Archive for May, 2020

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Hospice Rounds: In Which I Explain Signs of Dying by Eileen Cleary

If instead he perches on his bed while
his grandson bolts through the room
toting a Mo Willems book and duck.
If chickadees seet. Or an owl speaks.
If pine warblers blur. If he won’t stir
to watch the birdbath from the corner
nook. If whippoorwill and still.
When it rains and petrichor doesn’t lure
him to the pitch pines. If full count
in the ninth and the Red Sox need a hit.
If he lists. If he squints. Before you lean
and whisper, Let go. He’ll send
signals, you’ll know.


Date: 2020

By: Eileen Cleary (19??- )

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Femmes Sauvages by Johnny Clewell

When I grow old, grandmother,
I’ll be the one to live alone in the woods
with my herbs and roots and volumes of Rilke,
baskets of yarn and gardening tools,
old love letters tied into bundles,
old red hood in a bottom drawer.
When I grow old, I’ll be the one
sunning myself on the front porch step,
listening for fox and lark and owl
and the sound of my granddaughter’s voice.
When the time comes, I will know the wolf
who comes to call at the garden gate,
who asks for wine and poetry
and a place in my narrow bed.
When he eyes my granddaughter, this time
I’ll be the one who pounces first.
Oh grandmother, what big teeth you have!
the child will say to me.
All the better for you, my dear!
And I’ll gobble that bastard up.


Date: 1986

By: Johnny Clewell (19??- )

Friday, 29 May 2020

To My Beloved Vesta by Charles William Shirley Brooks

Miss, I’m a Pensive Protoplasm,
Born in some pre-historic chasm.
I, and my humble fellow-men
Are hydrogen, and oxygen,
And nitrogen, and carbon too,
And so is Jane, and so are you.
In stagnant water swarm our brothers
And sisters, but we’ve many others,
Among them animalculae,
And lizard’s eggs — and so, you see,
My darking Vesta, show no pride,
Nor turn coquettish head aside,
Our pedigrees, as thus made out,
Are no great things to boast about.
The only comfort seems to be
In this — philosophers agree
That how a Protoplasm’s made
Is mystery outside their trade.
And we are parts, so say the sages,
Of life come down from Long Past Ages.
So let us haste in Hymen’s bands
To join our protoplastic hands,
And spend our gay organic life
As happy man and happy wife.


Date: 1869

By: Charles William Shirley Brooks (29 May 2020)

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Oriflamme by Jessie Redmon Fauset

I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at the stars and groan, and I would say, ‘Mammy, what makes you groan so?’ And she would say, ‘I am groaning to think  of my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don’t know where they be. I look up at the stars and they look up at the stars!’ —Sojourner Truth

I think I see her sitting, bowed and black,
Stricken and seared with slavery’s mortal scars,
Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet
Still looking at the stars.

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,
Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom’s bars,
Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set,
Still visioning the stars!


Date: 1920

By: Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961)

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Southern Mansion by Arnaud “Arna” Wendell Bontemps

Poplars are standing there still as death
And ghosts of dead men
Meet their ladies walking
Two by two beneath the shade
And standing on the marble steps.

There is a sound of music echoing
Through the open door
And in the field there is
Another sound tinkling in the cotton:
Chains of bondmen dragging on the ground.

The years go back with an iron clank,
A hand is on the gate,
A dry leaf trembles on the wall.
Ghosts are walking.
They have broken roses down
And poplars stand there still as death.


Date: 1931

By: Arnaud “Arna” Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973)

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Sonnet IV: To Poverty by Amos Simon Cottle

Low in a barren vale I see thee sit
Cowering, while Winter blows his shivering blast,
Over thy reedy fire—pale, comfortless!
Blest independence, with elastic foot,
Spurns thy low dwelling, whilst the sons of joy
Turn from thy clouded brow, or, with a scowl,
Contemptuous, mark thee. At thy elbow stand
Famine and wan disease! two meagre forms,
Thy only visitants, who, though repelled,
Officious tend thee—wretched eremite!
Around thy cell, ah! wherefore see I graved
The sacred names of genius? Spenser here
Found his last refuge! Otway! Butler, too!
And Scotia’s last, not least, heroic bard!

From: Cottle, Joseph, Malvern Hills, with Minor Poems, and Essays, Fourth Edition, Volume the Second, 1829, T. Cadell: London, p. 266.

