Sub-versety

My first notebook ,unclassified and untidy.A spawning ground and spyglass for emergent pattern.
Sub-versety
next
Black bird, red wing
Nickole Brown
So this is where the last year 
of the Mayan calendar begins—
5,000 birds falling on Beebe, 
Arkansas, a state that could smooth 
out with the sway of the plains 
but instead sputters the silence 
of the first syllable like a pothole 
that hits before you're off the 
on ramp—say it—
ar-    
           -can-saw—
ending with that blade 
of rusted teeth to chew 
through the last of what's left 
of those woods, a fast-driving 
diesel flatbed of felled trees 
and all of us in a tight spot 
between that chugging machine 
and the concrete barrier 
as we hope the straight back 
of our consonants will 
hold, even if they are quiescent 
monsters, reticent prayers, 
because we can't help it, we lean 
towards letters that do not bend, 
try our exhausted weight 
on the middle of that state, 
that silent K—the shape of a man 
trying to hold up the ceiling, 
trying not to think 
of its falling 
as the sky's.
Sub-versety
next
The Not Tale (Funeral)
Caroline Bergvall, 1962
The great labour of appearance
served the making of the pyre.
But how
nor how
How also
how they 
shal nat be toold
shall not be told.
Nor how the gods
nor how the beestes and the birds
nor how the ground agast
Nor how the fire
first with straw
and then with drye
and then with grene
and then with gold
and then.
Now how a site is laid like this.
Nor what 
nor how
nor what she spak, nor what was her desire
Nor what jewels
when the fire
Nor how some threw their
and some their
and their
and cups full of wine and milk
and blood
into the fyr
into the fire
Nor how three times
and three times with
and three times how
and how that
Nor how
nor how
nor how
nor who
I cannot tell
nor can I say
but shortly to the point
I turn
and give my tale an end.
Sub-versety
next
On the Day of Nixon's Funeral
Ira Sadoff, 1945
It's time to put the aside the old resentments; lies,
machinations, the paranoia, bugs in telephones,
the body bags, secret bombings, his sweaty upper lip,
my cousin Arnie, too dumb to go to school,

too virtuous to confess he'd give blow jobs
for nothing at the Paramount, so he lost a leg
in Da Nang. Now it's time for amnesiacs to play
Beethoven's Eroica by Nixon's casket.

To applaud his loyalty, to grant a few mistakes,
to honor his diplomacy, him and his pal Kissinger
who bombed the lush green paddies of Cambodia.
And now for a few lyric moments as I wait patiently

for my fiftieth birthday. Wood ducks decorate the pond
near this farmhouse, and in the marsh I've spied
a meadow lark, a fox, a white-tailed hawk who soars
above the Western Mountain peaks. Oh, I'm in love

with the country all right. So I can forget my friend
Sweeney, who shot Congressman Lowenstein
because the radio in his tooth insisted on it.
I remember the march on the Pentagon in purple,

a proud member of the Vegetarian Brigade. I was drugged,
as many of us were drugged, as my parents
were drugged by a few major networks, by a ranch house
and an Oldsmobile. I once spit on Hubert Humphrey,

threw a brick through Dow Chemical's plate-glass door.
I wrote insane letters to Senators, burying them
in moral rectitude: I got a response from one:
Senator Kennedy — the dead one — whose office wrongly

argued for slow withdrawal instead of Instant Victory.
I remember Tricky Dick in Nineteen Fifty-three:
I'm eight years-old, frightened and ignorant,
lying down before my parents' first TV: my aunts

and uncles sitting in a circle, biting their nails,
whispering names of relatives awaiting trial, who,
thanks to Nixon, lost their sorry jobs. You can see why
I'd want to bury this man whose blood would not circulate,

whose face was paralyzed, who should have died
in shame and solitude, without benefit of eulogy or twenty-one
gun salutes. I want to bury him in Southern California
with the Birchers and the Libertarians. I want to look out

my window and cheer the remaining cedars
that require swampy habitats to survive. To be done
with shame and rage this April afternoon, where embryonic
fiddleheads, fuzzy and curled and pale as wings,

have risen to meet me. After all, they say he was a scrappy man,
wily and sage, who served as Lucifer, scapegoat, scoundrel,
a receptacle for acrimony and rage — one human being
whose life I have no reverence for, which is why I'm singing now.
Sub-versety
next
A Song On the End of the World
Czeslaw Milosz, 1911 - 2004

