poem index

sleepyhead.

dream - dream - dream - dream until to the end draws nigh to wake up and breath high

sleepyhead.

sleepyhead.
next
Rain
Claribel Alegría, 1924
As the falling rain
trickles among the stones
memories come bubbling out.
It's as if the rain
had pierced my temples.
Streaming
streaming chaotically
come memories:
the reedy voice
of the servant
telling me tales
of ghosts.
They sat beside me
the ghosts
and the bed creaked
that purple-dark afternoon
when I learned you were leaving forever,
a gleaming pebble
from constant rubbing
becomes a comet.
Rain is falling
falling
and memories keep flooding by
they show me a senseless
world 
a voracious
world--abyss
ambush
whirlwind
spur
but I keep loving it
because I do
because of my five senses
because of my amazement
because every morning, 
because forever, I have loved it
without knowing why.
sleepyhead.
next
In a Station of the Metro
Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
sleepyhead.
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Haunted
Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
We are looking for your laugh.
Trying to find the path back to it
between drooping trees.
Listening for your rustle
under bamboo,
brush of fig leaves,
feeling your step
on the porch,
natty lantana blossom
poked into your buttonhole.
We see your raised face
at both sides of a day.
How was it, you lived around
the edge of everything we did,
seasons of ailing & growing,
mountains of laundry & mail?
I am looking for you first & last
in the dark places,
when I turn my face away
from headlines at dawn,
dropping the rolled news to the floor.
Your rumble of calm
poured into me.
There was the saving grace
of care, from day one, the watching
and being watched
from every corner of the yard.
sleepyhead.
next
La Vie C'est La Vie
Jessie Redmon Fauset
On summer afternoons I sit
Quiescent by you in the park
And idly watch the sunbeams gild
And tint the ash-trees' bark.

Or else I watch the squirrels frisk
And chaffer in the grassy lane;
And all the while I mark your voice
Breaking with love and pain.

I know a woman who would give
Her chance of heaven to take my place;
To see the love-light in your eyes,
The love-glow on your face!

And there's a man whose lightest word
Can set my chilly blood afire;
Fulfillment of his least behest
Defines my life’s desire.

But he will none of me, nor I
Of you. Nor you of her. 'Tis said
The world is full of jests like these.—
I wish that I were dead.
sleepyhead.
next
O, Gather Me the Rose
William Ernest Henley
O, gather me the rose, the rose,
   While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
   And winter waits behind it!

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
   The deed forborne for ever,
The worm, regret, will canker on,
   And time will turn him never.

So well it were to love, my love,
   And cheat of any laughter
The death beneath us and above,
   The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
   The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
   The memories that follow!
sleepyhead.
next
Love's Secret
William Blake, 1757 - 1827
Never seek to tell thy love,   
  Love that never told can be;   
For the gentle wind doth move   
  Silently, invisibly.   
  
I told my love, I told my love,
  I told her all my heart,   
Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears.   
  Ah! she did depart!   
  
Soon after she was gone from me,   
  A traveller came by,
Silently, invisibly:   
  He took her with a sigh.
sleepyhead.
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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick, 1591 - 1674
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.
sleepyhead.
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Before
Carl Adamshick, 1969
I always thought death would be like traveling
in a car, moving through the desert,
the earth a little darker than sky at the horizon,
that your life would settle like the end of a day
and you would think of everyone you ever met,
that you would be the invisible passenger,
quiet in the car, moving through the night,
forever, with the beautiful thought of home.
sleepyhead.
next
Stillbirth
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
On a platform, I heard someone call out your name:
No, Laetitia, no.
It wasn’t my train—the doors were closing,
but I rushed in, searching for your face.

But no Laetitia. No.
No one in that car could have been you,
but I rushed in, searching for your face:
no longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two.

No one in that car could have been you.
Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen.
No longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two:
I sometimes go months without remembering you.

Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen:
I was told not to look. Not to get attached—
I sometimes go months without remembering you.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.

