Posts tagged ‘poetry’

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Lay of the Trilobite by May Kendall (Emma Goldworth Kendall)

A mountain’s giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.

So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!

And then, quite natural and free
Out of his rocky bed,
That Trilobite he spoke to me
And this is what he said:
‘I don’t know how the thing was done,
Although I cannot doubt it;
But Huxley – he if anyone
Can tell you all about it;

‘How all your faiths are ghosts and dreams,
How in the silent sea
Your ancestors were Monotremes –
Whatever these may be;
How you evolved your shining lights
Of wisdom and perfection
From Jelly-Fish and Trilobites
By Natural Selection.

‘You’ve Kant to make your brains go round,
Hegel you have to clear them,
You’ve Mr Browning to confound,
And Mr Punch to cheer them!
The native of an alien land
You call a man and brother,
And greet with hymn-book in one hand
And pistol in the other!

‘You’ve Politics to make you fight
As if you were possessed:
You’ve cannon and you’ve dynamite
To give the nations rest:
The side that makes the loudest din
Is surest to be right,
And oh, a pretty fix you’re in!’
Remarked the Trilobite.

‘But gentle, stupid, free from woe
I lived among my nation,
I didn’t care – I didn’t know
That I was a Crustacean.*
I didn’t grumble, didn’t steal,
I never took to rhyme:
Salt water was my frugal meal,
And carbonate of lime.’

Reluctantly I turned away,
No other word he said;
An ancient Trilobite, he lay
Within his rocky bed.
I did not answer him, for that
Would have annoyed my pride:
I merely bowed, and raised my hat,
But in my heart I cried: –

‘I wish our brains were not so good,
I wish our skulls were thicker,
I wish that Evolution could
Have stopped a little quicker;
For oh, it was a happy plight,
Of liberty and ease,
To be a simple Trilobite
In the Silurian seas!’

*He was not a Crustacean. He has since discovered he was an Arachnid, or something similar. But he says it does not matter. He says they told him wrong once, and they may again.

From: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/oct/27/poem-of-the-week-the-lay-of-the-trilobite-by-may-kendall

Date: 1885

By: May Kendall (Emma Goldworth Kendall) (1861-1943)

Advertisements
Saturday, 21 October 2017

Evolution: II by Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen

I am the child of earth and air and sea!
My lullaby by hoarse Silurian storms
Was chanted; and through endless changing forms
Of plant and bird and beast unceasingly
The toiling ages wrought to fashion me.
Lo, these large ancestors have left a breath
Of their strong souls in mine, defying death
And change. I grow and blossom as the tree,
And ever feel the deep-delving earthy roots
Binding me daily to the common clay.
But with its airy impulse upward shoots
My life into the realms of light and day;
And thou, O Sea, stern mother of my soul,
Thy tempests sing in me, thy billows roll!

From: Boyesen, Hjalmar Hjorth, “Evolution” in Popular Science Monthly, Volume 23, June 1883, p. 238.
(https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Popular_Science_Monthly/Volume_23/June_1883/Evolution)

Date: 1883

By: Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (1848-1895)

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Last Fire by Herbert Sherman Gorman

You saw the last fires burning on the hill
In that far autumn twilight when we took
The future by the hand through woods as still
As your heart is to-day, and crossed the brook.

The brook that gurgled through the quietude
Was just a slender stream that sauntered on.
How were we to know the thing we should—
That we had crossed our narrow Rubicon?

And after, in the shadow of the leaves,
When your great eyes grew with the growing night
They left the hollows where the twilight grieves
And mirrored back the bonfire on the height.

And what quick flame was in your eyes I knew;
And how the moment caught us on our way
Is Time’s own story written for a few
In dust of ashes in your eyes to-day.

From: Gorman, Herbert S., “The Last Fire” in The Outlook, 12 July 1922, p. 449.
(https://www.unz.org/Pub/Outlook-1922jul12-00449?View=PDF)

Date: 1922

By: Herbert Sherman Gorman (1893-1954)

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Perth: Riverside with Swans by Kim Young-Moo

I want to build a nest and spend some time here.
Becoming a water bird

I want to visit that forest of masts
across the river, moored with sails furled.

No matter how dazzlingly the lake waters
shine somewhere in the sky

today,
I want to go flying

low, low
over the blue rippling waves

feeling the wind blowing on my breast
like a bare winter tree

on some snow-covered mountain slope.