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

Sub-versety
next
Gospel
Philip Levine, 1928
The new grass rising in the hills,
the cows loitering in the morning chill,
a dozen or more old browns hidden
in the shadows of the cottonwoods
beside the streambed. I go higher
to where the road gives up and there's
only a faint path strewn with lupine
between the mountain oaks. I don't
ask myself what I'm looking for.
I didn't come for answers
to a place like this, I came to walk
on the earth, still cold, still silent.
Still ungiving, I've said to myself,
although it greets me with last year's
dead thistles and this year's 
hard spines, early blooming
wild onions, the curling remains
of spider's cloth. What did I bring 
to the dance? In my back pocket
a crushed letter from a woman
I've never met bearing bad news
I can do nothing about. So I wander
these woods half sightless while
a west wind picks up in the trees
clustered above. The pines make
a music like no other, rising and 
falling like a distant surf at night
that calms the darkness before 
first light. "Soughing" we call it, from
Old English, no less. How weightless
words are when nothing will do.
Sub-versety
next
Secret History
Charles Simic, 1938
Of the light in my room:
Its mood swings,
Dark-morning glooms,
Summer ecstasies.

Spider on the wall,
Lamp burning late,
Shoes left by the bed,
I'm your humble scribe.

Dust balls, simple souls
Conferring in the corner.
The pearl earring she lost,
Still to be found.

Silence of falling snow,
Night vanishing without trace,
Only to return.
I'm your humble scribe.
Sub-versety
next
Found Poem
Howard Nemerov, 1920 - 1991

after information received in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 v 86

The population center of the USA
Has shifted to Potosi, in Missouri.

The calculation employed by authorities
In arriving at this dislocation assumes

That the country is a geometric plane,
Perfectly flat, and that every citizen,

Including those in Alaska and Hawaii
And the District of Columbia, weighs the same;

So that, given these simple presuppositions,
The entire bulk and spread of all the people

Should theoretically balance on the point
Of a needle under Potosi in Missouri

Where no one is residing nowadays
But the watchman over an abandoned mine

Whence the company got the lead out and left.
"It gets pretty lonely here," he says, "at night."
Sub-versety
next
An Unemployed Machinist
John Giorno
An unemployed
machinist
An unemployed machinist
who travelled
here
who travelled here
from Georgia
from Georgia 10 days ago
10 days ago
and could not find
a job
and could not find a job
walked
into a police station
walking into a police station
yesterday and said
yesterday
and said:

"I'm tired
of being scared
I'm tired of being scared."
Sub-versety
next
Insect Assassins
Jackson Mac Low, 1922 - 2004
Injects no survive. Efforts control the
Animal survive. Survive. Animal survive. Survive. Injects no survive.

In nasty spitting eye cost. This
Assassin spitting spitting assassin spitting spitting in nasty spitting

Insectivorous nutriment species encounter Charles to
Are species species are species species insectivorous nutriment species

Into notoriety. Sweeping eastern capture testimony 
As sweeping sweeping as sweeping sweeping into
   notoriety. Sweeping

Interest nervous succumb easily: composed tube 
Adhesive succumb succumb adhesive succumb succumb interest
         nervous succumb

It near spider East closes thorax.
And spider spider and spider spider it near spider

Its needle. Specialized enlarged? Cutting tough 
A specialized specialized a specialized specialized its needle.
   Specialized

Is nontoxic secretion extremely contains that 
Assassin-bug secretion secretion assassin-bug secretion secretion
             is nontoxic secretion

I needle-like snake. Enzymes compound TENDON 
ANCHORING snake, snake, ANCHORING snake, snake, I
          needle-like snake,

INLET not significant, effect cockroach. Thus 
About significant, significant, about significant, significant,
      INLET not significant,

Insect "natural" surround enzyme constituents time 
After surround surround after surround surround insect "natural"
      surround

Internal nerve. Sucks especially contents through. 
Against sucks sucks. Against sucks sucks. Internal nerve. Sucks

Immediate now share extinguishing controlling them. 
Arises: share share arises: share share immediate now share

Insecticide? Needs. Sap; episode. Cimicidae thoroughly 
Attributed sap; sap; attributed sap; sap; insecticide? Needs. Sap;

Insects numbing seconds. Each channels. They. 
Accordingly seconds. Seconds. Accordingly seconds. Seconds.
            Insects numbing seconds.
Sub-versety
next
Stein 100: A Feather Likeness of the Justice Chair
Jackson Mac Low, 1922 - 2004
A feather table: reckless gratitude. 
It is that-there that means best. 

