the Takers

Hitler entered Paris the way my
sister entered my room at night,
sat astride me, squeezed me with her knees,
held her thumbnails to the skin of my wrists and
peed on me, knowing Mother would
never believe my story. It was very
silent, her dim face above me
gleaming in the shadows, the dark gold
smell of her urine spreading through the room, its
heat boiling on my legs, my small
pelvis wet. When the hissing stopped, when the
hole had been scorched in my body, I lay
crisp and charred with shame and felt her
skin glitter in the air, her dark
gold pleasure unfold as he stood over
Napoleon's tomb and murmured This is the
finest moment of my life.

- Sharon Olds (1942-)

Sifter of Dust

Suppose you know the definitions
of all substances and their products.
what good is this to you?
Know the true definition of yourself.
That is essential.
Then, when you know your own definition,
flee from it,
so you may become the One who cannot be
O sifter of the dust.

- Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

- Laura Crafton Gilpin (1950-2007)

A Cliff Dwelling

There sandy seems the golden sky
And golden seems the sandy plain.
No habitation meets the eye
Unless in the horizon rim,
Some halfway up the limestone wall,
That spot of black is not a stain
Or shadow, but a cavern hole,
Where someone used to climb and crawl
To rest from his besetting fears.
I see the callus on his sole
The disappearing last of him
And of his race starvation slim,
Oh, years ago - ten thousand years.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)


If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let's have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.

If the rocking chair's arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don't want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle's flame when we eat,

I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us--
Not a roof but a field of stars.

Jane Cooper (1924-2007)

Beyond Words

That row of icicles along the gutter
Feels like my armory of hate;
And you, you... you, you utter...
You wait!

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Love is enough

LOVE is enough: though the World be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass'd over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

William Morris (1834-1896)


Past is past, and if one
remembers what one meant
to do and never did, is
not to have thought to do
enough? Like that gather-
ing of one of each I
planned, to gather one
of each kind of clover,
daisy, paintbrush that
grew in that field
the cabin stood in and
study them one afternoon
before they wilted. Past
is past; I salute
that various field.

James Schuyler (1923-1991)

Now Blue October

Now blue October, smoky in the sun,
Must end the long, sweet summer of the heart.
The last brief visit of the birds is done;
They sing the autumn songs before they part.
Listen, how lovely - there’s the thrush we heard
When June was small with roses, and the bending
Blossom of branches covered nest and bird,
Singing the summer in, summer unending-
Give me your hand once more before the night,
See how the meadows darken with the frost,
How fades the green that was the summer’s light.
Beauty is only altered, never lost,
And love, before the cold November rain,
Will make its summer in the heart again.

Robert Nathan (1894-1985)


Facing you
I am not jealous.

Come with a man
at your back,
come; with a hundred men in you hair,
come with a thousand men between you bosom and your feet,
come lie a river
filled with drowned men
that meets the furious sea,
the eternal foam, the weather.

Bring them all
where I wait for you:
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be, you and I,
alone upon the earth
to begin life.

Pablo Neruda (1904-1974)