I was told not to look. Not to get attached.
It wasn’t my train—the doors were closing.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.
On a platform, I heard someone calling your name.
sleepyhead.
next
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.
sleepyhead.
next
November Night
Adelaide Crapsey
Listen. . .
With faint dry sound, 
Like steps of passing ghosts, 
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees 
And fall.
sleepyhead.
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Yellow Bowl
Rachel Contreni Flynn
If light pours like water
into the kitchen where I sway
with my tired children,

if the rug beneath us
is woven with tough flowers,
and the yellow bowl on the table

rests with the sweet heft 
of fruit, the sun-warmed plums, 
if my body curves over the babies, 

and if I am singing,
then loneliness has lost its shape,
and this quiet is only quiet.
sleepyhead.
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To the Moon [fragment]
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 - 1822
   Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
   Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,--
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
sleepyhead.
next
Ars Poetica (cocoons)
Dana Levin
Six monarch butterfly cocoons
      clinging to the back of your throat—

      you could feel their gold wings trembling.

You were alarmed. You felt infested.
In the downstairs bathroom of the family home,
      gagging to spit them out—
            and a voice saying Don’t, don’t—
sleepyhead.
next
Science
Robert Kelly, 1935
Science explains nothing
but holds all together as
many things as it can count

science is a basket
not a religion he said
a cat as big as a cat

the moon the size of the moon
science is the same as poetry
only it uses the wrong words.
sleepyhead.
next
The Song of Despair
Pablo Neruda, 1904 - 1973
The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.

Pilot’s dread, fury of a blind diver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!

I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.

Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.

Like a jar you housed the infinite tenderness,
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.

There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.

There were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and the ruins, and you were the miracle.

Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!

How terrible and brief was my desire of you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.

And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.

This was my destiny and in it was the voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!

Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!

From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.

You still flowered in songs, you still broke in currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.

Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.

The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only the tremulous shadow twists in my hands.

Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.

It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one.
sleepyhead.
next
Hysteria
T. S. Eliot, 1888 - 1965

As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: "If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden..." I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.

sleepyhead.
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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.
sleepyhead.
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What the Angels Left
Marie Howe, 1950
At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless.
They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.

Then I began to notice them all over the house,
at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar

where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs,
lumpy places where one would usually settle before the fire,

or suddenly shining in the sink at the bottom of soupy water.
Once, I found a pair in the garden, stuck in turned dirt

among the new bulbs, and one night, under my pillow,
I felt something like a cool long tooth and pulled them out

to lie next to me in the dark. Soon after that I began
to collect them, filling boxes, old shopping bags,

every suitcase I owned. I grew slightly uncomfortable
when company came. What if someone noticed them

when looking for forks or replacing dried dishes? I longed
to throw them out, but how could I get rid of something

that felt oddly like grace? It occurred to me finally
that I was meant to use them, and I resisted a growing compulsion

to cut my hair, although in moments of great distraction,
I thought it was my eyes they wanted, or my soft belly

—exhausted, in winter, I laid them out on the lawn.
The snow fell quite as usual, without any apparent hesitation

or discomfort. In spring, as expected, they were gone.
In their place, a slight metallic smell, and the dear muddy earth.
sleepyhead.
next
Parent's Pantoum
Carolyn Kizer, 1925 - 2014

for Maxine Kumin

Where did these enormous children come from,
More ladylike than we have ever been?
Some of ours look older than we feel.
How did they appear in their long dresses

More ladylike than we have ever been?
But they moan about their aging more than we do,
In their fragile heels and long black dresses.
They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.

They moan about their aging more than we do,
A somber group--why don't they brighten up?
Though they say they admire our youthful spontaneity
They beg us to be dignified like them

As they ignore our pleas to brighten up.  
Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention
Then we won't try to be dignified like them
Nor they to be so gently patronizing.

Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention.
Don't they know that we're supposed to be the stars?
Instead they are so gently patronizing.
It makes us feel like children--second-childish?

Perhaps we're too accustomed to be stars.
The famous flowers glowing in the garden,
So now we pout like children. Second-childish?
Quaint fragments of forgotten history?