White the green grinding trimming thing! 
The disgrace, like stripes.
More selection, slighter intention. 

Rosewood stationing is use journey: curious dusty empty length. 
Winged cake: the cake, the plan that neglects to make color certainly. 
Time long could winter: elegant consequences monstrous. 
So much and guided holders garments are—and arrangements. 
Staring then that when sudden same time's necessary, that circular 
     same's more necessary, not actually aching.

And why special? 
Not left straw, the chain's the missing, was white winningly and 
     occasion's entirely strings. 
Reason is sullenness: it's there that practices left when six into 
     nothing narrow, resolute, suggests all beside that plain seam. 
Pencils, mutton, asparagus: the table there. 
There reddening is not to change that in such absurd surroundings. 
Considering clearly, a feather's large second heat is there. 
There that thing which smells that whistles that there's denial, 
     difference, surfeit-dated choices—everything trembling 
	 imitation. 

Imitation?—imitation is a joy gurgle. 
Best bent, likely disappointed. 
Cake season's not more than most. 
That cake makes no larder likely. 
Not a single protection is even temporarily standing. 
Sugar and lard there are sudden and shaming. 
That single set comes orderly. 
There the remarkable witness made no more settlement than 
     blessing. 
Increase the way steak colored coffee. 
Wheatly that music half-noisy. 
Reason's decline is not a little grainy. 

This means taste where toe-washing is reasonable. 
Salmon carriage?—action hanging. 
Scene bits and this nervous draught don't satisfy elevation, 
There is no change.
Much was temporary behind that center and much was formerly 
     charming. 
Then the then-triumphant showed their disagreeable hidden worries. 
The chair asked the speech be repeated, supposing 
     attention-resemblance.
It is just summer. 
Another section has a light likeness to pedestrianism. 
Which is light? 
That used this there. 
The chair's justice: nothing-colored mercy.
No, perhaps some is likely. 

That is not a genuine bargain. 
There preparation so suits white bands' singing and redness that the 
     same sight's a simpler splendor. 
No, not the same. 
Wishing the same is not quite the same as a different arrangement. 
Any measure washed is brighter than an occasional string set. 
A precocious nothing discolors that extract sooner than showing its 
     starting. 
A bag place chain room winningly reasons with shining hair. 
What with supposing without protection, no wound is sudden. 
Coloring sullenness rushes bottom reason in gilded country. 
What if it shows? 
Necessarily, the whole thing there is shining. 
Is that anything? 
More single women stitch tickets. 
To show difference exudes reliability. 
Inside that large silver likeness, Hope tables thick coal. 
Coal makes morning furnaces darker,
Joy and success are exceptions. 

Four suggest a sadder surrender. 
Pretence and cheaper influences are staining tender Pride there. 
Sort out that little sink. 
Why is the size of the baking remainder something that resembles 
     light more than cutting? 
This cheese is more calm than anything solitary. 
It is still an occasion for bottom anticipation. 
Reason's season cracked that which was ripe. 
Nearly all were neglected by blessing, not without nervous actions. 
He's readily beginning to seed the cheese and estrange the Whites. 
The celery curled its lashes at the slam. 
Not-so-heated reason will be little able to satisfy another. 
This was formerly much used as a charming chair. 
Pedestrianism showed itself triumphant and disagreeable. 
That which was hidden worried them. 
They asked that her speech be repeated. 
Summer light bears a likeness to justice. 
Then the light is supposing attention. 
That section has a resemblance to light. 
Is it a likeness of the justice chair?

