Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category


Each year, on this same date, the summer solstice comes.

Consummate light: we plan for it,

the day we tell ourselves

that time is very long indeed, nearly infinite.

And in our reading and writing, preference is given

to the celebratory, the ecstatic.


There is in these rituals something apart from wonder:

there is also a kind of preening,

as though human genius had participated in these arrangements

and we found the results satisfying.


What follows the light is what precedes it:

the moment of balance, of dark equivalence.


But tonight we sit in the garden in our canvas chairs

so late into the evening –

why should we look either forward or backward?

Why should we be forced to remember:

it is in our blood, this knowledge.

Shortness of the days; darkness, coldness of winter.

It is in our blood and bones; it is in our history.

It takes genius to forget these things.


                                                                    ~ Louise Glück


“The Dreamer (Summer Evening)” by James Tissot, 1871

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I held the framework

of my life in mind

with some precision.

I knew when I was

where—or where I was

when—but not many

incidents of my past had

actually been preserved.

Instead the frame served

as a cargo cult runway,

forever inviting

the future to appear.

I existed finally

as the idea

of temporal extension.


From “Passage” by Rae Armantrout


John Singer Sargent, 1882

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Her House

Her house was weather-bitten, gray and bent,

And seemed to lack those eyes and ears

Which come to houses with the years.

Hers had taken all and all had spent.


In the dying light it was like a man who knows

That a single sleep and a single dream

Remain among the things that seem,

But gives no sign nor smile before he goes.


The door swung in to let her cross the yard.

And watching, I believed the myth

Of trees that cracked from bark to pith

To show the light to creatures long debarred.


Her dress was part nymph-gauze and part a shroud,

And part that breath of northern sky

That lifts, to loose them with a sigh,

The circling branches where the spruces crowd.


                                            ~ Edward A. Richards


Peter Mørk Mønsted, 1919

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In Fountain Court

The fountain murmuring of sleep,

A drowsy tune;

The flickering green of leaves that keep

The light of June;

Peace, through a slumbering afternoon,

The peace of June.


A waiting ghost, in the blue sky,

The white curved moon;

June, hushed and breathless, waits, and I

Wait too, with June;

Come, through the lingering afternoon,

Soon, love, come soon.


                                   ~ Arthur William Symons (1865-1945)


“Undine” by John William Waterhouse (1872)

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More Than Enough

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.

All over the sand road where we walk

multiflora rose climbs trees cascading

white or pink blossoms, simple, intense

the scene drifting like colored mist.


The arrowhead is spreading its creamy

clumps of flower and the blackberries

are blooming in the thickets. Season of

joy for the bee. The green will never

again be so green, so purely and lushly


new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads

into the wind. Rich fresh wine

of June, we stagger into you smeared

with pollen, overcome as the turtle

laying her eggs in roadside sand.


           ~ Marge Piercy


“Girl with Lilies” by John White Alexander, 1889

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I was always leaving, I was

about to get up and go, I was

on my way, not sure where.

Somewhere else. Not here.

Nothing here was good enough.


It would be better there, where I

was going. Not sure how or why.

The dome I cowered under

would be raised, and I would be released

into my true life. I would meet there


the ones I was destined to meet.

They would make an opening for me

among the flutes and boulders,

and I would be taken up. That this

might be a form of death


did not occur to me. I only know

that something held me back,

a doubt, a debt, a face I could not

leave behind. When the door

fell open, I did not go through.


~ Jean Nordhaus


“At the Door” by Albert Edelfelt, 1901

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Gardens are also good places

to sulk. You pass beds of

spiky voodoo lilies

and trip over the roots

of a sweet gum tree,

in search of medieval

plants whose leaves,

when they drop off

turn into birds

if they fall on land,

and colored carp if they

plop into water.


Suddenly the archetypal

human desire for peace

with every other species

wells up in you. The lion

and the lamb cuddling up.

The snake and the snail, kissing.

Even the prick of the thistle,

queen of the weeds, revives

your secret belief

in perpetual spring,

your faith that for every hurt

there is a leaf to cure it.


~ Amy Gerstler from Bitter Angel


Marcus Stone, circa 1900

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