poem index

Simply Beautiful.

Simply Beautiful.
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The Elephant is Slow to Mate
D. H. Lawrence, 1885 - 1930
The elephant, the huge old beast,
     is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
     they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
     slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
     and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
     of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
     together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
     grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
     hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
     so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
     for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
     their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
     till they touch in flood.
Simply Beautiful.
next
The Hug
Thom Gunn, 1929 - 2004

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
    Half of the night with our old friend
        Who'd showed us in the end
    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
        Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug, 
        Suddenly, from behind, 
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
        Your instep to my heel,
    My shoulder-blades against your chest.
    It was not sex, but I could feel
    The whole strength of your body set,
           Or braced, to mine,
        And locking me to you
    As if we were still twenty-two
    When our grand passion had not yet
        Become familial.
    My quick sleep had deleted all 
    Of intervening time and place.
        I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.
Simply Beautiful.
next
Sex
Michael Ryan
After the earth finally touches the sun,
and the long explosion stops suddenly
like a heart run down,
the world might seem white and quiet
to something that watches it in the sky at night,
so something might feel small,
and feel nearly human pain.

But it won't happen again:
the long nights wasted alone, what's done
in doorways in the dark by the young,
and what could have been for some.
Think of all the lovers and the friends!
Who does not gather his portion of them
to himself. at least in his mind?

Sex eased through everyone,
even when slipping into death
as into a beloved's skin,
and prying out again to find
the body slumped, muscles slack.
and bones begun their turn to dust.
Then no one minds when one lover
holds another, like an unloaded sack.

But the truth enters at the end of life.
It enters like oxygen into every cell
and the madness it feeds there in some
is only a lucid metaphor
for something long burned to nothing,
like a star.

How do you get under your desire?
How do you peel away each desire
like ponderous clothes, one at a time,
until what's underneath is known?
We knew genitals as small things
and we were ashamed they led us around,
even if the hill where we'd lie down
was the same hill the universe unfolded upon
all night, as we watched the stars,
when for once our breathing seemed to blend.



Each time, from that sweet pressure
of hands, or the great relief of the mouth,
a person can be led out of himself
Isn't it lonely in the body?
The myth says we ooze about as spirits
until there's a body made to take us,
and only flesh is created by sex.
That's why we enter sex so relentlessly,
toward the pleasure that comes
when we push down far enough
to nudge the spirit rising to release,
and the pleasure is pleasure of pure spirit,
for a moment all together again.
So sex returns us to beginning, and we moan.



Pure sex becomes specific and concrete
in a caress of breast or slope of waist:
it flies through itself like light, it sails
on nothing like a wing, when someone's there
to be touched, when there's nothing wrong.

So the actual is touched in sex,
like a breast through cloth: the actual
rising plump and real, the mind
darting about it like a tongue.
This is where I wanted to be all along:
up in the world, in touch with myself. . .

Sex, invisible priestess of a good God,
I think without you I might just spin off.
I know there's no keeping you close,
as you flick by underneath a sentence
on a train, or transform the last thought
of an old nun, or withdraw for one moment alone.
Who tells you what to do or ties you down!

I'd give up the rest to suck your dark lips.
I'd give up the rest to fix you exact
in the universe, at the wildest edge
where there's no such thing as shape.

What a shame I am, if reaching the right person
in a dim room, sex holds itself apart
from us like an angel in an afterlife,
and, with the ideas no one has even dreamed,
it wails its odd music for pure mind.



After there's nothing,
after the big blow-up of the whole shebang,
what voice from what throat
will tell me who I am? Each throat
on which I would have quietly set my lips
will be ripped like a cheap sleeve
or blown apart like the stopped-up
barrel of a gun. What was inside them
all the time I wanted always
to rest my mouth upon?

I thought most everything
stuck dartlike in the half-dome of my brain,
and hung there like fake stars in a planetarium.
It's true that things there changed into names,
that even the people I loved were a bunch of signs,
so I felt most often alone.
This is a way to stay alive and nothing to bemoan.
We know the first time we extend an arm:
the body reaches so far for so long.
We grow and love to grow, then stop, then lie down.

I wanted to bear inside me this tender outcome.
I wanted to know if it made sex happen:
does it show up surely in touch and talk?
does it leak from the mind, as heat from the skin?
I wanted my touching intelligent, like a beautiful song.
Simply Beautiful.
next
No Platonic Love
William Cartwright
Tell me no more of minds embracing minds, 
     And hearts exchang'd for hearts; 
That spirits spirits meet, as winds do winds, 
     And mix their subt'lest parts; 
That two unbodied essences may kiss, 
And then like Angels, twist and feel one Bliss. 

I was that silly thing that once was wrought 
     To practise this thin love; 
I climb'd from sex to soul, from soul to thought; 
     But thinking there to move, 
Headlong I rolled from thought to soul, and then 
From soul I lighted at the sex again. 

As some strict down-looked men pretend to fast, 
     Who yet in closets eat; 
So lovers who profess they spririts taste, 
     Feed yet on grosser meat; 
I know they boast they souls to souls convey, 
Howe'r they meet, the body is the way. 