Sub-versety
next
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (280)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –  

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –  
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –  

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here – 

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –  
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then – 
Sub-versety
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.
Sub-versety
next
Because I could not stop for Death (712)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me –  
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –  
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –  
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –  
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads 
Were toward Eternity – 
Sub-versety
next
Cognitive Deficit Market
Joshua Corey
She has forgotten what she forgot
this morning: her keys, toast in the toaster blackening
the insides of beloved skulls, little planetariums
projecting increasingly incomplete
and fanciful constellations: the Gravid
Ass, the Mesozoic Cartwheel, the Big
Goatee, the Littlest Fascist. Outside her window
a crowd gathers, seething in white confusion
like milk boiling dry in a saucepan—some
lift fingers to point this way and that
with herky-jerky certainty but
they're standing too close for all
those flying hands so that eyeglasses and hats
fall—apologies inaudible, someone hands
a fist, the brawl overwhelms the meager traffic
of pedicabs and delivery trucks stacked high
with rotting lettuce. Meanwhile above it all
she's setting out the tea things: ceramic cup and saucer,
little pewter spoon, pebbled iron pot, a slice
of Sara Lee. Waiting to remember
to turn the radio on, listen for the elevator, for
the lock to turn or a knock
on the door. In a little while she'll put everything
away in the same configuration
at the bottom of a clean white sink
with its faucet dripping.
We who watch this, half-turned away already
toward sunny gardens or the oncoming semi—
being not the one dead but not exactly alive either.
The skin is a glove that wrinkles as it tightens.
The cerebellum's the same. A game
of chess between walking sticks—I mean the insects
made up to resemble wood. I say we dissemble
from photos and repetition
our stakes in these weightless names.
Sub-versety
next
Against Elegies
Marilyn Hacker, 1942
James has cancer. Catherine has cancer.
Melvin has AIDS.
Whom will I call, and get no answer?
My old friends, my new friends who are old,
or older, sixty, seventy, take pills
before or after dinner. Arthritis
scourges them. But irremediable night is
farther away from them; they seem to hold
it at bay better than the young-middle-aged
whom something, or another something, kills
before the chapter's finished, the play staged.
The curtains stay down when the light fades.

Morose, unanswerable, the list
of thirty- and forty-year-old suicides
(friends' lovers, friends' daughters) insists
in its lengthening: something's wrong.
The sixty-five-year-olds are splendid, vying
with each other in work-hours and wit.
They bring their generosity along,
setting the tone, or not giving a shit.
How well, or how eccentrically, they dress!
Their anecdotes are to the point, or wide
enough to make room for discrepancies.
But their children are dying.

Natalie died by gas in Montpeyroux.
In San Francisco, Ralph died
of lung cancer, AIDS years later, Lew
wrote to me. Lew, who at forty-five,
expected to be dead of drink, who, ten
years on, wasn't, instead survived
a gentle, bright, impatient younger man.
(Cliché: he falls in love with younger men.)
Natalie's father came, and Natalie,
as if she never had been there, was gone.
Michèle closed up their house (where she
was born). She shrouded every glass inside

— mirrors, photographs — with sheets, as Jews
do, though she's not a Jew.
James knows, he thinks, as much as he wants to.
He's been working half-time since November.
They made the diagnosis in July.
Catherine is back in radiotherapy.
Her schoolboy haircut, prematurely grey,
now frames a face aging with other numbers:
"stage two," "stage three" mean more than "fifty-one"
and mean, precisely, nothing, which is why
she stares at nothing: lawn chair, stone,
bird, leaf; brusquely turns off the news.

I hope they will be sixty in ten years
and know I used their names
as flares in a polluted atmosphere,
as private reasons where reason obtains
no quarter. Children in the streets
still die in grandfathers' good wars.
Pregnant women with AIDS, schoolgirls, crack whores,
die faster than men do, in more pain,
are more likely than men to die alone.
What are our statistics, when I meet
the lump in my breast, you phone
the doctor to see if your test results came?

The earth-black woman in the bed beside
Lidia on the AIDS floor — deaf and blind:
I want to know if, no, how, she died.
The husband, who'd stopped visiting, returned?
He brought the little boy, those nursery-
school smiles taped on the walls? She traced
her name on Lidia's face
when one of them needed something. She learned
some Braille that week. Most of the time, she slept.
Nobody knew the baby's HIV
status. Sleeping, awake, she wept.
And I left her name behind.

And Lidia, where's she
who got her act so clean
of rum and Salem Filters and cocaine
after her passing husband passed it on?
As soon as she knew
she phoned and told her mother she had AIDS
but no, she wouldn't come back to San Juan.
Sipping café con leche with dessert,
in a blue robe, thick hair in braids,
she beamed: her life was on the right
track, now. But the cysts hurt
too much to sleep through the night.

