Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category

It’s a motley lot.  A few still stand

at attention like sentries at the ends

of their driveways, but more lean

askance as if they’d just received a blow

to the head, and in fact they’ve received

many, all winter, from jets of wet snow

shooting off the curved, tapered blade

of the plow.  Some look wobbly, cocked

at oddball angles or slumping forlornly

on precariously listing posts.  One box

bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door

lolling sideways, unhinged.  Others are dented,

battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,

crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.

A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow

that knocked them from their perches.

Another is wedged in the crook of a tree

like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.

I almost feel sorry for them, worn out

by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing

what hit them, trying to hold themselves

together, as they wait for news from spring.


                                       ~ Jeffrey Harrison


Scottius 11

Scottius 11

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Late February

The first warm day,

and by mid-afternoon

the snow is no more

than a washing

strewn over the yards,

the bedding rolled in knots

and leaking water,

the white shirts lying

under the evergreens.

Through the heaviest drifts

rise autumn’s fallen

bicycles, small carnivals

of paint and chrome,

the Octopus

and Tilt-A-Whirl

beginning to turn

in the sun.  Now children,

stiffened by winter

and dressed, somehow,

like old men, mutter

and bend to the work

of building dams.

But such a spring is brief;

by five o’clock

the chill of sundown,

darkness, the blue TVs

flashing like storms

in the picture windows,

the yards gone gray,

the wet dogs barking

at nothing.  Far off

across the cornfields

staked for streets and sewers,

the body of a farmer

missing since fall

will show up

in his garden tomorrow,

as unexpected

as a tulip.


~ Ted Kooser


"Tulip" by Nicolas Verdeille, 2005

“Tulip” by Nicolas Verdeille, 2005

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With about seventeen books on my bedside table currently, I know just how she feels…


there were so many books.  she had to separate them to avoid being overwhelmed by the excessive implications of their words.  she kept hundreds in a series of boxes inside a wire cage in a warehouse.  and hundreds more on the shelves of her various rooms.  when she changed houses she would pack some of the books into the boxes and exchange them for others that had been hibernating.  these resurrected books were precious to her for a while.  they had assumed the patinas of dusty chthonic wisdoms.  and thus she would let them sit on the shelves admiring them from a distance.  gathering time and air.  she did not want to be intimate with their insides.  the atmospherics suggested by the titles were enough.  sometimes she would increase the psychic proximities between herself and the books and place a pile of them on the floor next to her bed.  and quite possibly she absorbed their intentions while she slept.


~ from “reading” by Joanne Burns


"Still Life with Old Books" by Jacques Bizet (photo by Pethrus)

“Still Life with Old Books” by Jacques Bizet (photo by Pethrus)

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As it turned out, Ilsa Hermann not only gave Liesel Meminger a book that day.  She also gave her a reason to spend time in the basement – her favorite place, first with Papa, then Max.  She gave her a reason to write her own words, to see that words had also brought her to life.

“Don’t punish yourself,” she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too.  That was writing.

In the night, when Mama and Papa were asleep, Liesel crept down to the basement and turned on the kerosene lamp.  For the first hour, she only watched the pencil and paper.  She made herself remember, and as was her habit, she did not look away.

Schreibe,” she instructed herself.  “Write.”


~ Markus Zusak, The Book Thief


Meyer von Bremen, 1851

Meyer von Bremen, 1851

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Too high, too high to pluck

My heart shall swing.

A fruit no bee shall suck,

No wasp shall sting.


If on some night of cold

It falls to ground

In apple-leaves of gold

I’ll wrap it round.


And I shall seal it up

With spice and salt,

In a carven silver cup,

In a deep vault.


Before my eyes are blind

And my lips mute,

I must eat core and rind

Of that same fruit.


Before my heart is dust

At the end of all,

Eat it I must, I must

Were it bitter gall.


But I shall keep it sweet

By some strange art;

Wild honey I shall eat

When I eat my heart.


O honey cool and chaste

As clover’s breath!

Sweet Heaven I shall taste

Before my death.


~ Elinor Wylie


"The Morning of St Valentine" by John Callcott Horsley, 1865

“The Morning of St Valentine” by John Callcott Horsley, 1865

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The Snow-Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,

Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,

Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air

Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,

And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.

The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet

Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit

Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed

In a tumultuous privacy of storm.


Come see the north wind’s masonry.

Out of an unseen quarry evermore

Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer

Curves his white bastions with projected roof

Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.

Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work

So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he

For number or proportion.  Mockingly,

On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;

A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;

Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,

Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and, at the gate,

A tapering turret overtops the work.

And when his hours are numbered, and the world

Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,

Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art

To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,

Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,

The frolic architecture of the snow.


                                 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Posted with warm thoughts to all my friends and colleagues in the Northeast.


"Snow Storm" by John La Farge, 1865

“Snow Storm” by John La Farge, 1865

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February Twilight

I stood beside a hill

Smooth with new-laid snow,

A single star looked out

From the cold evening glow.


There was no other creature

That saw what I could see –

I stood and watched the evening star

As long as it watched me.


~ Sara Teasdale


"The Evening Star" by Edward Burne-Jones, 1870

“The Evening Star” by Edward Burne-Jones, 1870

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