From: http://cordite.org.au/essays/kim-young-moon-and-perth/

Date: 2001 (original); 2001 (translation)

By: Kim Young-Moo (1944-2001)

Translated by: Brother Anthony of Taizé (1942- ) and Jongsook Lee (1952- )

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Summer by Ko Un

The sightless sunflower follows the sun.
The sightless moonflower blossoms in moonlight.
Foolishness.
That’s all they know.
Dragonflies fly by day
beetles by night.

From: http://apjjf.org/-Brother-Anthony-of-Taize-/3420/article.html

Date: 19?? (original in Korean); 1997 (translation in English)

By: Ko Un (1933- )

Translated by: Brother Anthony of Taizé (1942- ) and Kim Young-Moo (1944-2001)

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Getting a Second Opinion by Adrian C. Louis

I’ve just bought you a new winter coat
and we’re temporarily sane,
cruising two blocks down the street
from K-Mart in Rapid City.
Three young Indian boys,
fourteen, maybe fifteen years
old and living the thug life
are strolling across the busy street
making cars stop and I slam on
the brakes and give them the finger
and they flash gang signs and one pulls
a small, silver gun and I stomp on the gas
and in the rearview mirror I see them
laughing and I know positively
by the fear in your eyes that
not only is the white man’s God
dead, but the Great Spirit is too.

From: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/louis/online.htm

Date: 1997

By: Adrian C. Louis (1946- )

Monday, 16 October 2017

Speaking in Tongues by Mary Rose O’Reilley

I go to church every Sunday
though I don’t believe a word of it,
because the longing for God
is a prayer said in the bones.

When people call on Jesus
I move to a place in the body
where such words rise,
one of the valleys
where hope pins itself to desire;
we have so much landscape like that
you’d think we were made
to sustain a cry.

When the old men around me
lift their hands
as though someone has cornered them,
giving it all away,
I remember a dock on the estuary,
watching a heron get airborne against the odds.
It’s the transitional moment that baffles me—
how she composes her rickety
grocery cart of a body
to make that flight.

The pine siskin, stalled on a windy coast,
remembers the woods
she will long for when needs arise; so
the boreal forest composes itself in my mind:
first as a rift, absence,
then in a tumble of words
undone from sense, like the stutter
you hear  when somebody falls
over the cliff of language.  Call it a gift.

From: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/speaking-tongues

Date: 2005

By: Mary Rose O’Reilley (1944- )

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Country Midwife: A Day by Ai Ogawa (Florence Anthony)

I bend over the woman.
This is the third time between abortions.
I dip a towel into a bucket of hot water
and catch the first bit of blood,
as the blue-pink dome of a head breaks through.
A scraggy, red child comes out of her into my hands
like warehouse ice sliding down a chute.

It’s done, the stink of birth, Old Grizzly
rears up on his hind legs in front of me
and I want to go outside,
but the air smells the same there too.
The woman’s left eye twitches
and beneath her, a stain as orange as sunrise
spreads over the sheet.
I lift my short, blunt fingers to my face
and I let her bleed, Lord, I let her bleed.

From: https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~cinichol/GovSchool/Ai.htm

Date: 1973

By: Ai Ogawa (Florence Anthony) (1947-2010)

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Widow by Martha Keller Rowland

Never give their clothes away
If you want the dead to haunt you
Dusk or dark or dawn or day,
Bar no ghost from glass, they say,
If you want the dead to want you.

Leave them there by the birchwood bed,
Coat and breeches and shirt and shoes.
Fit the living or fit the dead,
Hang them up on the hooks, I said—
The hooks he used to use.

Set the table with fork and knife.
Plump the pillow and coverlid.
Where would a man who loved his wife
Lie except where he lay in life—
Same as he always did?

Leave the mirror upon the nail.
Yes, I know that the first one who
Looks in it will perceive the pale
Dead therein—and his heart will fail.
Do what I tell you to.

Set the mirror the way it was.
Let the crepe that has hid it fall.
What thing better could come to pass
Than to find my dead in the looking-glass
Hanging upon the wall?

From: Harper’s Magazine, Volume 181, 1940, Harper & Brothers, Publishers: New York and London, p. 171.
(https://archive.org/details/harpersmagazine181junalde)

Date: 1940

By: Martha Keller Rowland (1902-1971)

Friday, 13 October 2017

Transit by Richard Purdy Wilbur

A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her town-house door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.

What use to claim that as she tugs her gloves
A phantom heraldry of all the loves
Blares from the lintel? That the staggered sun
Forgets, in his confusion, how to run?

Still, nothing changes as her perfect feet
Click down the walk that issues in the street,
Leaving the stations of her body there
Like whips that map the countries of the air.

From: https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/transit

Date: 1979

By: Richard Purdy Wilbur (1921- )