I do not write of love: I am no lover. I do not write of beauty: I have no woman. I do not write of gentleness but the human rudeness I see. And my pleasures are all over, so I do not try to write of pleasure, but only misery. Favors? No, I am on my own. I do not write of riches: I have none. Or of life at court, when I'm far from it and lonely. I do not write of health, for I'm often ill. I cannot write of France from a Roman hill. Or honor? I see so little of that about. I cannot write of friendship but only pretence. I will not write of virtue, here in its absence. Or knowledge or faith, in ignorance and doubt.
in places left behind
Coming at an end, the lovers Are exhausted like two swimmers. Where Did it end? There is no telling. No love is Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves' boundaries From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye Like death. Coming at an end. Rather, I would say, like a length Of coiled rope Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths Its endings. But, you will say, we loved And some parts of us loved And the rest of us will remain Two persons. Yes, Poetry ends like a rope.
Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.
A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding The gap left by things which have already happened Leaving nothing in their place, may have nothing to do But that. Dreams are like ghosts achieving ghosts' perennial goal Of revoking the sensation of repose. It's terrible To think we write these things for them, to tell them Of our life—that is, our whole life. Along comes a dream Of a machine. Why? What is being sold there? How is the product emitted? It must have been sparked by a noise, the way the very word "spark" emits a brief picture. Is it original? Inevitable? We seem to sleep so as to draw the picture Of events that have already happened so we can picture Them. A dream for example of a procession to an execution site. How many strangers could circle the space while speaking of nostalgia And of wolves in the hills? We find them Thinking of nothing instead—there's no one to impersonate, nothing To foresee. It's logical that prophesies would be emitted Through the gaps left by previous things, or by the dead Refusing conversation and contemplating beauty instead. But isn’t that the problem with beauty—that it's apt in retrospect To seem preordained? The dawn birds are trilling A new day—it has the psychical quality of "pastness" and they are trailing It. The day breaks in an imperfectly continuous course Of life. Sleep is immediate and memory nothing.
if it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it. unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don't do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don't do it. if you're doing it for money or fame, don't do it. if you're doing it because you want women in your bed, don't do it. if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don't do it. if it's hard work just thinking about doing it, don't do it. if you're trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. if it never does roar out of you, do something else. if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you're not ready. don't be like so many writers, don't be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don't be dull and boring and pretentious, don't be consumed with self- love. the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. don't add to that. don't do it. unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don't do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don't do it. when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was.
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?
When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.
Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness
Gradually, he thought, he'd introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she'd find it comforting.
A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn't everyone want love?
He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.
Doesn't everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—
That's what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there'd be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.
Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn't imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.
He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you
but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you're dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.
the moon might rise and it might not and if it brings a ghost light we will read beneath it and if it returns to earth we will listen for its phrases and if I'm alone at the bedside table I will have a ghost book to refer to and when I lie back I'll see its imprint beneath my blood-red lids: not lettered ink but the clean page not sugar but the empty bowl not flowers but the dirt * blame the egg blame the fractured stones at the bottom of the mind blame his darkblue glare and craggy mug the bulky king of trudge and stein how I love a masculine in my parlor his grizzly shout and weight one hundred drums in this everywhere of blunt and soft sinking I am the heavy hollow snared the days are spring the days are summer the days are nothing and not dead yet * worry the river over its banks the train into flames worry the black rain into the city the troops into times square worry the windows cracked acidblack and the children feverblistered worry never another summer never again to live here gentle with the other inhabitants then leave too quickly leave the pills and band-aids the bathroom scale the Christmas lights the dog go walking on our legs dense and bare and useless worry our throats and lungs into taking the air leave books on the shelves leave keys dustpan telephones don't work where you were in the chaos * and I couldn't bear it the children nearing the place where the waves wet the shore vaporous force rising imperceptibly behind we were talking about circumstance horizon-gates swinging open beneath the cherry blooms wave rising in the background impalpable and final a girl in a white dress barefoot wasn't I right to ask her to move in from the shore * this is the last usable hour bird lured through the window a little sweet fruit I could die here and the hearsedriver would take me out of this city I'd say my name to him as we crossed the Triboro I'd say it softly the way he likes it it would be the last time I'd introduce myself that way
Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting. Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert. Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips. Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines. They bring the scent of licorice. One sits in the washbowl, One on the bathtub edge; one leans against the door. "Can you feel it yet?" they whisper. I don't know what to say, again. They chuckle, Patting their sleek bodies with their hands. "Well, maybe next time." And they rise, Glittering like pools of ink under moonlight, And vanish. I clutch at the ragged holes They leave behind, here at the edge of darkness. Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue.
