   dark-brown fields uprising;   
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards;
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,   
Night and day journeys a coffin.   
   

6

Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,   
Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land,   
With the pomp of the inloop'd flags, with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veil'd women,
   standing,   
With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night,   
With the countless torches lit—with the silent sea of faces,
   and the unbared heads,   
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,   
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong
   and solemn;
With all the mournful voices of the dirges, pour'd around the coffin,   
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—Where amid these
   you journey,   
With the tolling, tolling bells' perpetual clang;   
Here! coffin that slowly passes,   
I give you my sprig of lilac.
   

7

(Nor for you, for one, alone;   
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring:   
For fresh as the morning—thus would I carol a song for you, O
   sane and sacred death.   
   
All over bouquets of roses,   
O death! I cover you over with roses and early lilies;
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,   
Copious, I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes;   
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,   
For you, and the coffins all of you, O death.)   
   

8

O western orb, sailing the heaven!
Now I know what you must have meant, as a month since we walk'd,   
As we walk'd up and down in the dark blue so mystic,   
As we walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night,   
As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after
   night,   
As you droop'd from the sky low down, as if to my side, (while the
   other stars all look'd on;)
As we wander'd together the solemn night, (for something, I know not
   what, kept me from sleep;)   
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west, ere you
   went, how full you were of woe;   
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze, in the cold
   transparent night,   
As I watch'd where you pass'd and was lost in the netherward black of
   the night,   
As my soul, in its trouble, dissatisfied, sank, as where you, sad
   orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.   
   

9

Sing on, there in the swamp!   
O singer bashful and tender! I hear your notes—I hear your
   call;   
I hear—I come presently—I understand you;   
But a moment I linger—for the lustrous star has detain'd me;
The star, my departing comrade, holds and detains me.   
   

10

O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?   
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?   
And what shall my perfume be, for the grave of him I love?   
   
Sea-winds, blown from east and west,
Blown from the eastern sea, and blown from the western sea, till there on
   the prairies meeting:   
These, and with these, and the breath of my chant,   
I perfume the grave of him I love.   
   

11

O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?   
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?   
   
Pictures of growing spring, and farms, and homes,   
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and
   bright,   
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking
   sun, burning, expanding the air;   
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of
   the trees prolific;
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a
   wind-dapple here and there;   
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky,
   and shadows;   
And the city at hand, with dwellings so dense, and stacks of
   chimneys,   
And all the scenes of life, and the workshops, and the workmen
   homeward returning.   
   

12

Lo! body and soul! this land!
Mighty Manhattan, with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides,
   and the ships;   
The varied and ample land—the South and the North in the
   light—Ohio's shores, and flashing Missouri,   
And ever the far-spreading prairies, cover'd with grass and corn.   
   
Lo! the most excellent sun, so calm and haughty;   
The violet and purple morn, with just-felt breezes;
The gentle, soft-born, measureless light;   
The miracle, spreading, bathing all—the fulfill'd noon;   
The coming eve, delicious—the welcome night, and the stars,   
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.   
   

13

Sing on! sing on, you gray-brown bird!
Sing from the swamps, the recesses—pour your chant from the
   bushes;   
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.   
   
Sing on, dearest brother—warble your reedy song;   
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.   
   
O liquid, and free, and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul! O wondrous singer!   
You only I hear......yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart;)   
Yet the lilac, with mastering odor, holds me.   
   

14

Now while I sat in the day, and look'd forth,   
In the close of the day, with its light, and the fields of spring,
   and the farmer preparing his crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land, with its lakes and
   forests,   
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb'd winds, and the
   storms;)   
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the
   voices of children and women,   
The many-moving sea-tides,—and I saw the ships how they sail'd,   
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy
   with labor,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its
   meals and minutia of daily usages;   
And the streets, how their throbbings throbb'd, and the cities
   pent—lo! then and there,   
Falling upon them all, and among them all, enveloping me with the
   rest,   
Appear'd the cloud, appear'd the long black trail;   
And I knew Death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.
   

15

Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,   
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,   
And I in the middle, as with companions, and as holding the hands of
   companions,   
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night, that talks not,   
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the
   dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars, and ghostly pines so still.   
   
And the singer so shy to the rest receiv'd me;   
The gray-brown bird I know, receiv'd us comrades three;   
And he sang what seem'd the carol of death, and a verse for him I
   love.   
   
From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars, and the ghostly pines so still,   
Came the carol of the bird.   
   
And the charm of the carol rapt me,   
As I held, as if by their hands, my comrades in the night;   
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.
   

16

DEATH CAROL.

Come, lovely and soothing Death,   
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,   
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,   
Sooner or later, delicate Death.   
   
Prais'd be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious;   
And for love, sweet love—But praise! praise! praise!   
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death.   
   
Dark Mother, always gliding near, with soft feet,   
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
   
Then I chant it for thee—I glorify thee above all;   
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.   
   
Approach, strong Deliveress!   
When it is so—when thou hast taken them, I joyously sing the
   dead,   
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.   
   
From me to thee glad serenades,   
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee—adornments and
   feastings for thee;   
And the sights of the open landscape, and the high-spread sky, are
   fitting,   
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.  155 
   
The night, in silence, under many a star;   
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;   
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil'd Death,   
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.   
   
Over the tree-tops I float thee a song!
Over the rising and sinking waves—over the myriad fields, and
   the prairies wide;   
Over the dense-pack'd cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,   
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death! 
   