Come, I will undeceive thee, they that tread 
     Those vain aerial ways 
Are like young heirs and alchemists misled 
     To waste their wealth and days, 
For searching thus to be for ever rich, 
They only find a med'cine for the itch.
Simply Beautiful.
next
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.

Simply Beautiful.
next
I Sing the Body Electric
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892

1

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body
were not the soul, what is the soul?

 
2

The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself
     balks account, 
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of
     his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist
     and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the
     folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the
     contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through
     the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls
     silently to and from the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the
     horse-man in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open
     dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden or
     cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six
     horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty,
     good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown
     after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine
     muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes
     suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv'd
     neck and the counting;
Such-like I love--I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's
     breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with
     the firemen, and pause, listen, count.

 
3

I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons,
And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons.

This man was a wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person,
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
     beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the richness
     and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also,
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were
     massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him,
They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal
     love,
He drank water only, the blood show'd like scarlet through the
     clear-brown skin of his face,
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail'd his boat himself, he
     had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had
     fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved him,
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish,
     you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of
     the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit
     by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.

 
4

I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round
     his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? 
I do not ask any more delight, I
     swim in it as in a sea. 
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them,
     and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

 
5

This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction, 
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor,
     all falls aside but myself and it, 
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what
     was expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, are now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response
     likewise ungovernable,
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all
     diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling
     and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of
     love, white-blow and delirious nice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the
     prostrate dawn,
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day.

This the nucleus--after the child is born of woman, man is born
     of woman,
This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the
     outlet again.

Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the
     exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.

The female contains all qualities and tempers them,
She is in her place and moves with perfect balance,
She is all things duly veil'd, she is both passive and active,
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as
     daughters.

As I see my soul reflected in Nature,
As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness,
     sanity, beauty,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.

 
6

The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place,
He too is all qualities, he is action and power,
The flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well,
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is
     utmost become him well, pride is for him,
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to
     the test of himself,
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes
     soundings at last only here,
(Where else does he strike soundings except here?)

The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred--is it the meanest one in the
     laborers' gang?
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as
     much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.

(All is a procession,
The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.)

Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has
     no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and
     the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation sprouts,
For you only, and not for him and her?

 
7

A man's body at auction,
(For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,)
I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business.

Gentlemen look on this wonder,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.

In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the makings of heroes.

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon and nerve,
They shall be stript that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized
     arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings,
     aspirations,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in
     parlors and lecture-rooms?)

This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers
     in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments.

How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring
     through the centuries?
(Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace
     back through the centuries?)

 
8

A woman's body at auction,
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and
     times all over the earth?

If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted,
And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful
     than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
     that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves. 

 
9

O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women,
     nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the
     soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and
     that they are my poems,
Man's, woman's, child, youth's, wife's, husband's, mother's,
     father's, young man's, young woman's poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or
     sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the
     jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the
    ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger,
     finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body
     or of any one's body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
     love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and
     tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked
     meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
     toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
     marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of
     the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
Simply Beautiful.
next
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
E. E. Cummings, 1894 - 1962
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

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Featuring lines from
"somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond"
by E. E. Cummings

Simply Beautiful.
next
The Barrier
Claude McKay, 1889 - 1948
I must not gaze at them although 
  Your eyes are dawning day; 
I must not watch you as you go 
  Your sun-illumined way; 

I hear but I must never heed 
  The fascinating note, 
Which, fluting like a river reed, 
  Comes from your trembing throat; 

I must not see upon your face 
  Love's softly glowing spark; 
For there's the barrier of race, 
  You're fair and I am dark.
Simply Beautiful.
next
The Descent
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
The descent beckons
              as the ascent beckoned.                 
                               Memory is a kind      
of accomplishment,                          
              a sort of renewal
                               even
an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places
              inhabited by hordes
                               heretofore unrealized,
of new kinds—
              since their movements
                               are toward new objectives
(even though formerly they were abandoned).

No defeat is made up entirely of defeat—since
the world it opens is always a place
              formerly
                               unsuspected. A
world lost,
              a world unsuspected,
                               beckons to new places
and no whiteness (lost) is so white as the memory
of whiteness     .

With evening, love wakens
              though its shadows
                               which are alive by reason
of the sun shining—
              grow sleepy now and drop away
                               from desire     .

Love without shadows stirs now
              beginning to awaken
                               as night
advances.

The descent 
              made up of despairs
                               and without accomplishment
realizes a new awakening:
                               which is a reversal
of despair.
              For what we cannot accomplish, what
is denied to love,
              what we have lost in the anticipation—
                               a descent follows,
endless and indestructible     .
Simply Beautiful.
next
At a Window
Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967
Give me hunger,  
O you gods that sit and give  
The world its orders.  
Give me hunger, pain and want,  
Shut me out with shame and failure 
From your doors of gold and fame,  
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!  
  
But leave me a little love,  
A voice to speak to me in the day end,  
A hand to touch me in the dark room 
Breaking the long loneliness.  
In the dusk of day-shapes  
Blurring the sunset,  
One little wandering, western star  
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,  
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk  
And wait and know the coming  
Of a little love. 
Simply Beautiful.
next
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.
Simply Beautiful.
next
I Am Not Yours
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love—put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.
Simply Beautiful.
next
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?