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My Ambition

is to become a footnote

in a learned work of the

 

22nd century   not just a

“cf” or a “see” but a sol-

 

id note such as Raby gives

Walafrid Straho in Christ-

 

ian Latin Poetry or Ernst

Robert Curtius (the most

 

erudite German who ever

lived) devotes to Alber-

 

tino Mussato in his Euro-

päische Literatur und La-

 

teinisches Mittelalter   I

hope the scholar of the

 

22nd will lick his schol-

arly lips when he finds me

 

in some forgotten source

(perhaps the Obloquies of

 

Dreadful Edward Dahlberg)

and think here is an odd-

ball I would have liked,

immortalizing me in six

 

turgid lines of footnote.

 

                               ~ James Laughlin

 

“Schreibender Knabe” (“Writing Boy”) by Albert Anker, circa 1908

To the Dreamer

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

 

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

 

~ Langston Hughes, “Dreams”

 

Winter Stars

I went out at night alone;

 The young blood flowing beyond the sea

Seemed to have drenched my spirit’s wings –

 I bore my sorrow heavily.

 

But when I lifted up my head

 From shadows shaken on the snow,

I saw Orion in the east

 Burn steadily as long ago.

 

From windows in my father’s house,

 Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,

I watched Orion as a girl

 Above another city’s lights.

 

Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,

 The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,

All things are changed, save in the east

 The faithful beauty of the stars.

 

                      ~ Sara Teasdale

 

“Snow Maiden” by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1899

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

 

“The Frosty Morning” by Nikolay Dubovskoy, 1894

Snowflake

Timing’s everything.  The vapor rises

high in the sky, tossing to and fro,

then freezes, suddenly, and crystalizes

into a perfect flake of miraculous snow.

For countless miles, drifting east above

the world, whirling about in a swirling free-

for-all, appearing aimless, just like love,

but sensing, seeking out, its destiny.

 

~ From “Snowflake” by William Baer, Borges and Other Sonnets

 

“The Skater” by Pierre Troubetskoy, 1895

With what stillness at last

you appear in the valley

your first sunlight reaching down

to touch the tips of a few

high leaves that do not stir

as though they had not noticed

and did not know you at all

then the voice of a dove calls

from far away in itself

to the hush of the morning

 

so this is the sound of you

here and now whether or not

anyone hears it this is

where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

untouched and still possible

 

~ W. S. Merwin

 

Carl Skanberg, 1880

December 31st

All my undone actions wander

naked across the calendar,

 

a band of skinny hunter-gatherers,

blown snow scattered here and there,

 

stumbling toward a future

folded in the New Year I secure

 

with a pushpin: January’s picture

a painting from the 17th century,

 

a still life: Skull and mirror,

spilled coin purse and a flower.

 

          ~ Richard Hoffman

 

“Self-Portrait with Vanitas Symbols” by David Bailly, 1651

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