Sunday, August 31, 2014

First Love

Page God for me - once let His sparrows fall unheeded,
Once unattended go, their crushed and dust-grey wings;

Page Him, down the corridors of misery - He is needed
To answer here for urgent and more human things.

Then here, accuse Him of faulty manufacturing. This heart
He guaranteed to last for life - kept sixteen years; today
Used for the first time, and sparingly, it fell apart!

Page God to wipe a daughter's first real tears away.


Crossing Bridges (To a five-year-old daughter)

Now, you are five and I am-well,
To you-as old as God and Time.
With deep humility and prayer
To keep your faith in me sublime,
I answer all your questionings
Of birds and bees and clouds and trees,
Your hows and whens and whys and wheres
And all about the brown Chinese.
Your wide, dark eyes with wonder glow
And rapture as we talk about
The stars and God and baby bugs
But never with a spark of doubt.
My prayers are ten years in advance
against that hour when you arise
And close a door and shut me out
And find that you, not I, are wise.


A Prayer For A Bride's House

"She is so young, dear Lord, so very young,
She is so wide-eyed and naively sweet,
She does not dream of great rooms, draped and hung
With master paintings, rugs where some queen's feet
Have lightly trod. She dreams of this instead;
A small new house with freshly painted floors,
With hand-stitched curtains, and above her head
Bright dishes gleaming through wee cupboard doors.
She'll learn, some day, the value of old things,
When eagerness is still, and she is wise
Knowing the disillusionment time brings
But now, there's so much springtime in her eyes,
And this is her first house-Whate'er you do,
Let everything about it, Lord, be-new!


I Have No Sons

I have no sons
With strong young limbs
To stand straight and tall
And face the guns
At warlords' whims
And rot upon the spot they fall.
I have no sons to lay
At the feet of the lords of war,
Yet I might have had
If on a day
These twenty years ago or more,
They'd spared a lad
They crushed beneath the torch he bore.


Ben Franklin invents "Pay It Forward"

I send you herewith a bill for ten louis d'ors. I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your country with a good character, you cannot fail of getting into some business, that will in time enable you to pay all your debts. In that case, when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with such another opportunity. I hope it may thus go through many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little.


My Love

A wild thing beats within my pulsing breast;
It pounds and throbs and makes my spirit shriek
For want of breath. And yet this deep unrest
Is calm when you are here, and I am meek.
You see I should pretend your sweet caress
Is very commonplace. For love laid bare
The sages say, will soon grow less and less,
So I must try to hide how much I care.
I think to-night I'll pray, on bended knee
For power to curb such deep emotion
Yet when you come, I know your eyes will see
In all I do complete devotion.
No weak resolve can hide, this love I know
And Oh! I thank my God
I love you BO.


A Change Of Clothing

A timid wee thing brushed his shoulder
And kept her place at his side;
She was slender and frail and not older
Than her school-girl dress implied.

He was forty and fat and married;
She guided him into the store.
Proud and possessive, he tarried
While she changed the dull clothing she wore

For garments that pointed the fashion.
He was forty and fat-and he paid!
But his lips were untouched by passion
While she suffered his kiss, unafraid.

She accepted the clothing he bought her,
But fault is hard to find;
For she was the man's own daughter;
And the evil all in your mind.



Some folks tell the thing that's told them;
They repeat it like a chant.
I can keep a secret but the Folks I tell


To A Dead Rival

Close in my arms,
His lips upon my lips,
Crying my name,
He forgets you.

Where is your power then,
a pallid wraith whom once he loved so well?
His smiles are mine, his frowns,
His jealousies, and secret, tender words.

Where are the vows he made to you?
Yet when the world grows dark,
And when his faith in everything is faint,
I cannot comfort him.

He goes apart, and prays,
And sometimes says your name.
And in a while,
He finds his lost belief again.

And does not hear me when I speak.
Until the moment passes.
Then strength to live renewed,
And gay once more, he comes to me,
And laughs, and holds me close;
But will not, that day, say he loves with all his heart.

This too short span of life
That's left us, is for me:
I am his earthly goddess, I, his love.
Yet in that terrifying Judgment Day,
You'll meet him at the Gate
He'll sob your name, and kneel to you.
And if you ask him, "What of her?" He'll answer, "Just a friend
Who made the journey brighter, dear, no more."

And you will understand, and smile,
And thank me for my' kindness,
And take him home with you. Ah, what a power is yours, that dead,
A wan, pale ghost of loveliness that was,
You rule him even now with charms more potent
Than I, whose flesh is warm and yielding, ever will possess!
You are the winner. He takes his prayers to you,
So do I come, a supplicant:

Pity me! Don't haunt him so
These few short years!



Today, she brushed her little golden curls
And pinned them high with a fancy jeweled pin;
She wasn't hungry at the dinner hour,
But blushed and said she'd had an ice cream cone;
And when I met her eyes, above a note,
She looked out through the window and just said,
"Oh, it's a letter from a boy named Joe."
She strolled about and spoke with strange, new air
"Let's get new curtains for the living room!"
A sad and poignant beauty haunts her eyes,
And smiles and tears are often close akin;
O God, don't let her leave my side just yet
She is so young-but in her face there lies
The fleeting fragrance of the spring's first flowers.