17

To the tally of my soul,   
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure, deliberate notes, spreading, filling the night.   
   
Loud in the pines and cedars dim,   
Clear in the freshness moist, and the swamp-perfume;   
And I with my comrades there in the night.   
   
While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed, 
As to long panoramas of visions.   
  
 
18

I saw askant the armies;   
And I saw, as in noiseless dreams, hundreds of battle-flags;   
Borne through the smoke of the battles, and pierc'd with missiles, I
   saw them,   
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody; 
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in
   silence,)   
And the staffs all splinter'd and broken.   
   
I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,   
And the white skeletons of young men—I saw them;   
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war;
But I saw they were not as was thought;   
They themselves were fully at rest—they suffer'd not;   
The living remain'd and suffer'd—the mother suffer'd,   
And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffer'd,   
And the armies that remain'd suffer'd. 
 
  
19

Passing the visions, passing the night;   
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades' hands;   
Passing the song of the hermit bird, and the tallying song of my
   soul,   
(Victorious song, death's outlet song, yet varying, ever-altering
   song,   
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding
   the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again
   bursting with joy,   
Covering the earth, and filling the spread of the heaven,   
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,)   
Passing, I leave thee, lilac with heart-shaped leaves;   
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring,
I cease from my song for thee;   
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with
   thee,   
O comrade lustrous, with silver face in the night.   
 
  
20

Yet each I keep, and all, retrievements out of the night;   
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous'd in my soul,   
With the lustrous and drooping star, with the countenance full of
   woe,   
With the lilac tall, and its blossoms of mastering odor;   
With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call of the bird,   
Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever I
   keep—for the dead I loved so well;
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands...and this for
   his dear sake;   
Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul,   
There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim.
Max Nix
next
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.
Max Nix
next
Concord Hymn
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 - 1882
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
    And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
    Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
    Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
    We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
    When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
    To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
    The shaft we raise to them and thee.
Max Nix
next
Wild Nights—Wild Nights! (249)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a heart in port –
Done with the compass –
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor – Tonight –
In thee!

Max Nix
next
Back Yard
Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967
Shine on, O moon of summer.  
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,  
All silver under your rain to-night.  
  
An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.  
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
     to-night they are throwing you kisses.
  
An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
     cherry tree in his back yard.  
  
The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
     white thoughts you rain down.  
  
     Shine on, O moon,  
Shake out more and more silver changes. 
Max Nix
next
Warm Summer Sun
Mark Twain
Warm summer sun,
    Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
    Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
    Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
    Good night, good night.
Max Nix
next
To make a prairie (1755)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Max Nix
next
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Thomas Gray
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,  
  The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,  
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,  
  And leaves the world to darkness and to me.  
  
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,           
  And all the air a solemn stillness holds,  
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,  
  And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:  
  
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower  
  The moping owl does to the moon complain            
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,  
  Molest her ancient solitary reign.  
  
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade  
  Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,  
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,            
  The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.  
  
The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,  
  The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,  
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,  
  No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.            
  
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn  
  Or busy housewife ply her evening care:  
No children run to lisp their sire's return,  
  Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.  
  
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,            
  Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;  
How jocund did they drive their team afield!  
  How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!  
  
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,  
  Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;            
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile  
  The short and simple annals of the Poor.  
  
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,  
  And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave  
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:—            
  The paths of glory lead but to the grave.  
  
Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault  
  If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,  
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault  
  The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.            
  
Can storied urn or animated bust  
  Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath,  
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,  
  Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?  
  
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid            
  Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;  
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,  
  Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:  
  
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,  
  Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;            
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,  
  And froze the genial current of the soul.  
  
Full many a gem of purest ray serene  
  The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:  
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,            
  And waste its sweetness on the desert air.  
  
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast  
  The little tyrant of his fields withstood,  
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,  
  Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.            
  
Th' applause of listening senates to command,  
  The threats of pain and ruin to despise,  
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,  
  And read their history in a nation's eyes  
  
Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone            
  Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;  
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,  
  And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;  
  
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,  
  To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,            
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride  
  With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.  
  
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife  
  Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;  
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life            
  They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.  
  
Yet e'en these bones from insult to protect  
  Some frail memorial still erected nigh,  
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,  
  Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.            
  
Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,  
  The place of fame and elegy supply:  
And many a holy text around she strews,  
  That teach the rustic moralist to die.  
  
For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,            
  This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,  
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,  
  Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?  
  
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,  
  Some pious drops the closing eye requires;            
E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,  
  E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.  
  
For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,  
  Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;  
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,            
  Some kindred spirit shall enquire thy fate,— 
  
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,  
  'Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn  
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,  
  To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;             
  
'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech  
  That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,  
His listless length at noon-tide would he stretch,  
  And pore upon the brook that babbles by.  
  
'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,             
  Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;  
Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,  
  Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.  
  
'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,  
  Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;             
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,  
  Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;  
  
'The next with dirges due in sad array  
  Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,—
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay             
  Graved on the stone beneath yon agèd thorn:'  
  
The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth  
  A youth, to Fortune and to Fame unknown;  
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth  
  And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.             
  
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere;  
  Heaven did a recompense as largely send:  
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,  
  He gain'd from Heaven, 'twas all he wish'd, a friend.  
  
No farther seek his merits to disclose,             
  Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,  
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)  
  The bosom of his Father and his God.
Max Nix
next
Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!