poem index

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The Balloon of the Mind
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

Hands, do what you're bid:
Bring the balloon of the mind
That bellies and drags in the wind
Into its narrow shed.

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In Tenebris
Ford Madox Ford

All within is warm,
   Here without it's very cold,
   Now the year is grown so old
And the dead leaves swarm.

In your heart is light,
   Here without it's very dark,
   When shall I hear the lark?
When see aright?

Oh, for a moment's space!
   Draw the clinging curtains wide
   Whilst I wait and yearn outside
Let the light fall on my face.

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Places [III. Winter Sun]
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933

        (Lenox)

There was a bush with scarlet berries,
   And there were hemlocks heaped with snow,
With a sound like surf on long sea-beaches
   They took the wind and let it go.

The hills were shining in their samite,
   Fold after fold they flowed away;
"Let come what may," your eyes were saying,
   "At least we two have had to-day."

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Window Seat: Providence to New York City
Jacqueline Osherow

My sixteenth
egret from
the window
of this train,
white against
the marshes'
shocking green
cushioning
Long Island
Sound from
Kingston down
to Mystic against
the shoreline's
erratic discipline:
the egret so
completely
still, the colors
so extreme,
the window
of my train
might be rolling
out a scroll
of meticulous
ancient Chinese
painting: my heart-
beat down its side
in liquid characters:
no tenses, no
conjunctions, just
emphatic strokes
on paper from
the inner bark
of sandalwood:
egret, marshes,
the number
sixteen: white
and that essential
shocking green
perhaps even
the character
for kingfisher
green balanced
with jade white
in ancient poems—
every other element
implicit in the
brush strokes'
elliptic fusion
of calm and motion,
assuring as my
train moves on
and marsh gives way
to warehouses
and idle factories
that my sixteen
egrets still remain:
each a crescent
moon against
an emerald sky,
alabaster on
kingfisher green,
its body motionless
on one lithe leg,
cradling its
surreptitious
wings

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Coda
Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972

O my songs,
Why do you look so eagerly and so curiously into people's faces,
Will you find your lost dead among them?

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Characteristics of Life
Camille T. Dungy, 1972
A fifth of animals without backbones could be at risk of extinction, say scientists.
—BBC Nature News

Ask me if I speak for the snail and I will tell you
I speak for the snail.
                          speak of underneathedness
and the welcome of mosses,
                                        of life that springs up,
little lives that pull back and wait for a moment.

I speak for the damselfly, water skeet, mollusk,
the caterpillar, the beetle, the spider, the ant.
                                                        I speak
from the time before spinelessness was frowned upon.

Ask me if I speak for the moon jelly. I will tell you
                        one thing today and another tomorrow
        and I will be as consistent as anything alive
on this earth.

                        I move as the currents move, with the breezes.
What part of your nature drives you? You, in your cubicle
ought to understand me. I filter and filter and filter all day.

Ask me if I speak for the nautilus and I will be silent
as the nautilus shell on a shelf. I can be beautiful
and useless if that's all you know to ask of me.

Ask me what I know of longing and I will speak of distances
        between meadows of night-blooming flowers.
                                                        I will speak
                        the impossible hope of the firefly.

                                                You with the candle
burning and only one chair at your table must understand
        such wordless desire.

                                To say it is mindless is missing the point.

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Detail of the Hayfield
Richard Siken

I followed myself for a long while, deep into the field.
Two heads full of garbage.

Our scope was larger than I realized,
which only made me that much more responsible.

Yellow, yellow, gold, and ocher.
We stopped. We held the field. We stood very still.

Everyone needs a place.

You need it for the moment you need it, then you bless it—
thank you soup, thank you flashlight

and move on. Who does this? No one.


About this poem:
"My new manuscript includes several long 'landscape' poems that move forward with rhetorical and meditative gestures. I wanted to inhabit these locations in a personal way as well. It didn't work inside the poems—they became muddy and confusing, with conflated speakers and tones. The 'detail' poems offered a way to revisit the landscapes with an inside view, rather than the overview. 'Detail of the Hayfield' is a companion piece to a longer poem, 'Gold Landscape with a Blur of Conquerors.'"

Richard Siken
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House or Window Flies
John Clare

These little window dwellers, in cottages and halls, were always entertaining to me; after dancing in the window all day from sunrise to sunset they would sip of the tea, drink of the beer, and eat of the sugar, and be welcome all summer long. They look like things of mind or fairies, and seem pleased or dull as the weather permits. In many clean cottages and genteel houses, they are allowed every liberty to creep, fly, or do as they like; and seldom or ever do wrong. In fact they are the small or dwarfish portion of our own family, and so many fairy familiars that we know and treat as one of ourselves.

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Sometimes with One I Love
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892

Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse
   unreturn'd love,
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is certain
   one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return'd,
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)


About this poem:
Walt Whitman's "Sometimes With One I Love" comes from the "Calamus" poems, which are found in his groundbreaking and epic volume, Leaves of Grass. In his 1876 preface to Two Rivulets, Whitman writes that the poems were partially important in his purpose to achieve "emotional expressions for humanity." In his essay "Calamus" the critic James E. Miller, Jr. writes: "Though the poet celebrates adhesiveness and associates the love of comrades with some of the tenderest, most memorable moments of his life, he also sometimes reveals the pain he has felt."
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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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Yours
Daniel Hoffman, 1923 - 2013

I am yours as the summer air at evening is
Possessed by the scent of linden blossoms,

As the snowcap gleams with light
Lent it by the brimming moon.