The soft red velvet of a Valentine
Made me think of her lips;
So soft, so sweet for someone
I thrill just to kiss her fingertips.
The rose she gave me that night,
I keep tho' it's all faded and brown;
I try to remember sweet things to say,
Yet I know I act like a clown.

Maybe if I were real sick
She would feel real sorry and nurse me too;
If I had been a knight in days of old;
Gee, the things I would do.
I would rescue her from dragons,
And she would fall in my arms and faint;
I know a Iota beautiful things to say,
But when she looks at me, I just can't.

I wish she could read my mind
And know what I think about her hair;
And her eyes so blue and sweet
Gee, I wish she could care.
I think I'll join the navy.
Maybe she would like me all in white;
I wish there would be a fire an' I'd rescue her.
And she would hold to me so tight.

Mom is cleaning house today,
And she has cleaned out my room;
On the floor was a red velvet Valentine,
And a faded rose flew in front of her broom.
A lock of golden hair was in the trash
I'll hide my broken heart if I can;
I just couldn't pick them up
Mom wouldn't understand.



We waited for the sunset, but there was no sun,
We sang again the old songs, and the new, save one.
We clasped our hands together in our separate laps
And stared in moody silence at the mad white caps.

We lighted cigarettes and talked of trivial things,
You squinted up your eyes and blew your perfect rings,
I reached for one and put my left, third finger through
We laughed about the silly things we used to do.

The fog unrolled her blanket, billowy and white,
And folded it about us, shutting out the night.
You started up the motor, said we'd better go,
And we could barely see beyond the headlights' glow.

You gave your whole attention to the steering wheel,
 I knew again how safe you always made me feel
 For you were wise, and never one to lose your head,
Or follow dictates of a foolish heart instead.


Journey's End

She looked at me with eyes of faded blue
She seemed, that day, so very small and frail,
Rocking there gently while the shadows grew,
Like some quaint figure from an old, old tale.
Her thin voice quavered faintly as she said
"Of course the children want me. I don't know
I may visit my Cousin Sue instead
I'm not just sure this summer where I'll go."
She watched me anxiously. I understood
The dim, unspoken longing in her heart
For reassurance. Oh, the children would
Be kind-but she no longer had a part
In other lives. They didn't need her now,
They had their patterns, went their separate ways;
And there was only left for her, somehow,
Warmth from the embers of her yesterdays.


Bits Of Life I've Missed

While walking down an avenue, I came upon a shop;
'Twas small, exclusive, quiet, dim, what could I do but stop?
I saw an ivory elephant up high upon a shelf,
"I'd like to have that elephant," I murmured to myself.

I priced the ivory elephant and sadly sighed to see
That little ivory elephants were never meant for me.
Sometimes I pause before the shop and there upon the shelf
The lonely little elephant still stands all by himself.

For you, O unattainable, my love is much the same;
I know I dare not love you, but I thrill to hear your name.
I dream of your lips pressed to mine, although we've never kissed.
You. . . and my ivory elephant. . . are bits of life. . . I've missed.


Song of Youth

Heigh-ho and over the clouds,
I'm living the life of the free;
Nor power, nor gold, nor the plaudits of crowds
Have any appeal for me.

I've flown with the wind to the summer's edge,
And returned on an icy blast,
I've stood above earth on its highest ledge,
And ridden a ship's top-mast.

I've filled my eyes with the rainbow's glow,
I live the life of the free;
With a wink of my eyes I come and go,
'Tis the wanderer's life for me.


If this is the end, then this is the end,

If this is the end, then this is the end,
I never was one to complain,
The sun has shone for a long, long time
If it wants to rain, let it rain.
If you want to go your way, then go,
I know a new path, too.
Roads always cross somewhere sometime,
Well, I'll be seeing you.


The Snail

Now who would dream a lowly snail
Of slovenly grotesquerie
And instincts basely criminal
Could have a family tree?
It seems this oafish-looking gnome
Of trailer-dwelling jelly,
This gourmand who thinks I grow blooms
To brighten up his belly,
Has dyed the robes of emperors,
Fed noblemen and slave;
As currency he purchased girls
Or served intrigue and knave.
A laggard with a single foot
In leisure-loving motion,
He covers climates cold and hot
And swims the mauling ocean.
So when his predatory stroll
Imperils vine and stalk,
Think twice before you crush his shell
Upon your garden walk.


City Wind

This wind which stumbles down the street with me,
The soot and grime so gooey upon its face,
Knows well the intricate and lovely lace
Of spider weaving and each day may see
Still beauty carved in stone or tapestry
Of dust and sun in some wall-centered space.
When evening comes it may seek out a place
Of blazing light or darkened mystery.
But does this dull, sophisticated thing
Remember still the free, mad way to go
Across a mountain top or how to swing
From larch to spruce and bend a tall pine low?
Does it remember-and when street lamps flower
Climb longingly to some tall city tower?


