Sunday, February 22, 2015

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

What lips my lips have kissed... by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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 the 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.

"What lips my lips have kissed..." by Edna St. Vincent Millay from Selected Poems. © The Library of America, 2003.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Blizzard

The Blizzard by Phillis Levin

Now that the worst is over, they predict
Something messy and difficult, though not
Life-threatening. Clearly we needed
To stock up on water and candles, making
Tureens of soup and things that keep
When electricity fails and phone lines fall.
Igloos rise on air conditioners, gargoyles
Fly and icicles shatter. Frozen runways,
Lines in markets, and paralyzed avenues
Verify every fear. But there is warmth
In this sudden desire to sleep,
To surrender to our common condition
With joy, watching hours of news
Devoted to weather. People finally stop
To talk to each other—the neighbors
We didn’t know were always here.
Today they are ready for business,
Armed with a new vocabulary,
Casting their saga in phrases as severe
As last night’s snow: damage assessment,
Evacuation, emergency management,
The shift of the wind matters again,
And we are so simple, so happy to hear
The scrape of a shovel next door.

“The Blizzard” by Phillis Levin from Mercury. © Penguin, 2001. Reprinted with permission. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

You Can Have It - Philip Levine

You Can Have It by Philip Levine 

My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.

The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.

Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,

and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labors, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?

All night at the ice plant he had fed
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I
stacked cases of orange soda for the children
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time

with always two more waiting. We were twenty
for such a short time and always in
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty.

In 1948 in the city of Detroit, founded
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died,
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace,

for there was no such year, and now
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers,
calendars, doctors’ appointments, bonds,
wedding certificates, drivers licenses.

The city slept. The snow turned to ice.
The ice to standing pools or rivers
racing in the gutters. Then bright grass rose
between the thousands of cracked squares,

and that grass died. I give you back 1948.
I give you all the years from then
to the coming one. Give me back the moon
with its frail light falling across a face.

Give me back my young brother, hard
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse
for God and burning eyes that look upon
all creation and say, You can have it.

The NY Times - An Appraisal of Levine, who died February 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Hound Of Heaven - Francis Thompson

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.           
      Up vistaed hopes I sped;
      And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
  From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
      But with unhurrying chase,        
      And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
      They beat—and a Voice beat
      More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’     

Sunday, February 8, 2015

So This Is Death

So this is death - these harrowing things,
Room of light - angels' wings
Noise and tumult, beating loud -
Wings surround me, creatures wild.
Bright light opens all within,
Showing faults and failures - sin.
My soul turns over, heart on fire,
So this is death, this funeral pyre.
Gabriel aims his deadly dart
And pierces through my beating heart.
Thunderous music, unending pain.
This then is death - and birth again.

Then blessedly the tumult dies.
I float above unseeing eyes.
Sudden quiet - some new place
Stream of water, hills of grace,
There stands the Lord of glory, come
To gather in this poor poor crumb.

Mary Murphy