A Singing Voice

Once, camping on a high bluff
Above the Fox River, when
I was about fourteen years
Old, on a full moonlit night
Crowded with whippoorwills and 
Frogs, I lay awake long past
Midnight watching the moon move
Through the half drowned stars. Suddenly
I heard, far away on the warm
Air a high clear soprano,
Purer than the purest boy’s
Voice, singing, “Tuck me to sleep
In my old ‘Tucky home.”
She was in an open car
Speeding along the winding
Dipping highway beneath me.
A few seconds later
An old touring car full of
Boys and girls rushed by under
Me, the soprano rising
Full and clear and now close by
I could hear the others singing
Softly behind her voice. Then
Rising and falling with the
Twisting road the song closed, soft
In the night. Over thirty
Years have gone by but I have
Never forgotten. Again
And again, driving on a
Lonely moonlit road, or waking
In a warm murmurous night,
I hear that voice singing that
Common song like an
Angelic memory.

— Kenneth Rexroth 



To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from shcool drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.

— Donald Hall 


Remembered Morning

The axe rings in the wood
And the children come,
Laughing and wet from the river;
And all goes on as it should.
I hear the murmur and hum
Of their morning, forever.

The water ripples and slaps
The white boat at the dock;
The fire crackles and snaps.
The little noise of the clock
Goes on and on in my heart,
Of my heart parcel and part.

O happy early stir!
A girl comes out on the porch,
And the door slams after her.
She sees the wind in the birch,
And then the running day
Catches her into its way.

— Janet Lewis 


Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

— James Wright 


from “Tulips and Chimneys”


 the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls
are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds
(also,with the church’s protestant blessings
daughters,unscented shapeless spirited)
they believe in Christ and Longfellow,both dead,
are invariably interested in so many things—
at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles?
perhaps.      While permanent faces coyly bandy
scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D
…the Cambridge ladies do not care,above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavender and cornerless,the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy

— e.e. cummings 


Miracle Glass Co.

Heavy mirror carried
Across the street,
I bow to you
And to everything that appears in you,
And never again the same way:

This street with its pink sky,
Row of gray tenements,
A lone dog,
Children on rollerskates,
Woman buying flowers,
Someone looking lost.

In you, mirror framed in gold
And carried across the street
By someone I can’t even see,
To whom, too, I bow.

— Charles Simic 



Those many dark nights in our wedding house.
Hundreds of them—like fireflies—
above the quiet road till dawn,
and still I can’t remember even
one of the naked trips he made downstairs
to bring me back a glass of water:
aged, sagging, fly-footed one.
Then the dog would sneak into our room
and groan and settle his bones down
on the wood floor, heavily.

I knew we were all going to die
but not then, and not right away;
because in those days
there were more days to come.
I thought I could not
run out of them.

— Liz Rosenberg 



Wouldn’t it be nice, I think, when the blue-haired lady in the doctor’s
          waiting room bends over the magazine table
and farts, just a little, and violently blushes, wouldn’t it be nice if intesti-
          nal gas came embodied in visible clouds
so she could see that her really quite inoffensive pop had only barely
          grazed my face before it drifted away?

Besides, for this to have happened now is a nice coincidence because not
          an hour ago, while we were on our walk,
my dog was startled by a backfire and jumped straight up like a horse
          bucking and that brought back to me
the stable I worked on weekends when I was twelve and a splendid
          piebald stallion who whenever he was mounted

would buck just like that, though more hugely, of course, enormous,
          gleaming, resplendent, and the woman,
her face abashedly buried in her Elle now, reminded me I’d forgotten
          that not the least part of my awe
consisted of the fact that with every jump he took the horse would pow-
          erfully fart, fwap, fwap, fwap, 

something never mentioned in the dozens of books about horses and
          their riders I devoured in those days.
All that savage grandeur, the steely glinting hooves, the eruptions driven
          from the creature’s mightly innards:
breath stopped, heart stopped, nostrils madly flared, I didn’t know if I
          wanted to break him or be him.

— C.K. Williams 


A Primer of the Daily Round

A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E’s knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H’s grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L’s head,
And M takes mustard, N drives into town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
     Who happens just now to remember A
     Peeling an apple somewhere far away.

— Howard Nemerov 


Morning Person

God, best at making in the morning, tossed
stars and planets, singing and dancing, rolled
Saturn’s rings spinning and humming, twirled the earth
so hard it coughed and spat the moon up, brilliant
bubble floating around it for good, stretched holy
hands till birds in nervous sparks flew forth from
them and beasts—lizards, big and little, apes,
lions, elephants, dogs and cats cavorting,
tumbling over themselves, dizzy with joy when
God made us in the morning too, both man
and woman, leaving Adam no time for
sleep so nimbly was Eve bouncing out of
his side till as night came everything and
everybody, growing tired, declined, sat
down in one soft descended Hallelujah.

— Vassar Miller