The Coming of Light
Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.
by Mark Strand
I was satisfied with haiku until I met you,
jar of octopus, cuckoo’s cry, 5-7-5,
but now I want a Russian novel,
a 50-page desc
another 75 of what you think staring out
a window. I don’t care about the plot
although I suppose there will have to be one,
the usual separation of the lovers, turbulent
seas, danger of decommission in spite
of constant war, time in gulps and glitches
passing, squibs of threnody, a fallen nest,
speckled eggs somehow uncrushed, the sled
outracing the wolves on the steppes, the huge
glittering ball where all that matters
is a kiss at the end of a dark hall.
At dawn the officers ride back to the garrison,
one without a glove, the entire last chapter
about a necklace that couldn’t be worn
inherited by a great-niece
along with the love letters bound in silk.
by Dean Young
As though touching her
might make him known to himself,
as though his hand moving
over her body might find who
he is, as though he lay inside her, a country
his hand's traveling uncovered,
as though such a country arose
continually up out of her
to meet his hand's setting forth and setting forth.
And the places on her body have no names.
And she is what's immense about the night.
And their clothes on the floor are arranged
by Li-Young Lee
Everything you didn’t understand
Made you what you are. Strangers
Whose eye you caught on the street
Studying you. Perhaps they were all-seeing
Illuminati? They knew what you didn’t,
And left you troubled like a strange dream.
Not even the light stayed the same.
Where did all that hard glare come from?
And the scent, as if mythical beings
Were being groomed and fed stalks of hay
On these roofs drifting among the evening clouds.
You didn’t understand a thing!
You loved the crowds at the end of the day
That brought you so many mysteries.
There was always someone you were meant to meet
Who for some reason wasn’t waiting.
Or perhaps they were? But not here, friend.
You should have crossed the street
And followed that obviously demented woman
With the long streak of blood-red hair
Which the sky took up like a distant cry.
by Charles Simic
Sleep softly my old love
my beauty in the dark
night is a dream we have
as you know as you know
night is a dream you know
an old love in the dark
around you as you go
without end as you know
in the night where you go
sleep softly my old love
without end in the dark
in the love that you know
by W.S. Merwin
I’ve come back to the country where I was happy
changed. Passion puts no terrible strain on me now.
I wonder what will take the place of desire.
I could be the ghost of my own life returning
to the places I lived best. Walking here and there,
nodding when I see something I cared for deeply.
Now I’m in my house listening to the owls calling
and wondering if slowly I will take on flesh again.
by Linda Gregg
We weren’t exactly children again,
too many divorces, too many blood panels,
but your leaning into me was a sleeping bird.
Sure, there was no way to be careful enough,
even lightning can go wrong but when the smoke
blows off, we can admire the work the fire’s done
ironing out the wrinkles in favor of newer ones,
ashy furrows like the folds in the brain
that signal the switchbacks and reversals
of our thought and just as brief. Your lips
were song, your hair everywhere.
Oh unknowable, fidgeting self, how little
bother you were then, no more
than a tangerine rind. Oh unknowable
other, how I loved your smell.
by Dean Young
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.
I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.
I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.
by Anne Sexton
The window was open to the night.
You kissed me deeply
as if you needed to get in
and even if I was slow
to catch on
I felt the sense of
what you sent
and felt how far into space
you meant to go.
Around me people shift,
becoming warm as I move away,
while you—still you—
you stay still
in a way that I will
always find transporting.
by Susan Minot
Yellow Stars and Ice
I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds
and you are as far as the deepest root and wound,
and I am as far as a train at evening,
as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember.
You are as far as an unimagined animal
who, frightened by everything, never appears.
I am as far as cicadas and locusts
and you are as far as the cleanest arrow
that has sewn the wind to the light on
the birch trees. I am as far as the sleep of rivers
that stains the deepest sky between clouds,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.
You are as far as a red-marbled stream
where children cut their feet on the stones
and cry out. And I am as far as their happy
mothers, bleaching new linen on the grass
and singing, "You are as far as another life,
as far as another life are you."
And I am as far as an infinite alphabet
made from yellow stars and ice,
and you are as far as the nails of the dead man,
as far as a sailor can see at midnight
when he's drunk and the moon is an empty cup,
and I am as far as invention and you are as far as memory.
I am as far as the corners of a room where no one
has ever spoken, as far as the four lost corners
of the earth. And you are as far as the voices
of the dumb, as the broken limbs of saints
and soldiers, as the scarlet wing of the suicidal
blackbird, I am farther and farther away from you.
And you are as far as a horse without a rider
can run in six years, two months and five days.
I am as far as that rider, who rubs his eyes with
his blistered hands, who watches a ghost don his
jacket and boots and now stands naked in the road.
As far as the space between word and word,
as the heavy sleep of the perfectly loved
and the sirens of wars no one living can remember,
as far as this room, where no words have been spoken,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.
by Susan Stewart
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.
