Get with child a mandrake root,
Tel me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging
Serves to advance an honest mind
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Lives a woman true, and fair
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at net door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter
False, ere I come, to two, or three
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window,
Boughs strain against the sky
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions
our teacher asked this question every fall:
If there were a fire in a museum
which would you save, a Rembrandt painting or an old woman who hadn’t many
years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs caring little for pictures or old age
we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
and always half-heartedly. Sometimes
the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face leaving her usual kitchen to wander
some drafty, half imagined museum.
why not let the woman decide herself?
Linda, the teacher would report, eschews
the burdens of responsibility.
This fall in a real museum I stand
before a real Rembrandt, old woman,
or nearly so, myself. The colors
within this frame are darker than autumn, darker even than winter—the browns of earth, though earth’s most radiant elements burn through the canvas. I know now that woman and painting and season are almost one
and all beyond saving by children.
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls
because anyone who had heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember. Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.
Come closer. This song
it is a boring song
but it works every time.
kicked you out, suddenly, and her
kids loved it.Then you were fired, and we
grinned inside, the way people grinned when Nixon’s helicopter lifted off the South
Lawn for the last time.We were tickled
to think of your office taken away,
your secretaries taken away,
your lunches with three double bourbons,
your pencils, your reams of paper.Would they take your suits back, too, those dark
carcasses hung in your closet, and the black
noses of your shoes with their large pores?
annihilation, Father. Now I
pass the bums in doorways, the white
slugs of their bodies gleaming through slits in their
suits of compressed silt, the stained
flippers of their hands, the underwater
fire of their eyes, ships gone down with the
lanterns lit, and I wonder who took it and
took it from them in silence until they had
given it all away and had nothing
left but this.
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal- yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love! For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d, A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
To what green altar, O mysterious priest, Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore, Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? And, little town, thy streets for evermore Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed; Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” – –
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster
next-to-last, of three loved houses went
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continuant.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too had to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! The sea that bares her bosom to the moon:
The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.
with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then? But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
‘Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.
Phi Beta Kappa, sought for every dance; Captured symbolic logic and the glance
Of men whose interest was their sole reward.
To antique crystal and authentic pearls,
Scorned Wagner, praised the Degas dancing girls,
And when she might have thought, conversed instead.
Saw catalogues of domes and tapestry,
Rejected an impoverished marquis,
And learned to tell real Wedgwood from a fraud.
A bright young man whose pearl cufflinks were real. They had an ideal marriage, and ideal
But lonely children in an ideal house.
Her children gone, her husband one year dead, Toying with plots to kill time and re-wed Illusions of lost opportunity
Tenets of every mind except her own.
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of day
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
for what it may not be
who must perforce perceive
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
to start her death-defying leap
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
By this great light upon our Minds Italicized— as ’twere.
Between Her final Room
And Rooms where Those to be alive Tomorrow were, a Blame
It was a narrow time—
Too jostled were Our Souls to speak At length the notice came.
Then lightly as a Reed
Bent to the Water, struggled scarce— Consented, and was dead—
And then an awful leisure was
Our faith to regulate
is whipping the boy again
and shouting to the neighborhood
her goodness and his wrongs.
pleads in dusty zinnias,
while she in spite of crippling fat
pursues and corners him.
boy till the stick breaks
in her hand. His tears are rainy weather
to woundlike memories:
of knees, the writhing struggle
to wrench free, the blows, the fear
worse than blows that hateful
no longer knew or loved . . .
Well, it is over now, it is over,
and the boy sobs in his room,
a tree, exhausted, purged—
avenged in part for lifelong hidings
she has had to bear.
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”
That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed- and gazed- but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
As old medallions to the thumb,
Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—
A poem should be wordless As the flight of birds.
Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,
Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves. Memory by memory the mind–
A poem should be motionless in time As the moon climbs.
For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea–
A poem should not mean But be.
upon Order now
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearnèd in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.