Archive for ‘20th Century’

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Each in His Own Tongue by William Herbert Carruth

A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
And caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty
And a face turned from the clod, —
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.

A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden-rod, —
Some of us call it Autumn,
And others call it God.

Like tides on a crescent sea-beach,
When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
Come welling and surging in:
Come from the mystic ocean,
Whose rim no foot has trod, —
Some of us call it Longing,
And others call it God.

A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod, —
Some call it Consecration,
And others call it God.

From: Carruth, William Herbert, Each in His Own Tongue and Other Poems, 1908, G. P. Putnam’s Sons: New York and London, pp. 2-3.
(https://archive.org/details/eachinhisowntong0000carr/page/2/mode/2up)

Date: 1902

By: William Herbert Carruth (1859-1924)

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

His Elderly Father as a Young Man by Leo Dangel

This happened before I met your mother:
I took Jennie Johanson to a summer dance,
and she sent me a letter, a love letter,
I guess, even if the word love wasn’t in it.
She wrote that she had a good time
and didn’t want the night to end.
At home, she lay down on her bed
but stayed awake, listening to the songs
of morning birds outside her window.
I read that letter a hundred times
and kept it in a cigar box
with useless things I had saved:
a pocket knife with an imitation pearl handle
and a broken blade,
a harmonica I never learned to play,
one cuff link, an empty rifle shell.

When your mother and I got married,
I threw the letter away –
if I had kept it, she might wonder.
But I wanted to keep it
and even thought about hiding places,
maybe in the barn or the tool shed,
but what if it were ever found?
I knew of no way to explain why
I would keep such a letter, much less
why I would take the trouble to hide it.

From: https://wordsfortheyear.com/tag/leo-dangel/

Date: 1997

By: Leo Dangel (1941-2016)

Monday, 26 September 2022

A Palinode by Philip Ian Hodgins

My second childhood has begun
but the rhythms and the rhymes aren’t quite right.
The way my cells increase
is not unlike the vague, unbitten child
reaching up to childhood’s end.
But with one difference.
My half a bucketful of blood
is filled with rumours of an early death
and I am alone in a room
full of dying flowers.
I think it is the body’s palinode
and as far as I can see there is no God.

From: Hodgins, Philip, New Selected Poems, 2000, Untapped: Sydney, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1995

By: Philip Ian Hodgins (1959-1995)

Sunday, 18 September 2022

Empty Bed Blues by Bessie Smith

I woke up this mornin’
With an awful achin’ head,
I woke up this mornin’
With an awful achin’ head,
My new man had left me,
Just a room and an empty bed.

Bought me a coffee grinder,
The best one I could find.
Bought me a coffee grinder,
The best one I could find.
Oh, he could grind my coffee,
‘Cause he had a brand-new grind.

He’s deep, deep diver,
With a stroke that can’t go wrong.
He’s deep, deep diver,
With a stroke that can’t go wrong.
Oh, he can touch the bottom,
And his wind holds out so long.

He knows how to thrill me,
And he thrills me night and day.
He knows how to thrill me,
And he thrills me night and day.
He’s got a new way of lovin’,
Almost takes my breath away.

Lord, he’s got that sweet somethin’,
And I told my gal-friend Lu.
He’s got that sweet somethin’,
And I told my gal-friend Lu.
For the way she’s ravin’,
She must have gone and tried it too.

When my bed is empty,
Makes me feel awful mean and blue.
When my bed is empty,
Makes me feel awful mean and blue.
My springs are getting rusty,
Living single like I do.

Bought him a blanket,
Pillow for his head at night.
Bought him a blanket,
Pillow for his head at night.
Then I bought him a mattress,
So he could lay just right.

He came home one ev’nin’,
With his spirit way up high.
He came home one ev’nin’,
With his spirit way up high.
What he had to give me
Made me wring my hands and cry.

He gave me a lesson
That I never had before.
He gave me a lesson
That I never had before.
When he got through teachin’,
From my elbows down was sore.

He boiled first my cabbage,
And he made it awful hot.
He boiled first my cabbage,
And he made it awful hot.
When he put in the bacon,
It overflowed the pot.

When you get good lovin’,
Never go and spread the news.
When you get good lovin’,
Never go and spread the news.
Else he’ll double-cross you
And leave you with them empty bed blues.

