Row gently here, my gondolier, so softly wake the tide,
That not an ear on earth may hear, but hers to whom we glide.
Had Heaven but tongues to speak, as well as starry eyes to see,
Oh! think what tales ‘twould have to tell of wandering youths like me!
Now rest thee here, my gondolier, hush hush, for up I go,
To climb yon light balcony’s height, while thou keep’st watch below.
Ah! did we take for Heaven above but half such pains as we
Take day and night for woman’s love, what angels we should be!
— Thomas Moore
Those who love the most,
Do not talk of their love,
Deirdre, Iseult, Heloise,
In the fragrant gardens of heaven
Are silent, or speak if at all
Of fragile, inconsequent things.
And a woman I used to know
Who loved one man from her youth,
Against the strength of the fates
Fighting in somber pride,
Never spoke of this thing,
But hearing his name by chance,
A light would pass over her face.
— Sara Teasdale
A child’s cry out in the street, not of pain or fear,
rather one of those vividly inarticulate
yet perfectly expressive trumpet thumps of indignation:
something wished for has been denied,
something wanted now delayed.
So useful it would be to carry that preemptive howl
always with you; all the functions it performs,
its equivalents in words are so unwieldy,
take up so much emotive time,
entail such muffling, qualifying, attenuation.
And in our cries out to the cosmos, our exasperation
with imperfection, our theodicies, betrayed ideals:
to keep that rocky core of rage within one’s rage
with which to blame, confront, accuse, bewail
all that needs retaliation for our absurdly thwarted wants.
— C.K. Williams
In a tray of dried fixative in a photographer friend’s darkroom,
I found a curled-up photo of his son the instant after his death,
his glasses still on, a drop of blood caught at his mouth.
Recently, my friend put a book together to commemorate his son;
near the end, there’s a picture taken the day before the son died;
the caption says: “This is the last photo of Alex.”
I’m sure my friend doesn’t know I’ve seen the other picture.
Is telling about it a violation of confidence?
Before I show this to anyone else, I’ll have to ask his permission.
If you’re reading it, you’ll know my friend pardoned me,
that he found whatever small truth his story might embody
was worth the anguish of remembering that reflexive moment
when after fifty years of bringing reality into himself through a lens,
his camera doubtlessly came to his eye as though by itself,
and his finger, surely also of its own accord, convulsed the shutter.
— C.K. Williams
When we are old one night and the moon
arcs over the house like an antique
China saucer and the teacup sun
follows somewhere far behind
I hope the stars deepen to a shine
so bright you could read by it
if you liked and the sadnesses
we will have known go away
for awhile—in this hour or two
before sleep—and that we kiss
standing in the kitchen not fighting
gravity so much as embodying
its sweet force, and I hope we kiss
like we do today knowing so much
good is said in this primitive tongue
from the wild first surprising ones
to the lower dizzy ten thousand
infinitely slower ones—and I hope
while we stand there in the kitchen
making tea and kissing, the whistle
of the teapot wakes the neighbors.
— Steve Scafidi
A shilling life will give you all the facts:
How Father beat him, how he ran away,
What were the struggles of his youth, what acts
Made him the greatest figure of his day;
Of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night,
Though giddy, climbed new mountains; named a sea:
Some of the last researchers even write
Love made him weep his pints like you and me.
With all his honours on, he sighed for one
Who, say astonished critics, lived at home;
Did little jobs about the house with skill
And nothing else; could whistle; would sit still
Or potter round the garden; answered some
Of his long marvellous letters but kept none.
– W.H. Auden
No matter what we are and who,
Some duties everyone must do:
A Poet puts aside his wreath
To wash his face and brush his teeth,
And even Earls
Must comb their curls,
And even Kings
– Arthur Guiterman
She was a girl
no one ever chose
for teams or clubs,
dances or dates,
so she chose the instrument
no one else wanted:
the tuba. Big as herself,
heavy as her heart,
its golden tubes
and coils encircled her
like a lover’s embrace.
Its body pressed on hers.
Into its mouthpiece she blew
life, its deep-throated
oompahs, oompahs sounding,
almost, like mating cries.
– Robert Phillips
(for Williams Carlos Williams)
I have just
asked you to
get out of my
– Erica-Lynn Gambino
to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I’ll get back
to the poem. I’ll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there’s a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it’s done.
– Tess Gallagher