Without you I'd be an unleafed tree
Blasted in a bleakness with no Spring.

Your love is the weather of my being.
What is an island without the sea?

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My Lady Is Compared to a Young Tree
Vachel Lindsay

When I see a young tree
In its white beginning,
With white leaves
And white buds
Barely tipped with green,
In the April weather,
In the weeping sunshine—
Then I see my lady,
My democratic queen,
Standing free and equal
With the youngest woodland sapling
Swaying, singing in the wind,
Delicate and white:
Soul so near to blossom,
Fragile, strong as death;
A kiss from far-off Eden,
A flash of Judgment's trumpet—
April's breath.

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Not
Sophie Cabot Black

that you are unloved
but that you love
and must decide which

to remember; tracks left
in the field, a language
of going away or coming back—

and to look up
from the single mind,
to let untangle

the far-off snow
from sky
until no longer

held as proof
is also where birds
find agreement

strung along branches
each with their own song
for the other,

every note used
to sing anyway—
how to hold the already

as the not yet

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Blue Hanuman
Joan Larkin

A four-armed flutist took me
to the blue avatar: stone-blue
monkey, whiskers silver,
broken beads silver–
paint dashed by the artist on cheap paper.
Bought for a few annas, God
kneels, looks left. Intense concentration.
His ink hands rip open his chest,
pull skin aside like a velvet curtain–
Rama and Sita alive
at his core. And what devotion shall
my flesh show, and my broken-open breast.
His blueblack tail flicks upward, its dark
tip a paintbrush loaded blue.

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Muffin of Sunsets
Elaine Equi

The sky is melting. Me too.
Who hasn’t seen it this way?

Pink between the castlework
of buildings.

Pensive syrup
drizzled over clouds.

It is almost catastrophic how heavenly.

A million poets, at least,
have stood in this very spot,
groceries in hand, wondering:

"Can I witness the Rapture
and still make it home in time for dinner?"

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Song
James Joyce

My love is in a light attire
     Among the apple trees,
Where the gay winds do most desire
     To run in companies.

There, where the gay winds stay to woo
     The young leaves as they pass,
My love goes slowly, bending to
     Her shadow on the grass.

And where the sky’s a pale blue cup
     Over the laughing land,
My love goes lightly, holding up
     Her dress with dainty hand.

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sugar is smoking
Jason Schneiderman

it’s amazing how death
is always around the corner,
or not even so far away
as that, hiding in the little pleasures
that some of us would go
so far as to say
are the only things
keeping us alive

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Epistle: Leaving
Kerrin McCadden

Dear train wreck, dear terrible engines, dear spilled freight,
          dear unbelievable mess, all these years later I think
          to write back. I was not who I am now. A sail is a boat,
          a bark is a boat, a mast is a boat and the train was you and me.
          Dear dark, dear paper, dear files I can't toss, dear calendar
          and visitation schedule, dear hello and goodbye.
If a life is one thing and then another; if no grasses grow
          through the tracks; if the train wreck is a red herring;
          if goodbye then sincerely. Dear disappeared bodies
          and transitions, dear edge of a good paragraph.
          Before the wreck, we misunderstood revision.
I revise things now. I teach pertinence. A girl in class told
          us about some boys who found bodies on the tracks
          then went back and they were gone, the bodies.
          It was true that this story was a lie, like all things
done to be seen. I still think about this story, what it would
          be like to be a boy finding bodies out in the woods,
          however they were left—and think of all the ways they
          could be left. There I was, teaching the building
          of a good paragraph, dutiful investigator
of sentences, thinking dear boys, dear stillness in the woods,
          until, again, there is the boy I knew as a man
          whose father left him at a gas station, and unlike the lie
          of the girl's story, this one is true—he left him there for good.
Sometimes this boy, nine and pale, is sitting next to me, sitting there
          watching trains go past the gas station in Wyoming,
          thinking there is a train going one way, and a train
          going the other way, each at different and variable speeds:
          how many miles before something happens
          that feels like answers when we write them down—
like solid paragraphs full of transitional phrases
          and compound, complex sentences, the waiting space
          between things that ends either in pleasure or pain. He
          keeps showing up, dear boy, man now, and beautiful
like the northern forest, hardwoods iced over.

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Summer in the South
Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 - 1906

              The oriole sings in the greening grove
                          As if he were half-way waiting,
                          The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
                          Timid and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
             And the nights smell warm and piney,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
             Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill, 
             Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
             And the woods run mad with riot.
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Flush or Faunus
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861

You see this dog. It was but yesterday
I mused, forgetful of his presence here,
Till thought on thought drew downward tear on tear;
When from the pillow, where wet-cheeked I lay,
A head as hairy as Faunus, thrust its way
Right sudden against my face,—two golden-clear
Large eyes astonished mine,—a drooping ear
Did flap me on either cheek, to dry the spray!
I started first, as some Arcadian
Amazed by goatly god in twilight grove:
But as my bearded vision closelier ran
My tears off, I knew Flush, and rose above
Surprise and sadness; thanking the true Pan,
Who, by low creatures, leads to heights of love.

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Prayer
Robert Glück

Dear Lord
Show me
The way—
Take
My heart
And throw
It away

Lord, take
My heart
And throw
It out

Lord, throw
My heart
Way out

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Invitation to Love
Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 - 1906
Come when the nights are bright with stars
Or come when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene'er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it to rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd'ning cherry.
Come when the year's first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter's drifting snows,
And you are welcome, welcome.