Blue Eyes

I never knew
That the eyes could be
So blue,
Till I met you.

But now, to my surprise,
I find your eyes
Are like the sea,
Or skies.

Now, hazel eyes, or gray
Seem quite passe.
I frown
At brown.

I lack
Appreciation, too, of black.
For all my days
I'd like to gaze.

I know
It's most unwise
Your blue
Blue, Blue,


Late From The Field

The cows came early from the pasture
And switched the flies and milled around
The water tank. A storm was coming;
Far off she heard the rumbling sound
Of thunder, and dark clouds were frowning
At her, above a darker wall.
The pigeons huddled on the barn roof;
She heard the rainbird's mournful call.
She could not bear the troubled stillness
Of air and trees; beside the gate
She stood, and hoped to see him coming
Along the lane, for he was late.
She wondered if the team had started
To run again. Had he been hurt?
She thought of things that might have happened;
A gust of wind tugged at her skirt.
Then, through a cloud of dust she saw them
The team and man far up the lane!
She caned into the wind, with splashes
Upon her cheeks-great drops of rain!
And when the horses were unharnessed
And he came to the house once more,
He thought she was afraid of thunder. . .
She clung so to him at the door.


Village Doorsteps

One by one,
Like silent stars
In the silent twilight,
The villagers appear
On their doorsteps.

A genteel old lady,
Breathing of cambric tea and lavender,
Smooths her starched apron
With her firm little hand,
And shakes out her skein
Of soft, white wool.

Two nice little girls
Sewing doll dresses
With neat, tidy stitches,
Primly purse their lips
In the precise manner
Of well-reared village maidens.

A harassed housewife,
Distracted from her dishwashing
As the sunset glanced across her copper kettles,
Steps out to marvel at its glowing beauty,
And absent-mindedly wipes her hands
On a blue-bordered dish towel.

The new school teacher
Cups her chin in her palms,
Allowing a slim volume
To slip unheeded into a bed of larkspur,
And its poem-printed pages become drenched with dew,
As the gray dreams creep into her eyes.

The dusk steals softly
Down the village streets.
Merging the villagers
In its deepening umber,
The thick hush unpierced
Save by the door-latches
Clicking metallically
One by one.


Just Horse

He was a farm horse, broad and strong and slow.
He loved the sour grape leaves on the hill,
And dragging the cultivator he would go
With many stops between the fresh green vines,
Nibbling right and left up the long slope.
"Come! Giddap there!" we'd say without much hope
Or any action but his swishing tail.
He had no thought of grapes, nor of their wines;
He didn't mind the cultivator's pull;
Nor did he mind the reins slapped on his rump.
The work was hardly noticed in the full
Tide of his easy strength.
And when the cultivator caught and stopped
Against the deep root of an ancient stump,
Old Charlie stopped and ate the cool grape leaves,
Knowing that such things were to be expected:
The long drag up the hill; the biting flies;
The stumps of earth, and deep warm summer skies.
He was a farm horse, and he knew these things
Were part of life-like hooves and feathered wings.


Knight in Disguise

His armor does not mark him brave,
No silver crested sword is swung
To match his stride, no ringing spurs,
No prancing steed, his quest incurs,
For Beauty's sake he will be hung
With careful calm above a grave
To risk his life, his dreams, his gains,
That man shall find the sun more bright,
And knows the moon is like a cup
Of gold these forty stories up,
That there may be unfettered light
When he has washed the window panes.


Momentary Mountain

The cloud is kind to give our town a mountain.
A house or two had seized a little knoll;
The rest sprawled on the flats-but now the whole
Village is transformed and is transported
Toward ranges bluely blending in the sky.
Somehow the air is cooler for the thought.
We are an Alpine village, we are brought
To altitudes undreamed, before we die.
Beyond, the ranges stretch. A young girl's call
Rings with mountain silver; and he breathes
Mountain air, who dares to breathe at all.


Little Black Man With A Rose In His Hat

What did he have in his wagon?
Five sticks of wood, I suppose;
A melon or two, and a basket of fish,
And a few figs piled on an old cracked dish,
And whatever his berry patch grows.

What did he say to his oxen,
Two small brown oxen with brass-balled horns?
What could he say, when they know so well
The red-earth road and the corner stall,
And the market smelling of peppercorns?

Why was he wearing a rose
Stuck like a flag in his hat?
The hot sun follows, mile on mile,
And the rose will be wilted after awhile,
But he cares nothing for that.

He neither lacks nor demands,
Who expects no more of earth
Than fruit in season and fish in the stream,
And at the end, without doubt or dream,
The casual fact of death:

And so to himself is a god,
Riding an easier throne
Than Jove or Caesar or Humpty-Dumpty,
And the market over, the wagon empty,
Goes back like a lord, alone.