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Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category

September

The breezes taste

Of apple peel.

The air is full

Of smells to feel –

Ripe fruit, old footballs,

Burning brush,

New books, erasers,

Chalk, and such.

The bee, his hive,

Well-honeyed hum,

And Mother cuts

Chrysanthemums.

Like plates washed clean

With suds, the days

Are polished with

A morning haze.

 

~ John Updike

 

"Chrysanthemums" by Daniel Ridgway Knight, circa 1898

“Chrysanthemums” by Daniel Ridgway Knight, circa 1898

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Blackberry-Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking.  Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

We trekked and picked until the cans were full,

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered

With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

Like a plate of eyes.  Our hands were peppered

With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

 

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

But when the bath was filled we found a fur,

A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

The juice was stinking too.  Once off the bush

The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying.  It wasn’t fair

That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

 

                         ~ Seamus Heaney, died on this day in 2013

 

"Blackberry Picking" by John George Brown, 1875

“Blackberry Picking” by John George Brown, 1875

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Heavy Summer Rain

The grasses in the field have toppled,

and in places it seems that a large, now

absent, animal must have passed the night.

The hay will right itself if the day

 

turns dry.  I miss you steadily, painfully.

None of your blustering entrances

or exits, door swinging wildly

on their hinges, or your huge unconscious

sighs when you read something sad,

like Henry Adams’s letters from Japan,

where he traveled after Clover died.

 

Everything blooming bows down in the rain:

white irises, red peonies; and the poppies

with their black and secret centers

lie shattered on the lawn.

 

           ~ Jane Kenyon

 

"A Bed of Poppies" by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909

“A Bed of Poppies” by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909

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Mid-August

Now the ridge

brooks

are

flue-dry, the rocks

parching hot &

where sluice

used

to clear roots &

break weeds down brambly,

light finds a luminous

sand-scar,

vertical: it will

go to a hundred

today: even the

zucchini vine has

rolled over

on its

side.

 

                                       ~ A. R. Ammons

 

"Sweet Repose" by Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904)

“Sweet Repose” by Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904)

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Girl in a Library

I want to find my way back to her,

to help her, to grab her hand, pull her

up from the wooden floor of the stacks

where she’s reading accounts of the hatchet

murders of Lizzie Borden’s harsh parents

as if she could learn something about

life if she knew all the cuts and slashes;

 

her essay on Wordsworth or Keats

only a knot in her belly, a faint pressure

at her temples.  She’s pale, it’s five years

before the first migraine, but the dreamy

flush has already drained from her face.

I want to lead her out of the library,

to sit with her on a bench under a still

 

living elm tree, be one who understands,

but even today I don’t understand,

I want to shake her and want to assure her,

to hold her – but love’s not safe for her,

although she craves what she knows

of it, love’s a snare, a closed door,

a dank cell.  Maybe she should just leave

 

the campus, take a train to Fall River,

inspect Lizzie’s room, the rigid corsets

and buttoned shoes, the horsehair sofas,

the kitchen’s rank stew.  Hell.  Bleak

loyal judgmental journals of a next-door

neighbor – not a friend, Lizzie had no friend.

If only she could follow one trajectory

 

of thought, a plan, invent a journey

out of this place, a vocation –

but without me to guide her, where

would she go?

 

~ From “Girl in a Library” by Gail Mazur (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

 

Frederic Leighton, 1877

Frederic Leighton, 1877

 

 

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August

The yellow goldenrod is dressed

In gala-day attire;

The glowing redweed by the fence

Shines like a crimson fire;

And from the hot field’s farthest edge

The cricket’s soft refrain

With mellow accent tells the tale

That August’s here again.

 

In shining blue the aster wild

Unfolds her petals fair;

The clematis, upreaching, seeks

To clasp and kiss the air;

The brilliant poppy flaunts her head

Amidst the ripening grain,

And adds her voice to swell the song

That August’s here again. […]

 

The wild hop, from the young elm’s bough,

Sways on the languid breeze,

And here and there the autumn tints

Gleam faintly through the trees.

All Nature helps to swell the song

And chant the same refrain;

July and June have slipped away

And August’s here again.

 

~ Helen Maria Winslow

 

"Mirabellgarten" by Hans Wilt, 1916

“Mirabellgarten” by Hans Wilt, 1916

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The problem, if anything, was precisely the opposite.  I had too much to write: too many fine and miserable buildings to construct and streets to name and clock towers to set chiming, too many characters to raise up from the dirt like flowers whose petals I peeled down to the intricate frail organs within, too many terrible genetic and fiduciary secrets to dig up and bury and dig up again, too many divorces to grant, heirs to disinherit, trysts to arrange, letters to misdirect into evil hands, innocent children to slay with rheumatic fever, women to leave unfulfilled and hopeless, men to drive to adultery and theft, fires to ignite at the hearts of ancient houses. […] I was nowhere near the end.

 

~ Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

 

Janez Šubic, 1878

Janez Šubic, 1878

 

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