When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.
When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.
When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.
When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.
When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.
Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.
by Robert Pinsky
It may be misery not to sing at all,
And to go silent through the brimming day;
It may be misery never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.
To sing the perfect song,
And by a half-tone lost the key,
There the potent sorrow, there the grief,
The pale, sad staring of Life's Tragedy.
To have come near to the perfect love,
Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
But that which lies aside its vanity,
And gives, for thy trusting worship, truth.
This, this indeed is to be accursed,
For if we mortals love, or if we sing,
We count our joys not by what we have,
But by what kept us from that perfect thing.
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
—after Richard Brautigan's "A Candlelion Poem"
What began as wildfire ends up
on a candle wick. In reverse,
it is contained,
a lion head in a hunter's den.
Bigger than one I played
with matches and twigs and glass
in the shade.
When I was young, there was no sun
and I was afraid.
Now, in grownhood, I call the ghost
to my fragile table, my fleshy supper,
my tiny flame.
Not just any old, but THE ghost,
the last one I will be,
the future me,
finally the sharpest knife
in the drawer.
The pride is proud.
The crowd is loud, like garbage dumping
or how a brown bag ripping
sounds like a shout
that tells the town the house
is burning down.
Drowns out some small folded breath
of otherlife: O that of a lioness licking her cubs to sleep in a dream of
O that roaring, not yet and yet
and not yet dead.
So many fires start in my head.
by Brenda Shaughnessy
homage to my hips
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!
by Lucille Clifton
Most men use
clicking off the beats
of a woman’s walk;
how her lips press
against the cloth, as figs before
they split their purple skins
on the tree,
measuring how much of her walk
goes into bed at night,
the jar of the sky
being filled with the Milky Way
glittering for every time
she moves her lips
but of course
are not the obvious beats
in the song
that even a bad drummer can play
hearing the speed of the motor
- it too made up of beats -
subtle, I suppose,
as continuous sound
or the heart which of course
beats without any fan belt to keep it
it is a test,
they could not see
with those measuring eyes
though perhaps there are some
whose fingers and ears
are so close to the motors
with clean oil passing through their ears
and draining properly into the brain pan,
perhaps a few…
who can tell
what the secret bleeding of a woman
is all about
As a woman
with oily stars sticking
on all the tip points
of my skin
I could never
trust a man
who wasn’t a mechanic,
a man who uses his
by Diane Wakoski
"Love of My Flesh, Living Death"
after García Lorca
Once I wasn’t always so plain.
I was strewn feathers on a cross
of dune, an expanse of ocean
at my feet, garlands of gulls.
Sirens and gulls. They couldn’t tame you.
You know as well as they: to be
a dove is to bear the falcon
at your breast, your nights, your seas.
My fear is simple, heart-faced
above a flare of etchings, a lineage
in letters, my sudden stare. It’s you.
It’s you! sang the heart upon its mantel
pelvis. Blush of my breath, catch
of my see—beautiful bird—It’s you.
by Lorna Dee Cervantes
But now I am afraid I know too much to kill myself
Though I would still like to jump off a high bridge
At midnight, or paddle a kayak out to sea
Until I turn into a speck, or wear a necktie made of knotted rope
But people would squirm, it would hurt them in some way,
And I am too knowledgeable now to hurt people imprecisely.
No longer do I live by the law of me,
No longer having the excuse of youth or craziness,
And dying you know shows a serious ingratitude
For sunsets and beehive hairdos and the precious green corrugated
Pickles they place at the edge of your plate.
Killing yourself is wasteful, like spilling oil
At sea or not recycling all the kisses you've been given,
And anyway, who has clothes nice enough to be caught dead in?
Not me. You stay alive you stupid asshole
Because you haven't been excused,
You haven't finished though it takes a mulish stubbornness
To chew this food.
It is a stone, it is an inconvenience, it is an innocence,
And I turn against it like a record
Turns against the needle
That makes it play.
by Tony Hoagland
[I Failed Him and He Failed Me]
I failed him and he failed me—
Together our skinned glance makes a sorry bridge
For some frail specter who can't get through.
I failed him
but maybe it was the lamp that failed,
Maybe it was the meal,
Maybe it was the potter
Who would not intervene, maybe the clay,
Maybe the plateau's topaz, too steady to help,
Or was it the meat cut two days late, was it
The deciduous branch and its dull wait for bloom—
But I remember the small thing rotating in us
Towards hunger, how it did not fail to guide,
And that we made no request of our souls or all souls
Or the one perfectly distant soul
and so did not fail in what we did not do,
Never begging at the sky but moving
On the islands beneath it, hungry together by its rivers and bones.
Who told us we had failed
If not the human world gone wrong?
It was the world?
Ah, then we will fail again and again in the waters apart,
Bridging nothing, bridging nowhere
Towards what we, failures, are.
by Katie Ford
The Coming of Wisdom with Time
THOUGH leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth.
by W.B. Yeats
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