Our daughters stroll together in the garden,
Chatting of news we've chosen to ignore,
Pausing to toss us morsels of their history,
Not questions to which only we know answers.

Eyes closed to news we've chosen to ignore,
We'd rather excavate old memories,
Disdaining age, ignoring pain, avoiding mirrors.
Why do they never listen to our stories?

Because they hate to excavate old memories
They don't believe our stories have an end.
They don't ask questions because they dread the answers.
They don't see that we've become their mirrors,

We offspring of our enormous children.
sleepyhead.
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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.

sleepyhead.
next
this kind of fire
Charles Bukowski, 1920 - 1994
sometimes I think the gods
deliberately keep pushing me
into the fire
just to hear me
yelp 
a few good
lines.

they just aren't going to
let me retire
silk scarf about neck
giving lectures at 
Yale.

the gods need me to
entertain them.

they must be terribly
bored with all
the others

and I am too.

and now my cigarette lighter
has gone dry.
I sit here
hopelessly
flicking it.

this kind of fire
they can't give
me.
sleepyhead.
next
Scumble
Rae Armantrout, 1947
What if I were turned on by seemingly innocent words such as
   "scumble," "pinky,"

or "extrapolate?"  

What if I maneuvered conversation in the hope that others would
   pronounce these words?  

Perhaps the excitement would come from the way the other person
   touched them lightly and carelessly with his tongue.  

What if "of" were such a hot button?

"Scumble of bushes."

What if there were a hidden pleasure
in calling one thing
by another’s name?
sleepyhead.
next
Unbidden
Rae Armantrout, 1947
The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
undone.

          •

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today's edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

          •

The way a lost 
word

will come back
unbidden.

You're not interested
in it now,

only
in knowing
where it's been.
sleepyhead.
next
After Love
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
There is no magic any more,
      We meet as other people do,
You work no miracle for me
      Nor I for you.

You were the wind and I the sea—
      There is no splendor any more,
I have grown listless as the pool
      Beside the shore.

But though the pool is safe from storm
      And from the tide has found surcease,
It grows more bitter than the sea,
      For all its peace.
sleepyhead.
next
Ozymandias
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 - 1822
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
sleepyhead.
next
Poems for Blok, 1
Marina Tsvetaeva
Your name is a—bird in my hand,
a piece of ice on my tongue.
The lips' quick opening.
Your name—five letters.
A ball caught in flight,
a silver bell in my mouth.
A stone thrown into a silent lake
is—the sound of your name.
The light click of hooves at night
—your name.
Your name at my temple
—shrill click of a cocked gun.
Your name—impossible—
kiss on my eyes,
the chill of closed eyelids.
Your name—a kiss of snow.
Blue gulp of icy spring water.
With your name—sleep deepens.
sleepyhead.
next
Untitled [Whence cometh such tender rapture?]
Marina Tsvetaeva
Whence cometh such tender rapture?
Those curls--they are not the first ones
I've smoothened, and I've already
Known lips--that were darker than yours.

The stars have risen and faded,
--Whence cometh such tender rapture?--
And eyes have risen and faded 
In face of these eyes of mine

I'd never yet hearkened unto
Such songs in the depths of darkness,
--Whence cometh such tender rapture?--
My head on the bard's own breast

Whence cometh such tender rapture?
And what's to be done with it, artful
Young vagabound, passing minstrel
With lashes--too long to say.

18 February 1916

sleepyhead.
next
Her Kind
Anne Sexton, 1928 - 1974
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.
sleepyhead.
next
Daddy
Sylvia Plath, 1932 - 1963
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You-- 

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not 
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

12 October 1962

sleepyhead.
next
The Look
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
Strephon kissed me in the spring,
      Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
      And never kissed at all.

Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
      Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
      Haunts me night and day.
sleepyhead.
next
There Will Come Soft Rains
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, 
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone. 
sleepyhead.
next
Shedding Skin
Harryette Mullen, 1953
Pulling out of the old scarred skin
(old rough thing I don't need now
I strip off
slip out of
leave behind)

I slough off deadscales
flick skinflakes to the ground

Shedding toughness
peeling layers down
to vulnerable stuff

And I'm blinking off old eyelids
for a new way of seeing

By the rock I rub against
I'm going to be tender again
sleepyhead.
next
Blue Dementia
Yusef Komunyakaa, 1947
In the days when a man
would hold a swarm of words
inside his belly, nestled
against his spleen, singing.

In the days of night riders
when life tongued a reed
till blues & sorrow song
called out of the deep night:
Another man done gone.
Another man done gone.

In the days when one could lose oneself
all up inside love that way,
& then moan on the bone
till the gods cried out in someone's sleep.

Today,
already I've seen three dark-skinned men
discussing the weather with demons
& angels, gazing up at the clouds
& squinting down into iron grates
along the fast streets of luminous encounters.

I double-check my reflection in plate glass
& wonder, Am I passing another
Lucky Thompson or Marion Brown
cornered by a blue dementia,
another dark-skinned man
who woke up dreaming one morning
& then walked out of himself
dreaming? Did this one dare
to step on a crack in the sidewalk,
to turn a midnight corner & never come back
whole, or did he try to stare down a look
that shoved a blade into his heart?
I mean, I also know something
about night riders & catgut. Yeah,
honey, I know something about talking with ghosts.
sleepyhead.
next
The Swing
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 - 1894
How do you like to go up in a swing, 
             Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
             Ever a child can do! 

Up in the air and over the wall, 
             Till I can see so wide, 
River and trees and cattle and all 
             Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green, 
              Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again, 
              Up in the air and down!
sleepyhead.
next
Custom
Rae Armantrout, 1947
We maintain a critical distance
from the sad spaniel gentlemen

in cravats
on the plaid duvet

at the Custom Hotel,
Los Angeles.

We are so over it.
We fly

from terminal
to terminal

almost endlessly.

We are almost
money.

We can wait
at high speed.
sleepyhead.
next
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!
sleepyhead.
next
Block City
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 - 1894
What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea, 
There I'll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay. 

This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things! 
sleepyhead.
next
I Might Have Dreamed This
Kirsten Dierking
For a short time after
the rape, I found I could

move things. Energy birds
swarmed from my brain.

With a witch's sense
of abandoned physics,

I set dolls rolling.
Back and forth. Like a

breathing sound.

Using only my night-powered
eyes, I pushed the lamp

to the dresser's edge.
I buried the mirrors

in avalanches of freshly
laundered underpants.

I never slept.

I did all these things
lying down.
sleepyhead.
next
What Things Want
Robert Bly, 1926
You have to let things
Occupy their own space.
This room is small,
But the green settee

Likes to be here.
The big marsh reeds,
Crowding out the slough,
Find the world good.

You have to let things
Be as they are.
Who knows which of us
Deserves the world more?
sleepyhead.
next
Choke
Eileen Myles
Of all the ways of forgetting
not turning the pilot on is not
                             the worst

The house is intact
you are floating
in time
buckets of it streaming through
                  the windows

youth turned it up I think
or on & fell asleep

Remembering to do.
You are too intact
the dappled sunlight on the lawn
or pots of darkness
like salt instead of depths

Still once I turned it up
the popping commenced
like applause for the present
tense
the site of my sway

Larry's new car is wide & safe
a woman's voice conducts
us left & right
she's crazy he laughs
again & again

my shrink said buy it now
about the car

I told him about my phenomenal streak
of winning & when the stakes 
rose I began to bid low & 
not at all
I could have won; you choked
he said.

Woof. To not choke
is I suppose to experience
to hold it in & go forth
though you need the heat

The sun had not done more
suddenly for a while

it's like we took off our skin
and said it is hot.
It's like we sold our skin
& said where did everyone go?

when the weather's too hot for comfort
& we can't have ice-cream cones
it ain't no sin
to take off your skin
& dance around in your bones
sleepyhead.
next
Japanese Lullaby
Eugene Field
Sleep, little pigeon, and fold your wings,—
Little blue pigeon with velvet eyes;
Sleep to the singing of mother-bird swinging—
Swinging the nest where her little one lies.