No one was promised a shapely life
ending in a tutelary vision.
No one was promised: if
you're a genuinely irreplaceable
grandmother or editor
you will not need to be replaced.
When I die, the death I face
will more than likely be illogical:
Alzheimer's or a milk truck: the absurd.
The Talmud teaches we become impure
when we die, profane dirt, once the word
that spoke this life in us has been withdrawn,

the letter taken from the envelope.
If we believe the letter will be read,
some curiosity, some hope
come with knowing that we die.
But this was another century
in which we made death humanly obscene:
Soweto  El Salvador  Kurdistan
Armenia  Shatila  Baghdad  Hanoi
Auschwitz  Each one, unique as our lives are,
taints what's left with complicity,
makes everyone living a survivor
who will, or won't, bear witness for the dead.

I can only bear witness for my own
dead and dying, whom I've often failed:
unanswered letters, unattempted phone
calls, against these fictions. A fiction winds
her watch in sunlight, cancer ticking bone
to shards. A fiction looks
at proofs of a too-hastily finished book
that may be published before he goes blind.
The old, who tell good stories, half expect
that what's written in their chromosomes
will come true, that history won't interject
a virus or a siren or a sealed

train to where age is irrelevant.
The old rebbetzen at Ravensbruck
died in the most wrong place, at the wrong time.
What do the young know different?
No partisans are waiting in the woods
to welcome them. Siblings who stayed home
count down doom. Revolution became
a dinner party in a fast-food chain,
a vendetta for an abscessed crime,
a hard-on market for consumer goods.
A living man reads a dead woman's book.
She wrote it; then, he knows, she was turned in.

For every partisan
there are a million gratuitous
deaths from hunger, all-American
mass murders, small wars,
the old diseases and the new.
Who dies well? The privilege
of asking doesn't have to do with age.
For most of us
no question what our deaths, our lives, mean.
At the end, Catherine will know what she knew,
and James will, and Melvin,
and I, in no one's stories, as we are.
Sub-versety
next
The Conjugation of the Paramecium
Muriel Rukeyser, 1913 - 1980
This has nothing
to do with
propagating

The species
is continued
as so many are
(among the smaller creatures)
by fission

(and this species
is very small
next in order to
the amoeba, the beginning one)

The paramecium
achieves, then,
immortality
by dividing

But when
the paramecium
desires renewal
strength another joy
this is what 
the paramecium does:

The paramecium
lies down beside
another paramecium

Slowly inexplicably
the exchange
takes place
in which
some bits
of the nucleus of each
are exchanged

for some bits 
of the nucleus
of the other

This is called
the conjugation of the paramecium.
Sub-versety
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?
Sub-versety
next
At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina
Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995
A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy,
receives my admission and points the way.
Here are gray jackets with holes in them,
red sashes with individual flourishes,
things soft as flesh. Someone sewed
the gold silk cord onto that gray sleeve
as if embellishments
could keep a man alive.

I have been reading War and Peace,
and so the particulars of combat
are on my mind—the shouts and groans
of men and boys, and the horses' cries
as they fall, astonished at what
has happened to them.
                         Blood on leaves,
blood on grass, on snow; extravagant
beauty of red. Smoke, dust of disturbed
earth; parch and burn.

