The Poem

Not the sunset poem you make when you think
                         aloud,
with its linden tree in India ink
and the telegraph wires across its pink
                         cloud;

not the mirror in you and her delicate bare shoulder still glimmering there;
not the lyrical click of a pocket rhyme—
the tiny music that tells the time;

and not the pennies and weights on those evening papers piled up in the rain;
not the cacodemons of carnal pain;
not the things you can say so much better in plain prose—

but the poem that hurtles from heights unknown
—when you wait for the splash of the stone deep below,
and grope for your pen, and then comes the shiver, and then—

in the tangle of sounds, the leopards of words,
the leaflike insects, the eye-spotted birds
fuse and form a silent, intense,
mimetic pattern of perfect sense.

The Poem - Vladimir Nabokov

The Night Piece

Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,

The shooting stars attend thee;

         And the elves also,

         Whose little eyes glow

Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.

 

No Will-o'-th'-Wisp mis-light thee,

Nor snake or slow-worm bite thee;

         But on, on thy way,

         Not making a stay,

Since ghost there's none to affright thee.

 

Let not the dark thee cumber;

What though the moon does slumber?

         The stars of the night

         Will lend thee their light,

Like tapers clear without number.

 

Then Julia let me woo thee,

Thus, thus to come unto me;

         And when I shall meet

         Thy silv'ry feet,

My soul I'll pour into thee.

 

"The Night Piece, to Julia" - Robert Herrick

Somnambulist Ballad

Good friend, I want to die

Decently in my own bed - 

If it might be, made of steel, 

And the linens of fine holland.

Can you see the wound I've taken 

From my breastbone to my throat?

"On your white shirt you wear

Three hundred swarthy roses.

Your blood is oozing, pungent,

On all sides of your sash.

But I am no longer I

Nor is my house my own house."

Let me at least, then, climb

Up to the high verandas;

Let me climb, then, let me climb

Up to the green verandas, 

Balustrades of the moon

Where the water's voice resounds.

 

From "Somnambulist Ballad" - Federico Garcia Lorca

A Rhyme for Halloween

Tonight I light the candles of my eyes in the lee

And swing down this branch full of red leaves.

Yellow moon, skull and spine of the hare,

Arrow me to town on the neck of the air.

 

I hear the undertaker make love in the heather;

The candy maker, poor fellow, is under the weather.

Skunk, moose, raccoon, they go to the doors in threes

With a torch in their hands or pleas: "O, please . . ."

 

Baruch Spinoza and the butcher are drunk:

One is the tail and one is the trunk

Of a beast who dances in circles for beer

And doesn't think twice to learn how to steer.

 

Our clock is blind, our clock is dumb.

Its hands are broken, its fingers numb.

No time for the martyr of our fair town

Who wasn't a witch because she could drown.

 

Now the dogs of the cemetery are starting to bark

At the vision of her, bobbing up through the dark.

When she opens her mouth to gasp for air,

A moth flies out and lands in her hair.

 

"A Rhyme for Halloween" - Maurice Kilwein Guevara

The Empty House

See this house, how dark it is

Beneath its vast-boughed trees!

Not one trembling leaflet cries

To that Watcher in the skies—

‘Remove, remove thy searching gaze,

Innocent of heaven’s ways,

Brood not, Moon, so wildly bright,

On secrets hidden from sight.’

 

‘Secrets,’ sighs the night-wind,

‘Vacancy is all I find;

Every keyhole I have made

Wails a summons, faint and sad,

No voice ever answers me,

         Only vacancy.’

‘Once, once … ’ the cricket shrills,

And far and near the quiet fills

With its tiny voice, and then

         Hush falls again.

 

Mute shadows creeping slow

Mark how the hours go.

Every stone is mouldering slow.

And the least winds that blow

Some minutest atom shake,

Some fretting ruin make

In roof and walls. How black it is

Beneath these thick boughed trees!

 

"The Empty House" - Walter de La Mare

Reasons

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For our own private reasons

We live in each other for an hour.

Stranger, I take your body and its seasons,

Aware the moon has gone a little sour

 

For us. The moon hangs up there like a stone

Shaken out of its proper setting.

We lie down in each other. We lie down alone

and watch the moon’s flawed marble getting

 

Out of hand. What are the dead doing tonight?

The padlocks of their tongues embrace the black,

Each syllable locked in place, tucked out of sight.

Even this moon could never pull them back,

 

Even if it held them in its arms

And weighed them down with stones,

Took them entirely on their own terms

And piled the orchard’s blossom on their bones.

 

I am aware of your body and its dangers.

I spread my cloak for you in leafy weather

Where other fugitives and other strangers

Will put their mouths together.

 

"Reasons" - William Blake" 

The Singers

 

They are not angels

though they have the hollow look

         of beings bred on ether. There’s an air

of cool removal from your life, the hawk’s

         indifference to the hare’s terror.

You see it in their palms, raised casually

         against the fresco’s surface, as to glass

of submarine or spacecraft, and you see

         it in their eyes, oracular, that let you pass

alone to unknown agony. The song

         they sing is merely time.

 

"The Singers" - Todd Hearon

I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee

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I tell you that I see her still

At the dark entrance of the hall.

One gas lamp burning near her shoulder   

Shone also from her other side   

Where hung the long inaccurate glass   

Whose pictures were as troubled water.   

An immense shadow had its hand   

Between us on the floor, and seemed   

To hump the knuckles nervously,   

A giant crab readying to walk,   

Or a blanket moving in its sleep.

 

You will remember, with a smile   

Instructed by movies to reminisce,   

How strict her corsets must have been,   

How the huge arrangements of her hair   

Would certainly betray the least   

Impassionate displacement there.   

It was no rig for dallying,

And maybe only marriage could   

Derange that queenly scaffolding—

As when a great ship, coming home,   

Coasts in the harbor, dropping sail

And loosing all the tackle that had laced

Her in the long lanes ....

                                       I know

We need not draw this figure out.

But all that whalebone came from whales.   

And all the whales lived in the sea,   

In calm beneath the troubled glass,   

Until the needle drew their blood.

 

I see her standing in the hall,

Where the mirror’s lashed to blood and foam,   

And the black flukes of agony

Beat at the air till the light blows out.

 

"I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee" - Howard Nemerov