Californian Autumn

In my garden
Are nothing but evergreens. If I want to see autumn
I drive to my friend's country house in the hills. There
I can stand for five minutes and see a tree
Stripped of its foliage, and foliage stripped of its truck.

I saw a big autumn leaf which the wind
Was driving along the road, and I thought; tricky
To reckon that leaf's future course.

- Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Obedience of the Corpse

The midwife puts a rag in the dead woman's hand,
takes the hairpins out.

She smells apples,
wonders where she keeps them in the house.
Nothing is under the sink
but a broken sack of potatoes
growing eyes in the dark.

She hopes the mother's milk is good a while longer,
and the woman up the road is still nursing.
But she remembers the neighbor
and the dead woman never got along.

A limb breaks,
She knows it's not the wind.
Somebody needs to set out some poison.

She looks to see if the woman wrote down any names,
finds a white shirt to wrap the baby in in.
It's beautiful she thinks
like snow nobody has walked on.

- C.D. Wright (1949)

a song in the front yard

I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate.)

But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

- Gwendolyn Brooks (1917)

An Airplane Whistle (After Heine)

The rose, the lily and the dove got withered
in you sunlight or in the soot, maybe of New York
and ceased to be lovable as odd sounds are lovable
say blowing on a little airplane's slot
which is the color of the back of your knee
a particular sound, fine, light and slightly hoarse

- Frank O'Hara (1926-1966)

New Religion

This morning no sound the loud
breathing of the sea. Suppose that under
all that salt water lived the god
that humans have spent ten thousand years
trawling the heavens for.
We caught the wrong metaphor.
Real space is wet and underneath,
the church of shark and whale and cod.
The noise of those vast lungs
exhaling: the plain chanting of monkfish choirs.
Heaven's not up but down, and hell
is to evaporate in air. Salvation,
to drown and breathe
forever with the sea.

- Bill Holm (1943-2009)

the Death of a Soldier

Life contracts and death is expected,
As in a season of autumn.
The soldier falls.

He does not become a three-days personage,
Imposing his separation,
Calling for pomp.

Death is absolute and without memorial,
As in a season of autumn,
When the wind stops,

When the wind stops and over the heavens,
The clouds go, nevertheless,
In their direction.

- Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere,
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

- Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

the Secret Sits

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

- Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what is signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a think wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

- Robert Hass (1941)


Not birds touching down,
no petals falling.

The sharpened stars are
throwing weapons,
metal cold.

Moon, disintegrated in light,
countless escape ships of invasion

land its image
on each branch, each lawn,
all the roads

closed. Snow.

- Ed Roberson


Reality being too thorny for my great personality.
- I found myself nevertheless at my lady's,
an enormous gray-blue bird soaring toward the moldings
of the ceiling and trailing my wings
through the shadows of the evening.
At the foot of the canopy supporting her adored gems
and her physical masterpieces, I was a great bear
with violet gums, fur hoary with sorrow,
eyes on the silver and crystal of the consoles.
Everything became shadow and ardent aquarium.
In the morning, -- bellicose dawn of June,--
a donkey, I rushed into the fields,
braying and brandishing my grievance,
until the Sabine women of the suburbs
came and threw themselves on my neck.

- Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

- Robert Frost (1874-1963)

the Only Teaching

For lovers, the only teaching is the beauty of the
their only book and lecture is the Face,
Outwardly they are silent,
but their penetrating remembrance rises
to the high throne of their Friend.
Their only lesson is enthusiasm, whirling, and
not the minor details of law.

- Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

Tao Te Ching #8

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

- Lao Tzu(350 B.C.E.?)

Frederick Douglass

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

- Robert Hayden (1913-1980)