Who would choose this for himself?
And yet the terrible machinery
waited in place. With psalters
in their breast pockets, and gloves
knitted by their sisters and sweethearts,
the men in gray hurled themselves
out of the trenches, and rushed against
blue. It was what both sides
agreed to do.
Sub-versety
next
Regarding Chainsaws
Hayden Carruth
The first chainsaw I owned was years ago,
an old yellow McCulloch that wouldn't start.
Bo Bremmer give it to me that was my friend,
though I've had enemies couldn't of done
no worse. I took it to Ward's over to Morrisville,
and no doubt they tinkered it as best they could,
but it still wouldn't start. One time later
I took it down to the last bolt and gasket
and put it together again, hoping somehow
I'd do something accidental-like that would
make it go, and then I yanked on it
450 times, as I figured afterwards,
and give myself a bursitis in the elbow
that went five years even after
Doc Arrowsmith shot it full of cortisone
and near killed me when he hit a nerve
dead on. Old Stan wanted that saw, wanted it bad.
Figured I was a greenhorn that didn't know
nothing and he could fix it. Well, I was,
you could say, being only forty at the time,
but a fair hand at tinkering. "Stan," I said,
"you're a neighbor. I like you. I wouldn't
sell that thing to nobody, except maybe
Vice-President Nixon." But Stan persisted.
He always did. One time we was loafing and
gabbing in his front dooryard, and he spied
that saw in the back of my pickup. He run
quick inside, then come out and stuck a double
sawbuck in my shirt pocket, and he grabbed
that saw and lugged it off. Next day, when I
drove past, I seen he had it snugged down tight
with a tow-chain on the bed of his old Dodge
Powerwagon, and he was yanking on it
with both hands. Two or three days after,
I asked him, "How you getting along with that
McCulloch, Stan?" "Well," he says, "I tooken
it down to scrap, and I buried it in three
separate places yonder on the upper side
of the potato piece. You can't be too careful,"
he says, "when you're disposing of a hex."
The next saw I had was a godawful ancient
Homelite that I give Dry Dryden thirty bucks for,
temperamental as a ram too, but I liked it.
It used to remind me of Dry and how he'd
clap that saw a couple times with the flat
of his double-blade axe to make it go
and how he honed the chain with a worn-down
file stuck in an old baseball. I worked
that saw for years. I put up forty-five
run them days each summer and fall to keep
my stoves het through the winter. I couldn't now.
It'd kill me. Of course they got these here
modern Swedish saws now that can take
all the worry out of it. What's the good
of that? Takes all the fun out too, don't it?
Why, I reckon. I mind when Gilles Boivin snagged
an old sap spout buried in a chunk of maple
and it tore up his mouth so bad he couldn't play
"Tea for Two" on his cornet in the town band
no more, and then when Toby Fox was holding
a beech limb that Rob Bowen was bucking up
and the saw skidded crossways and nipped off
one of Toby's fingers. Ain't that more like it?
Makes you know you're living. But mostly they wan't
dangerous, and the only thing they broke was your
back. Old Stan, he was a buller and a jammer
in his time, no two ways about that, but he
never sawed himself. Stan had the sugar
all his life, and he wan't always too careful
about his diet and the injections. He lost
all the feeling in his legs from the knees down.
One time he started up his Powerwagon
out in the barn, and his foot slipped off the clutch,
and she jumped forwards right through the wall
and into the manure pit. He just set there,
swearing like you could of heard it in St.
Johnsbury, till his wife come out and said,
"Stan, what's got into you?" "Missus," he says
"ain't nothing got into me. Can't you see?
It's me that's got into this here pile of shit."
Not much later they took away one of his
legs, and six months after that they took
the other and left him setting in his old chair
with a tank of oxygen to sip at whenever
he felt himself sinking. I remember that chair.
Stan reupholstered it with an old bearskin
that must of come down from his great-great-
grandfather and had grit in it left over
from the Civil War and a bullet-hole as big
as a yawning cat. Stan latched the pieces together
with rawhide, cross fashion, but the stitches was
always breaking and coming undone. About then
I quit stopping by to see old Stan, and I
don't feel so good about that neither. But my mother
was having her strokes then. I figured
one person coming apart was as much
as a man can stand. Then Stan was taken away
to the nursing home, and then he died. I always
remember how he planted them pieces of spooked
McCulloch up above the potatoes. One time
I went up and dug, and I took the old
sprocket, all pitted and et away, and set it
on the windowsill right there next to the
butter mold. But I'm damned if I know why.
Sub-versety
next
At the Playground, Singing for Psychiatric Outpatients
Peter Everwine
The bright-faced children have gone home,
trailing the sun to supper.
                   Tonight,
these others have come,
almost sweetly shy, starched
for their monthly party.
Nurse herds them into metal chairs.

I've come to sing, Nurse tells them,
and they fold their hands
--these lately mad who failed behind a door
or slipped under in a jammed street,
whose eyes blossomed like silver
fists in mirrors, in plate-glass windows.
Nurse is waiting for me.

So I sing for them,
                    for the boy
in the front row, groping
the stiff corners of his pockets;
for the ugly one in pink anklets
--her legs have never felt a razor,
though her wrist has; for him
whose fingers are eaten by ants; for her
whose face sags like a torn sack.
They do not like my songs,
but infinitely polite, they turn
their smiles up into the dark
as if a smile should fall softly, 
obliquely, like rain.

