Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Wild Swans At Coole

by William Butler Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodlands paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

"The Wild Swans at Coole" by W.B. Yeats, from Collected Poems. Public domain

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sound of the Night Train by Pat Schneider

Only once in every twenty-four hours the train comes through
my town—in the dark, still center of the night. Sometimes I am
awake to hear it, its wail a long sound-tunnel back to another
time, another place.
1934. Early March in southern Missouri, northern Arkansas.
The air cold, the night wind hard in the open doorway of a
boxcar headed south toward Louisiana.
My mother told me this in the winter of her dying. Always
she said my father was just no good—her Ozark accent persisting
to the end: a woman warshed and rinched the clothes. A man
who didn't treat a woman right was just no good.
It was the heart of the Depression, she said. I never did tell this
to anyone—I was so ashamed. We wanted to go to see Papa and
Mama in the Socialist Colony down in Louisiana, but we didn't
have any money. So we rode the rails. One night a man in the
boxcar with us said, "If y'all know what's good for you, you'll jump
right now." We were scared; we jumped.
And me six months pregnant with you. Isn't that awful?
She lay very still then on her high hospital bed, the wedding
ring quilt she had pieced when her eyes were good pulled up
around her shoulders. What made me sad, listening to this story,
was the strangeness of my mother's not saying, He was just no
good. For the first time in her eighty-six years she said, He was
good to me then. I was cold, and we were sleeping on the ground. He
covered me with leaves. He covered her—covered me—with
leaves.

"Sound of the Night Train", by Pat Schneider from Another River.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting to Sleep in New Jersey

Getting to Sleep in New Jersey by John Stone

Not twenty miles from where I work,
William Williams wrote after dark,
after the last baby was caught,
knowing that what he really ought

to do was sleep. Rutherford slept,
while all night William Williams kept

scratching at his prescription pad,
dissecting the good lines from the bad.

He tested the general question whether
feet or butt or head-first ever

determines as well the length of labor
of a poem. His work is over:

bones and guts and red wheelbarrows;
the loneliness and all the errors

a heart can make the other end
of a stethoscope. Outside, the wind

corners the house with a long crow.
Silently, his contagious snow

covers the banks of the Passaic River,
where he walked once, full of fever,

tracking his solitary way
back to his office and the white day,

a peculiar kind of bright-eyed bird,
hungry for morning and the perfect word.

"Getting to Sleep in New Jersey" by John A. Stone, from Music From Apartment 8: New and Selected Poems. © Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mary Oliver

I wish I was twenty and in love with life
   and still full of beans.

Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
the roses are blooming and finding their labor
no adversity to the spirit.

Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea
shining like a song, like a body
I want to touch

though I'm not twenty
and won't be again but ah! seventy. And still
in love with life. And still
full of beans.

"Self-Portrait" by Mary Oliver, from Red Bird. © Beacon Press, 2008.