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Louise Bogan
Louise Bogan

Medusa

About this Poem 

“Medusa” was first published in The New Republic in December of 1921. 

Medusa

Louise Bogan, 1897 - 1970

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door.
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.

 

This poem is in the public domain. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

poem

ALI! ALI!

It's late and your heart skips watching
that young man fight. The Garden, the left
jab lashes like a frog's tongue catching
a fly. There you go again with an undeft

image to his arthropod conceit. You know he'll win,
an old victory. They hate him there, sore
that he joined your faith, a strapping boy, skin
hairless almost feminine. He'd kept you up before, 

your father waking you at dawn to watch the thrilla,
the rumble, even the shamble in Nagasaki
fighting a wrestler, a prone Japanese gorilla, 
bruising the elegant legs. What was he

telling you then in that unplanned nightshift?
that there's honor in defeat, that you'd get your chance?
The referee says "Alright boys," and you drift
to Ralph Ellison's blind nightmarish dance.

The doctor checks Jones's right eye, but the crowd
boos him. There'd been a scandal in slow mo.
No one wants a dead man shouting aloud
maricon! At the end of round five, he's slow

and you want to lead him back to his corner
though you know he'll win, a knock out,
probably, but he wastes two rounds looking for
a strong straight right as Banks flouts

a second wind. Then in a flash— you're about
to adjust the volume or put a dish away—
Cooper is a cyclop, blood oozing out
of his one open eye, swinging wildly

like a wounded spider. Lyle's coach protests. 
Years later he'll do the rope-a-dope to declaim
on purgatory. And later yet, in an airport
he writes a dedication to you, signs his name,

on a leaflet, "Life After Death." Tonight again
your beloved brother squeaks by, a TKO.
His victory's slower, but that's where he'll remain, 
a light in your heart that never ceased to glow.

 

Khaled Mattawa
2016
poem

Personal Poem

Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I'm happy for a time and interested 

I walk through the luminous humidity
passing the House of Seagram with its wet
and its loungers and the construction to
the left that closed the sidewalk if
I ever get to be a construction worker
I'd like to have a silver hat please
and get to Moriarty's where I wait for
LeRoi and hear who wants to be a mover and
shaker the last five years my batting average
is .016 that's that, and LeRoi comes in
and tells me Miles Davis was clubbed 12
times last night outside BIRDLAND by a cop
a lady asks us for a nickel for a terrible
disease but we don't give her one we
don't like terrible diseases, then 
we go eat some fish and some ale it's
cool but crowded we don't like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don't like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don't want to be in the poets' walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRoi
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so 
Frank O'Hara
1964
American Poets
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collection

Allen Ginsberg: A Tribute

To celebrate the life and poetic contributions of Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) we’ve compiled the following collection of photographs, essays, an exclusive video, and poems, including an audio version of the poet reading from "Howl."

collection

The Letter Q

The Letter Q (Scholastic, 2012) is a collection of letters written by queer writers to their younger selves, making imaginative journeys into their pasts, and addressing the often difficult coming-of-age experiences of LGBTQ individuals. Inspired by its strength, bravery, and heart, Poets.org asked several poets to respond with their own letters to their younger selves.

From the Archive: May Swenson at Joshua Tree National Park.
poem

Lullaby

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's carnal ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
W. H. Auden
1940