"Home on the Range," Nurse calls out,
her sure fingers on the pulse of America.
I start in faltering voice,
half-forgetting those dead words
sung at campfires in the past.
One joins, and then another:
Home, home on the range. . .
Where the deer. . .
And the skies are. . .
The voices crack and lurch, we
are singing--the boy, the ugly one--
singing like crows in the empty
prairie of a children's playground 
where if there are distances that shine 
they shine like the eyes of pain.
Sub-versety
next
Visits to St. Elizabeths
Elizabeth Bishop, 1911 - 1979

[1950]

This is the house of Bedlam.

This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the time 
of the tragic man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a wristwatch
telling the time
of the talkative man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a sailor 
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the honored man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the roadstead all of board
reached by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the old, brave man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls of the ward,
the winds and clouds of the sea of board
sailed by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the cranky man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
beyond the sailor
winding his watch
that tells the time
of the cruel man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a world of books gone flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
of the batty sailor
that winds his watch
that tells the time
of the busy man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is there, is flat,
for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
waltzing the length of a weaving board
by the silent sailor
that hears his watch
that ticks the time
of the tedious man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to feel if the world is there and flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances joyfully down the ward
into the parting seas of board
past the staring sailor
that shakes his watch
that tells the time
of the poet, the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the soldier home from the war.
These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is round or flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances carefully down the ward,
walking the plank of a coffin board
with the crazy sailor
that shows his watch
that tells the time
of the wretched man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
Sub-versety
next
The Land of Counterpane
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 - 1894
When I was sick and lay a-bed,   
I had two pillows at my head,   
And all my toys beside me lay   
To keep me happy all the day.   
   
And sometimes for an hour or so     
I watched my leaden soldiers go,   
With different uniforms and drills,   
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;   
   
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets   
All up and down among the sheets;  
Or brought my trees and houses out,   
And planted cities all about.   
   
I was the giant great and still   
That sits upon the pillow-hill,   
And sees before him, dale and plain, 
The pleasant land of counterpane. 
Sub-versety
next
The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Sub-versety
next
The Layers
Stanley Kunitz, 1905 - 2006
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.  
Sub-versety
next
Seurat
Ira Sadoff, 1945

It is a Sunday afternoon on the Grand Canal. We are watching the sailboats trying to sail along without wind. Small rowboats are making their incisions on the water, only to have the wounds seal up again soon after they pass. In the background, smoke from the factories and smoke from the steamboats merges into tiny clouds above us then disappears. Our mothers and fathers walk arm in arm along the shore clutching tightly their umbrellas and canes. We are sitting on a blanket in the foreground, but even if someone were to take a photograph, only our closest relatives would recognize us: we seem to be burying our heads between our knees.

I remember thinking you were one of the most delicate women I had ever seen. Your bones seemed small and fragile as a rabbit's. Even so, beads of perspiration begin to form on your wrist and forehead — if we were to live long enough we'd have been amazed at how many clothes we forced ourselves to wear. At this time I had never seen you without your petticoats, and if I ever gave thought to such a possibility I'd chastise myself for not offering you sufficient respect.

The sun is very hot. Why is it no one complains of the heat in France? There are women doing their needlework, men reading, a man in a bowler hat smoking a pipe. The noise of the children is absorbed by the trees. The air is full of idleness, there is the faint aroma of lilies coming from somewhere. We discuss what we want for ourselves, abstractly, it seems only right on a day like this. I have ambitions to be a painter, and you want a small family and a cottage in the country. We make everything sound so simple because we believe everything is still possible. The small tragedies of our parents have not yet made an impression on us. We should be grateful, but we're too awkward to think hard about very much.

I throw a scaling rock into the water; I have strong arms and before the rock sinks it seems to have nearly reached the other side. When we get up we have a sense of our own importance. We could not know, taking a step back, looking at the total picture, that we would occupy such a small corner of the canvas, and that even then we are no more than tiny clusters of dots, carefully placed together without touching.

Sub-versety
next
Shirt
Robert Pinsky, 1940
The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes--

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms 
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers--

Like Hart Crane's Bedlamite, "shrill shirt ballooning."
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord.  Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.
Sub-versety
next
The Present Crisis
James Russell Lowell
When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth's aching breast	 
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,	 
And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb	 
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime	 
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.	         
  
Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,	 
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth's systems to and fro;	 
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,	 
Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart,	 
And glad Truth's yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future's heart.	  
  
So the Evil's triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,	 
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,	 
And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God	 
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,	 
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.	  
  
