Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night by Walt Whitman 
Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses,
(never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle-field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade—not a tear,
not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug
grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

"Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night" by Walt Whitman. Public domain.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Goosefeathers

Goosefeathers by Donald Hall
(Thanks to The Writers Almanac) 

When I was twelve I sat by myself in the steamliner
with a shoebox of sandwiches and deviled eggs
my mother made, and ate everything right away
as the train headed north by the Sound where trestles
of derelict trolley lines roosted nations of seagulls.
From South Station I took a taxi across Boston
to a shabby, black locomotive with coal car
that pulled two rickety coaches. It puffed past
long lines of empty commuter trains, past
suburbs thick with houses, past the milltowns
of Lawrence and Lowell, until the track curved
into New Hampshire's pastures of Holstein cattle.
My grandfather waited in his overalls at the depot
with horse and buggy to carry me to the farmhouse,
to fricasseed chicken, corn on the cob, and potatoes.
At nine o'clock, after shutting up the chickens
from skunk and fox, we sat by the cabinet radio
for Gabriel Heatter booming news of the war.
I slept through the night on my goosefeather bed.

"Goosefeathers" by Donald Hall, from The Back Chamber. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jamaica

Thanks to The Writers Almanac -- Jamaica by Michael Lind

In Jamaica, no grief's allowed.
There the rooftops are smile-white and the terrace pools,
          chairs and shirts are horizon-blue;
laughter's greener and song blacker than dragonflies;
          talk's resilient as hammock string.
Sorrow, though, has a home anywhere people are.
          From the suitcases tourists bring
it will wriggle and slip. It will be swept ashore,
          gripping branches a storm broke off.
I've not visited that island, and yet I'm sure,
          even there in Jamaica, on
afternoons when the blank porcelain dazzle breaks
          into chips on a million waves,
lizardlike on a wall sadness will blink and crawl.

"Jamaica" by Michael Lind, from Parallel Lives. © Etruscan Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Being a Little Well

Being a Little Well -  By Brian Aldiss

Couldn't you be a little well
For a little while longer?
Oh how I love your presence
And your virtue
If you could be just a little stronger
Would that hurt you?
All fair things perish, we know,
Yet death is a horrid surprise –
Just to see you so low
It rips my heart in two.
Tears burst unprompted from my eyes
Is there nothing I can do?
No, there's nothing I can do.
Just for a little while
Be a little well, love, if you can
Grant me that lovely smile.
I promise I'll smile too.
As I hold your frail hand, I'll
Hold back the chill that will befall.
Can't you be a little well at all?

from Mortal Morning, published by Flambard Press (£12.99). - Thanks to The Guardian