Date: 1829 (published)

By: Amos Simon Cottle (1766-1800)

Monday, 25 May 2020

The Affectionate Heart by Joseph Cottle

Let the great man, his treasures possessing,
Pomp and splendour for ever attend:
I prize not the shadowy blessing;
I ask — the affectionate friend.

Tho’ foibles may sometimes o’ertake him,
His footsteps from wisdom depart;
Yet, my spirit shall never forsake him,
If he own the affectionate heart.

Affection! thou soother of care,
Without the unfriended we rove;
Thou canst make e’en the desert look fair,
And thy voice is the voice of the dove.

‘Mid the anguish that preys on the breast
And the storms of mortality’s state;
What shall lull the afflicted to rest,
But the joys that on sympathy wait?

What is Fame, bidding Envy defiance,
The idol and bane of mankind;
What is wit, what is learning or science,
To the heart that is stedfast and kind?

Even Genius may weary the sight,
By too fierce and too constant a blaze;
But Affection, mild planet of night!
Grows lovelier the longer we gaze.

It shall thrive when the flattering forms,
That encircle creation decay;
It shall live mid the wide-wasting storms
That bear all undistinguishe’ away.

When Time, at the end of his race,
Shall expire with expiring mankind;
It shall stand on its permanent base’
It shall last till the wreck of the mind.

From: Southey, Robert; Coleridge, Samuel Taylor; and Lamb, Charles (eds.), The Annual Anthology, Volume I. 1799, 1799, Biggs and Co: Bristol, pp. 83-84.

Date: 1799

By: Joseph Cottle (1770-1853)

Sunday, 24 May 2020

My Mother by Leonard George Wolf

My Mother used to say:
Laughter and light—
That’s all it takes to deal with life.

And, with that,
She became urgently busy,
Worked like a horse,
Cooking, washing,
Bedroom to cellar,
Cupboard to attic,
Windows and walls,

Until her hands were like the hands
Of a day laborer:

Out of the water
Into the dough,
Out of the dough,
Into the water.

And running, running
Running like a heavy bird
Newly created and already sick
That hardly knows what food
It ought to eat

Well . . .

When she came to die
It’s true that she had, indeed,
A golden candelabrum for
Her Chanukahs,
But, as for laughter . . .


An ugly story.


Date: 1959 (original in Yiddish); 1959 (translation in English)

By: Leonard George Wolf (1923-2019)

Translated by: Leonard George Wolf (1923-2019)

Saturday, 23 May 2020

For Years I Wallowed by Itzik Manger

For years I wallowed about in the world,
Now I’m going home to wallow there.
With a pair of shoes and the shirt on my back,
And the stick in my hand that goes with me everywhere.

I’ll not kiss your dust as that great poet did,
Though my heart, like his, is filled with song and grief
How can I kiss your dust? I am your dust.
And how, I ask you, can I kiss myself?

Still dressed in my shabby clothes
I’ll stand and gape at the blue Kinneret
Like a roving prince who has found his blue
Though blue was in his dream when he first started.

I’ll not kiss your blue, I’ll merely stand
Silent as a shimenesre prayer myself.
How can I kiss your blue? I am your blue.
And how, I ask you, can I kiss myself?

Musing, I’ll stand before your great desert,
And hear the camels’ ancient tread as they
Sway with trade and Torah on their humps.
I’ll hear the age-old hovering wander-song
That trembles over glowing sand and dies,
And then recalls itself and does not disappear.
I’ll not kiss your sand. No, and ten times no.
How can I kiss your sand? I am your sand.
And how, I ask you, can I kiss myself?


Date: 1958 (original in Yiddish); 1984 (translation in English)

By: Itzik Manger (1901-1969)

Translated by: Leonard George Wolf (1923-2019)

Friday, 22 May 2020

Sonnet XXIX by Helen Joy Davidman

There was a man who found a naked tree
Sleeping in winter woods, and brought her home,
And tended her a monthin charity
Until she woke, and filled his quiet room

With petals like a storm of silver light,
Bursting, blazing, blended all of pearl
And moonshine; he, in wonder and delight,
Patted her magic boughs and said: Good girl.

Thereafter, still obedient to the summer,
The tree worked at her trade, until behold
A summer miracle of red and gold,
Apples of the Hesperides upon her,
Sweeter than Eden and its vanished bowers…
He said: No, no, I only wanted flowers.

From: Davidman, Joy and King, Don W. (ed.), A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis and Other Poems, 2015, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan, Cambridge, UK, p. 299.

Date: ?1954-1955

By: Helen Joy Davidman (1915-1960)