For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,	 
Round the earth's electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;	 
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity's vast frame	 
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;—	 
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.	  
  
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,	 
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;	 
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,	 
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,	 
And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.	  
  
Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,	 
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?	 
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet 'tis Truth alone is strong,	 
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng	 
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.	  
  
Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,	 
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion's sea;	 
Not an ear in court or market for the low, foreboding cry	 
Of those Crises, God's stern winnowers, from whose feet earth's chaff must fly;	 
Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath passed by.	  
  
Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record	 
One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word;	 
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—	 
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,	 
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.	  
  
We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,	 
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,	 
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market's din,	 
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—	 
"They enslave their children's children who make compromise with sin."	  
  
Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,	 
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,	 
Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,	 
Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;—	 
Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?	  
  
Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,	 
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 'tis prosperous to be just;	 
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,	 
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,	 
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.	  
  
Count me o'er earth's chosen heroes,—they were souls that stood alone,	 
While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,	 
Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline	 
To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,	 
By one man's plain truth to manhood and to God's supreme design.	  
  
By the light of burning heretics Christ's bleeding feet I track,	 
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,	 
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned	 
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned	 
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.	 
  
For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr stands,	 
On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;	 
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,	 
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return	 
To glean up the scattered ashes into History's golden urn.	  
  
'Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves	 
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers' graves,	 
Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;—	 
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?	 
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that made Plymouth Rock sublime?	  
  
They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,	 
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past's;	 
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,	 
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee	 
The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea.	  
  
They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,	 
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom's new-lit altar-fires;	 
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,	 
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away	 
To light up the martyr-fagots round the prophets of to-day?	  
  
New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;	 
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;	 
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,	 
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,	 
Nor attempt the Future's portal with the Past's blood-rusted key.
Sub-versety
next
I am the People, the Mob
Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967
I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and
     clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
     and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
     and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
     Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
     and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
     me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history
     to remember. Then—I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
     lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
     who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the
     world say the name: "The People," with any fleck of a sneer in his
     voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob—the crowd—the mass—will arrive then.
Sub-versety
next
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows When
Sub-versety
next
The Stalin Epigram
Osip Mandelstam, 1891 - 1938
Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.
Sub-versety
next
Last Century
Wyatt Prunty, 1947
Last century we took a lot of shots
Of what we did, framing things for Look and Life
So we could see us and our lot Riveting the lattice of a skyline
Or walking the I beams of infinite rooms
Over Manhattan, Cleveland, Washington—
          Oh elevated light.
 
We were amassing works—bridges and dams,
Ike’s interstates, highrises; raising tons
Out of a continent unfolding by
Mountain and pit, plain and gradient river,
The convex sky bottling cirrus highs
And the steep cumuli of moody weather,
          Oh century of light.
 
Back then we were stout realists working out
All manner of the world as one-to-one,
The aerials that Margaret Bourke-White got
Of factories and bombed-out towns,
Also the gaunt subtractive stares by Evans,
Whose dust bowl poor became our luminous 
          Internal weather. 
 
And then at Buchenwald there were those faces
Of ourselves—fed guards, starved Poles and Jews,
The citizens of Weimar just trucked in
Bearing the stares of deformed children,
As now our lenses focused on the krill
And undertow of the swallowing real
          Weather of enlightenment.
 
Add in atomic white, the napalm blind . . .
An overbright disequilibrium
Had settled in, a kind of countermind,
Blind as those guards at Buchenwald, darkroom
And looking up, gashed faces wide with fear,
All interrogatives frozen where
          Someone holds a light
 
For focusing Margaret Bourke-White;
While the two guards, deserving or not, stripped
To bloody underwear, still looking up
In horror at what’s coming next, hear "Pop!"
Thanks to the flash, so everyone will see
Us taking our turn at victory,
          Oh century.
Sub-versety
next
The Past
Michael Ryan
It shows up one summer in a greatcoat,
storms through the house confiscating,
says it must be paid and quickly,
says it must take everything.

Your children stare into their cornflakes,
your wife whispers only once to stop it,
because she loves you and she sees it
darken the room suddenly like a stain.

What did you do to deserve it,
ruining breakfast on a balmy day?
Kiss your loved ones. Night is coming.
There was no life without it anyway.
Sub-versety
next
The New Colossus
Emma Lazarus, 1849 - 1887
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"