From: https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/empty-bed-blues

Date: 1928

By: Bessie Smith (1894-1937)

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Exiled from Mona by Goronwy Owen

May God in Heaven be my tower,
For outcast of man am I;
By hope forsaken and power,
Poor and in misery.
Dear Mona of my fathers,
Alas for my lonely lot,
Where once I played there gathers
A people that know me not.
Where I had friends an hundred,
Scarce one would be taking the hand
Of a noteless bard far sundered
From Mona’s lovely strand.
Her bold old tongue ne’er greets me,
Stilled is her wild sweet strain,
And when their memory meets me
My pulse is athrill with pain.
And O! I am so breast-stricken,
So heart-full of sorrow sharp,
Bright song no longer can quicken
One chord of joy on my harp.
Yet as I to Zion resemble
Our Mona, my Muse takes wings,
And my hands once more are a-tremble
Through all of its sighing strings.

From: Graves, Alfred Perceval, Welsh Poetry Old and New, in English Verse, 1912, Longmans, Green, and Co: London and New York, p. 49.
(https://archive.org/details/welshpoetryoldne00graviala/page/48/mode/2up?q=goronwy)

Date: 1754 (original in Welsh); 1912 (translation in English)

By: Goronwy Owen (1723-1769)

Translated by: Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931)

Sunday, 11 September 2022

The Damselfly by August Kleinzahler

A petal of jasmine caught up
by the breeze
or morning glory aflutter
between the four o’clock and naked lady?

No, not a flower at all,
a butterfly,
showing suddenly white
against the green of a leaf.

And that blue there, cobalt
a moment, then iridescent,
fragile as a lady’s pin
hovering above the nasturtium?

Ah, the older poet tells me,
that’s a damselfly.

And if you just slowed down
and looked,
you’d see all sorts of things:

midmorning toward the end of summer,
head swimming in the garden’s perfume

after a quick, surprise rain.

From: Kleinzahler, August, “The Damselfly” in Poetry, Volume 164, Issue 5, August 1994, p. 263.
(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=164&issue=5&page=19)

Date: 1994

By: August Kleinzahler (1949- )

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Solitude by Babette Deutsch

There is the loneliness of peopled places:
Streets roaring with their human flood; the crowd
That fills bright rooms with billowing sounds and faces,
Like foreign music, overshrill and loud.
There is the loneliness of one who stands
Fronting the waste under the cold sea-light,
A wisp of flesh against the endless sands,
Like a lost gull in solitary flight.
Single is all up-rising and down-lying;
Struggle or fear or silence none may share;
Each is alone in bearing, and in dying;
Conquest is uncompanioned as despair.
Yet I have known no loneliness like this,
Locked in your arms and bent beneath your kiss.

From: https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/solitude-57

Date: 1944

By: Babette Deutsch (1869-1945)

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Reconciliation by Else Lasker-Schüler

(To My Mother)

A great star will fall into my lap. . .
We would hold vigil tonight,

Praying in languages
That are carven like harps.

We would be reconciled tonight—
So fully God overwhelms us.

Our hearts are only children,
Eager for weary-sweet slumber.

And our lips would kiss each other,
Why are you fearful?

Does not your heart border upon mine—
Your blood always dyes my cheeks red.

We would be reconciled tonight,
If we clasp each other, we shall not perish.

A great star will fall into my lap.

From: https://poets.org/poem/reconciliation

Date: 1911 (original in German); 1923 (translation in English)

By: Else Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945)

Translated by: Babette Deutsch (1895-1982) and Avrahm Yarmolinsky (1890-1975)

Thursday, 1 September 2022

The New Decalogue by Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Have but one God: thy knees were sore
If bent in prayer to three or four.
Adore no images save those
The coinage of thy country shows.

Take not the Name in vain. Direct
Thy swearing unto some effect.

Thy hand from Sunday work be held –
Work not at all unless compelled.

Honor thy parents, and perchance
Their wills thy fortunes may advance.

Kill not—death liberates thy foe
From persecution’s constant woe.

Kiss not thy neighbor’s wife. Of course
There’s no objection to divorce.

To steal were folly, for ’tis plain
In cheating there is greater pain.

Bear not false witness. Shake your head
And say that you have “heard it said.”

Who stays to covet ne’er will catch
An opportunity to snatch.

From: https://www.blueridgejournal.com/poems/ab-deca.htm

Date: 1911

By: Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842-?1914)

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

The Second by Clayton Eshleman

Old ladies
poke
up path,
a dying fire,

bluely
by pines to
where tombs
rise, ex-

claiming
over fall
buds, a
grandbaby

washed
the sky alters
their pleas
I see

walking up
the road
my wife
naked, her

arms filled
with wild
grasses
carrots beans.

From: Eshleman, Clayton, “The Second” in Poetry, Volume 103, No. 6, March 1964, p. 361.
(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=103&issue=6&page=23)

Date: 1964

By: Clayton Eshleman (1935-2021)