Archive for May, 2007


I think the dead are tender. Shall we kiss? –
My lady laughs, delighting in what is.
If she but sighs, a bird puts out its tongue.
She makes space lonely with a lovely song.
She lilts a low soft language, and I hear
Down long sea-chambers of the inner ear.

We sing together; we sing mouth to mouth.
The garden is a river flowing south.
She cries out loud the soul’s own secret joy;
She dances, and the ground bears her away.
She knows the speech of light, and makes it plain
A lively thing can come to life again.

I feel her presence in the common day,
In that slow dark that widens every eye.
She moves as water moves, and comes to me,
Stayed by what was, and pulled by what would be.

-Theodore Roethke

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Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

-Stevie Smith

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Spring and Fall, to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Agnes Kelley, 51, Died of Pneumonia, 1906

I am long dead to you
Bones make sounds,

rattle under rock

This is my rock
And I talk

We are long dead
The ones who whisper
The ones who
Wander in a
Country shed

Batting at rakes
And plates
And sparrows
This breath is talking
And you are listening

And we made it here
Through the great beyond
I laugh to think what you call it
It was a journey
I do not recall
What it took
Where it was
The time

If time exists

But we took it
To come here
And thought there
Was a hole somewhere in it
Up to heaven

I haven’t been canceled
Or put out
I am here
As real as relish
Not dead
No, not like they say

Not dead with a foot of rot
And a soul singing to God

I am here in a burned out charnel house
In the cavity of a lamb
In the crack of a sidewalk
Creeping like a spider
Shifting like a snake
I am darkness now
And the sun does not warm
A cold steel drum
Beats out
The long life
Of my death

-Nina Alvarez

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She asked me
to walk by her side,
the velvet path
of sweet rosed lines.

-Rick Wright

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White Beard

Tonight I am the old man’s white beard
wizened and grizzled in deep lined cuts
resigned to the slope and bend of flesh
gravity pulled furrows over ashen dust

It was the clink of glasses that started this
taking small potent steps down the hall
inching closer to her hated breath
the weight of her, heavy, lurking,

creaking the same wood boards
Can one grow into a giant overnight
when the yearning stops and the
becoming is

knowing one’s art is revealed, suddenly
unearthed by one massive heave
of black earth

To know a person for so long
and see their face go colorless
foul scents utter unrecognizable clods
of rancid words and clouded tongue

Should I take on hatred and this dark
into me, onto me, held and sacred
like the vows now melted away by
the lightest heat from palest sun

Something disappears from me tonight
A piece I can never reclaim or repair
a note held deep in my heart
now scratched thin out of a rusty flute
aching for its rounded wonder
spitting tin and teeth and nails
It was the clink of glasses that started this
a dark celebration and bitter turn
a collapse and fold and deep line cut
of the old man’s white beard

-Rick Wright

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Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

-W. B. Yeats

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