Some believe there's somewhere in the brain that senses minor fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field and uses a sort of memory of that to travel the same route year after year over thousands of miles, over open ocean on moonless, clouded nights, and a built-in clock that, save for weather's influence, tells when it's time to go. But they utter nothing of thwarted dreams in birds' brains, how a few cubic feet near the ground, however well-kept and lighted, however large it seems around a small bright bird, is like a fist closed tight on feather and bone, how, certain times of year, the bird's heart races as if to power flight.
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.
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.
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.
I wonder about the trees. Why do we wish to bear Forever the noise of these More than another noise So close to our dwelling place? We suffer them by the day Till we lose all measure of pace, And fixity in our joys, And acquire a listening air. They are that that talks of going But never gets away; And that talks no less for knowing, As it grows wiser and older, That now it means to stay. My feet tug at the floor And my head sways to my shoulder Sometimes when I watch trees sway, From the window or the door. I shall set forth for somewhere, I shall make the reckless choice Some day when they are in voice And tossing so as to scare The white clouds over them on. I shall have less to say, But I shall be gone.
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.
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.
One summer afternoon, I learned my body
like a blind child leaving a walled
school for the first time, stumbling
from cool hallways to a world
dense with scent and sound,
pines roaring in the sudden wind
like a huge chorus of insects.
I felt the damp socket of flowers,
touched weeds riding the crest
of a stony ridge, and the scrubby
ground cover on low hills.
Haystacks began to burn,
smoke rose like sheets of
translucent mica. The thick air
hummed over the stretched wires
of wheat as I lay in the overgrown field
listening to the shrieks of small rabbits
bounding beneath my skin.
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.
I am not yours, not lost in you, Not lost, although I long to be Lost as a candle lit at noon, Lost as a snowflake in the sea. You love me, and I find you still A spirit beautiful and bright, Yet I am I, who long to be Lost as a light is lost in light. Oh plunge me deep in love—put out My senses, leave me deaf and blind, Swept by the tempest of your love, A taper in a rushing wind.
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.
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, I have forgotten, and what arms have lain Under my head till morning; but the rain Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh Upon the glass and listen for reply, And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain For unremembered lads that not again Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. Thus in winter stands the lonely tree, Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: I cannot say what loves have come and gone, I only know that summer sang in me A little while, that in me sings no more.
Lord Amiens, a musician, sings before Duke Senior's company
Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind As man's ingratitude; Thy tooth is not so keen, Because thou art not seen, Although thy breath be rude. Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly: Then, heigh-ho, the holly! This life is most jolly. Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky, That does not bite so nigh As benefits forgot: Though thou the waters warp, Thy sting is not so sharp As friend remembered not. Heigh-ho! sing . . .
How like a winter hath my absence been From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year! What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen! What old December’s bareness every where! And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time; The teeming autumn, big with rich increase, Bearing the wanton burden of the prime, Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease: Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit; For summer and his pleasures wait on thee, And, thou away, the very birds are mute: Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer, That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.
there are so many tictoc clocks everywhere telling people what toctic time it is for tictic instance five toc minutes toc past six tic Spring is not regulated and does not get out of order nor do its hands a little jerking move over numbers slowly we do not wind it up it has no weights springs wheels inside of its slender self no indeed dear nothing of the kind. (So,when kiss Spring comes we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss lips because tic clocks toc don't make a toctic difference to kisskiss you and to kiss me)
The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn't hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster: places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster. I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went. The art of losing isn't hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster. —Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident the art of losing's not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Listen with the night falling we are saying thank you we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings we are running out of the glass rooms with our mouths full of food to look at the sky and say thank you we are standing by the water thanking it smiling by the windows looking out in our directions back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging after funerals we are saying thank you after the news of the dead whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you over telephones we are saying thank you in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators remembering wars and the police at the door and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you in the banks we are saying thank you in the faces of the officials and the rich and of all who will never change we go on saying thank you thank you with the animals dying around us our lost feelings we are saying thank you with the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank you we are saying thank you and waving dark though it is
I whispered, "I am too young," And then, "I am old enough"; Wherefore I threw a penny To find out if I might love. "Go and love, go and love, young man, If the lady be young and fair," Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, I am looped in the loops of her hair. Oh, love is the crooked thing, There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it, For he would be thinking of love Till the stars had run away, And the shadows eaten the moon. Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, One cannot begin it too soon.
for Aya at fifteen Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself upside down across the sofa, reading, one hand idly sunk into a bowl of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on. I think they are growing gills, swimming up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl, my slim miracle, they multiply. In the black hours when I lie sleepless, near drowning, dread-heavy, your face is the bright lure I look for, love's hook piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.