03 February 2007
A Verse or Three
Okay, I will admit to being unaware of the St. Brigid Day silent poetry reading. I'd like to say it's because I don't spend that much time online, but I'd be lying. Apparently I just don't spend THAT much time online, or at least not in the right places.
At any rate, I will here and now express my undying awe and appreciation for poets. It's obviously not an easy art, else we'd have far more Ogden Nashes and W.H. Audens and Edna St. Vincent Millays out there. And speaking of Ms. Millay (although I know that it is after midnight where I am, M-H quite astutely pointed out that it is still Feb. 2 somewhere), I'd like to open with a poem from an anthology that my grandmother gave me several years ago.
What Lips My Lips Have Kissed
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
And now a rather more upbeat one from the same anthology:
The Passing Strange
Out of the earth to rest or range
Perpetual in perpetual change,
The unknown passing through the strange.
Water and saltness held together
To tread the dust and stand the weather,
And plough the field and stretch the tether,
To pass the wine-cup and be witty,
Water the sands and build the city,
Slaughter like devils and have pity,
Be red with rage and pale with lust,
Make beauty come, make peace, make trust,
Water and saltness mixed with dust;
Drive over earth, swim under sea,
Fly in the eagle’s secrecy,
Guess where the hidden comets be;
Know all the deathy seeds that still
Queen Helen’s beauty, Caesar’s will,
And slay them even as they kill;
Fashion an altar for a rood,
Defile a continent with blood,
And watch a brother starve for food:
Love like a madman, shaking, blind,
Till self is burnt into a kind
Possession of another mind;
Brood upon beauty, till the grace
Of beauty with the holy face
Brings peace into the bitter place;
Prove in the lifeless granites, scan
The stars for hope, for guide, for plan;
Live as a woman or a man;
Fasten to lover or to friend,
Until the heart break at the end:
The break of death that cannot mend;
Then to lie useless, helpless, still,
Down in the earth, in dark, to fill
The roots of grass or daffodil.
Down in the earth, in dark, alone,
A mockery of the ghost in bone,
The strangeness, passing the unknown.
Time will go by, that outlasts clocks,
Dawn in the thorps will rouse the cocks,
Sunset be glory on the rocks:
But it, the thing, will never heed
Even the rootling from the seed
Thrusting to suck it for its need.
Since moons decay and suns decline,
How else should end this life of mine?
Water and saltness are not wine.
But in the darkest hour of night,
When even the foxes peer for sight,
The byre-cock crows; he feels the light.
So, in this water mixed with dust,
The byre-cock spirit crows from trust
That death will change because it must;
For all things change, the darkness changes,
The wandering spirits change their ranges,
The corn is gathered to the granges.
The corn is sown again, it grows;
The stars burn out, the darkness goes;
The rhythms change, they do not close.
They change, and we, who pass like foam,
Like dust blown through the streets of Rome,
Change ever, too; we have no home,
Only a beauty, only a power,
Sad in the fruit, bright in the flower,
Endlessly erring for its hour,
But gathering, as we stray, a sense
Of Life, so lovely and intense,
It lingers when we wander hence,
That those who follow feel behind
Their backs, when all before is blind,
Our joy, a rampart to the mind.
- John Masefield
And finally, one of my own - a little Elvis haiku I wrote for Ann of Mason-Dixon Knitting:
black velvet painting
sequins on spandex sparkle
sex symbol always