Away out yonder I see a star,—
Silvery star with a tinkling song;
To the soft dew falling I hear it calling—
Calling and tinkling the night along.

In through the window a moonbeam comes,—
Little gold moonbeam with misty wings;
All silently creeping, it asks, "Is he sleeping—
Sleeping and dreaming while mother sings?"

Up from the sea there floats the sob
Of the waves that are breaking upon the shore,
As though they were groaning in anguish, and moaning—
Bemoaning the ship that shall come no more.

But sleep, little pigeon, and fold your wings,—
Little blue pigeon with mournful eyes;
Am I not singing?—see, I am swinging—
Swinging the nest where my darling lies. 
sleepyhead.
next
Insomnia
Alicia Suskin Ostriker, 1937
But it's really fear you want to talk about
and cannot find the words
so you jeer at yourself

you call yourself a coward
you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,
fool, unable to sleep, unable to sleep

buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows
and a quilt, they call them comforters,
which implies that comfort can be bought

and paid for, to help with the fear, the failure
your two walnut chests of drawers snicker, the bookshelves mourn
the art on the walls pities you, the man himself beside you

asleep smelling like mushrooms and moss is a comfort
but never enough, never, the ceiling fixture lightless
velvet drapes hiding the window

traffic noise like a vicious animal
on the loose somewhere out there—
you brag to friends you won't mind death only dying

what a liar you are—
all the other fears, of rejection, of physical pain,
of losing your mind, of losing your eyes,

they are all part of this!
Pawprints of this! Hair snarls in your comb
this glowing clock the single light in the room
sleepyhead.
next
A Love Song
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
What have I to say to you
When we shall meet?
Yet—
I lie here thinking of you.

The stain of love
Is upon the world.
Yellow, yellow, yellow,
It eats into the leaves,
Smears with saffron
The horned branches that lean
Heavily
Against a smooth purple sky.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

I am alone.
The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.

See me!
My hair is dripping with nectar—
Starlings carry it
On their black wings.
See, at last
My arms and my hands
Are lying idle.

How can I tell
If I shall ever love you again
As I do now?
sleepyhead.
next
I have lived in your face
Jean Valentine, 1934
I have lived in your face.
Have I been you?
Your mother?     giving you birth

—this pain
whenever I say goodbye to thee

—up to now I always wanted it
but not this
sleepyhead.
next
I Love You
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
When April bends above me
And finds me fast asleep,
Dust need not keep the secret
A live heart died to keep.

When April tells the thrushes,
The meadow-larks will know,
And pipe the three words lightly
To all the winds that blow.

Above his roof the swallows,
In notes like far-blown rain,
Will tell the little sparrow
Beside his window-pane.

O sparrow, little sparrow,
When I am fast asleep,
Then tell my love the secret
That I have died to keep.
sleepyhead.
next
Red Cloth
Jean Valentine, 1934
Red cloth
I lie on the ground
otherwise nothing could hold

I put my hand on the ground
the membrane is gone
and nothing does hold

your place in the ground
is all of it
and it is breathing
sleepyhead.
next
Diary [Surface]
Rachel Zucker
Spring is not so very promising as it is the thing
that looking back was fire, promising:
ignition, aspiration; it was not under my thumb.

Now when I pretend a future it is the moment
he holds the thing I say new-born,
delicate, sure to begin moving but

I am burned out of it like the melody underneath
(still not under my thumb)--
was he ambiguous, amphibian?

Underneath, his voice, the many ways
he gathers oxygen; it will not stop raining
until the buds push through the brittle trees.

If they fail we will not survive,
washed and washed with rain, will we?
No,we are not there yet.

She is pushing me two ways until
I am inside the paradox, the many lungs,
and they're at it again, gathering oxygen;

no wonder I am wrung out
holding out for the promise of
something secret, after--
sleepyhead.
next
I'm Over the Moon
Brenda Shaughnessy, 1970
I don't like what the moon is supposed to do.
Confuse me, ovulate me,

spoon-feed me longing. A kind of ancient
date-rape drug. So I'll howl at you, moon,

I'm angry. I'll take back the night. Using me to
swoon at your questionable light,

you had me chasing you,
the world's worst lover, over and over

hoping for a mirror, a whisper, insight.
But you disappear for nights on end

with all my erotic mysteries
and my entire unconscious mind.

How long do I try to get water from a stone?
It's like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.

Better off alone. I'm going to write hard
and fast into you moon, face-fucking.

Something you wouldn't understand.
You with no swampy sexual

promise but what we glue onto you.
That's not real. You have no begging

cunt. No panties ripped off and the crotch
sucked. No lacerating spasms

sending electrical sparks through the toes.
Stars have those.

What do you have? You're a tool, moon.
Now, noon. There's a hero.

The obvious sun, no bulls hit, the enemy
of poets and lovers, sleepers and creatures.

But my lovers have never been able to read
my mind. I've had to learn to be direct.

It's hard to learn that, hard to do.
The sun is worth ten of you.

You don't hold a candle
to that complexity, that solid craze.

Like an animal carcass on the road at night,
picked at by crows,

haunting walkers and drivers. Your face
regularly sliced up by the moving

frames of car windows. Your light is drawn,
quartered, your dreams are stolen.

You change shape and turn away,
letting night solve all night's problems alone.
sleepyhead.
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.

sleepyhead.
next
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
sleepyhead.
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? 
sleepyhead.
next
Monna Innominata [I loved you first]
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
I loved you first: but afterwards your love,
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? My love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you contrued me
And loved me for what might or might not be—
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not 'mine' or 'thine';
With separate 'I' and 'thou' free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of 'thine that is not mine';
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.
sleepyhead.
next
Clouds
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?
sleepyhead.
next
Who Has Seen the Wind?
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
Who has seen the wind? 
Neither I nor you. 
But when the leaves hang trembling, 
The wind is passing through. 
Who has seen the wind? 
Neither you nor I. 
But when the trees bow down their heads, 
The wind is passing by.
sleepyhead.
next
Monna Innominata [I wish I could remember]
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
I wish I could remember that first day, 
First hour, first moment of your meeting me, 
If bright or dim the season, it might be 
Summer or Winter for aught I can say; 
So unrecorded did it slip away, 
So blind was I to see and to foresee, 
So dull to mark the budding of my tree 
That would not blossom for many a May. 
If only I could recollect it, such 
A day of days! I let it come and go 
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow; 
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much; 
If only now I could recall that touch, 
First touch of hand in hand—Did one but know!
sleepyhead.
next
Barter
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And childrens's faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstacy
Give all you have been, or could be.
sleepyhead.
next
The Falling Star
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
I saw a star slide down the sky, 
Blinding the north as it went by,
Too burning and too quick to hold,
Too lovely to be bought or sold,
Good only to make wishes on
And then forever to be gone.
sleepyhead.
next
Faults
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
They came to tell your faults to me,
They named them over one by one;
I laughed aloud when they were done,
I knew them all so well before,—
Oh, they were blind, too blind to see
Your faults had made me love you more.
sleepyhead.
next
The Second Coming
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, 
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
sleepyhead.
next
Muse & Drudge [just as I am I come]
Harryette Mullen, 1953
just as I am I come
knee bent and body bowed 
this here's sorrow's home 
my body's southern song

cram all you can 
into jelly jam 
preserve a feeling 
keep it sweet 

so beautiful it was 
presumptuous to alter 
the shape of my pleasure
in doing or making

proceed with abandon 
finding yourself where you are 
and who you're playing for 
what stray companion
sleepyhead.
next
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.

sleepyhead.
next
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!
sleepyhead.
next
Exact
Rae Armantrout, 1947
Quick, before you die,
describe

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some
hollow,

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,
worship

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.


     *

Over and over
tiers

of houses spill
pleasantly

down that hillside.
It

might be possible
to count occurrences.