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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Night

It’s all right

Unless you’re either lonely or under attack.

That strange effortful

Repositioning of yourself. Laundry, shopping,

Hours, the telephone – unless misinformed –

Only ever ringing for you, if it ever does.

The night – yours to decide,

Among drink, or books, or lying there.

On your back, or curled up.

 

An embarrassment of poverty.

 

                    ~ Michael Hofmann

 

"Reading Woman" by Poul Friis Nybo, 1929

“Reading Woman” by Poul Friis Nybo, 1929

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Who has not waked to list the busy sounds

Of summer’s morning, in the sultry smoke

Of noisy London? On the pavement hot

The sooty chimney-boy, with dingy face

And tattered covering, shrilly bawls his trade,

Rousing the sleepy housemaid. At the door

The milk-pail rattles, and the tinkling bell

Proclaims the dustman’s office; while the street

Is lost in clouds impervious. Now begins

The din of hackney-coaches, wagons, carts;

While tinmen’s shops, and noisy trunk-makers,

Knife-grinders, coopers, squeaking cork-cutters,

Fruit-barrows, and the hunger-giving cries

Of vegetable-vendors, fill the air.

Now every shop displays its varied trade,

And the fresh-sprinkled pavement cools the feet

Of early walkers. At the private door

The ruddy housemaid twirls the busy mop,

Annoying the smart ’prentice, or neat girl,

Tripping with band-box lightly. Now the sun

Darts burning splendor on the glittering pane,

Save where the canvas awning throws a shade

On the gay merchandise. Now, spruce and trim,

In shops (where beauty smiles with industry)

Sits the smart damsel; while the passenger

Peeps through the window, watching every charm.

Now pastry dainties catch the eye minute

Of humming insects, while the limy snare

Waits to enthrall them. Now the lamp-lighter

Mounts the tall ladder, nimbly venturous,

To trim the half-filled lamps, while at his feet

The pot-boy yells discordant! All along

The sultry pavement, the old-clothes-man cries

In tone monotonous, while sidelong views

The area for his traffic: now the bag

Is slyly opened, and the half-worn suit

(Sometimes the pilfered treasure of the base

Domestic spoiler), for one half its worth,

Sinks in the green abyss. The porter now

Bears his huge load along the burning way;

And the poor poet wakes from busy dreams,

To paint the summer morning.

 

                               ~ Mary Robinson

 

"A Street Flower Seller" by Augustus Edwin Mulready, 1882

“A Street Flower Seller” by Augustus Edwin Mulready, 1882

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This has been a summer of quiet anticipation. Nearly giddy with the possibility of commencing my doctoral studies in the spring, I am waiting for former and potential professors to return from summer hiatuses, classes to resume, and admissions offices to reopen. In six weeks, the application process will become a whirlwind of activity, consuming my free time through November 1. But for now, while the days are warm and far too bright for my liking and any discernible progress is stalled, I can only read, study, write…and wait. It is summer, after all.

 

What is the change in summer

of which one expects nothing?

Nature is not reborn,

nor does she perish except

in the streaks of a rare elm

that has outlived itself.

The weather conceals nothing:

the months are temperate,

even in the hardest rains

one may walk without a coat.

The gardens flourish, and bear

without a gardener’s help.

 

Sitting in windows at night

black cats and their masters

look out on summer; the moon

feeds their yellow visions,

the opened windows cool them.

One learns to smoke a pipe

and is pleased for solitude.

One wants nothing to happen

forever, and thinks of those

who perhaps are ready to die,

except that it is summer

and they are putting it off.

 

~ Robley Wilson, excerpt from “In summer, nothing happens,” included in Robert Atwan’s anthology A Dream of Summer: Poems for the Sensuous Season (Beacon Press, 2004)

 

"Young Woman Holding a Black Cat" by Gwen John, circa 1920

“Young Woman Holding a Black Cat” by Gwen John, circa 1920

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I was chasing this blue butterfly down

the road when a car came by and clipped me.

It was nothing serious, but it angered me and

I turned around and cursed the driver who didn’t

even slow down to see if I was hurt. Then I

returned my attention to the butterfly which

was nowhere to be seen. One of the Doubleday

girls came running up the street with her toy

poodle toward me. I stopped her and asked,

“Have you seen a blue butterfly around here?”

“It’s down near that birch tree near Grandpa’s,”

she said. “Thanks,” I said, and walked briskly

toward the tree. It was fluttering from flower

to flower in Mr. Doubleday’s extensive garden,

a celestial blueness to soothe the weary heart.

I didn’t know what I was doing there. I certainly

didn’t want to capture it. It was like

something I had known in another life, even if

it was only in a dream, I wanted to confirm it.

I was a blind beggar on the streets of Cordoba

when I first saw it, and now, again it was here.

 

~ James Vincent Tate, died on this day in 2015

 

Blue Morpho Butterfly by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)

Blue Morpho Butterfly by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)

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A Summer Wish

Oh that it were with me

As with the flower;

Blooming on its own tree

For butterfly and bee

Its summer morns:

That I might bloom mine hour

A rose in spite of thorns.

 

Oh that my work were done

As birds’ that soar

Rejoicing in the sun:

That when my time is run

And daylight too,

I so might rest once more

Cool with refreshing dew.

 

~ From “A Summer Wish” by Christina Rossetti

 

Unknown Artist, 1893

Unknown Artist, 1893

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A smoky rain riddles the ocean plains,

Rings on the beaches’ stones, stomps in the swales,

Batters the panes

Of the shore hotel, and the hoped-for summer chills and fails.

The summer people sigh,

“Is this July?”

 

They talk by the lobby fire but no one hears

For the thrum of the rain. In the dim and sounding halls,

Din at the ears,

Dark at the eyes well in the head, and the ping-pong balls

Scatter their hollow knocks

Like crazy clocks.

 

But up in his room by artificial light

My father paints the summer, and his brush

Tricks into sight

The prosperous sleep, the girdling stir and clear steep hush

Of a summer never seen,

A granted green.

 

Summer, luxuriant Sahara, the orchard spray

Gales in the Eden trees, the knight again

Can cast away

His burning mail, Rome is at Anzio: but the rain

For the ping-pong’s optative bop

Will never stop.

 

Caught Summer is always an imagined time.

Time gave it, yes, but time out of any mind.

There must be prime

In the heart to beget that season, to reach past rain and find

Riding the palest days

Its perfect blaze.

 

                                                              ~ Richard Wilbur

 

Self-portrait of Ignaz Gaugengigl in his studio, 1881

Self-portrait of Ignaz Gaugengigl in his studio, 1881

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The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The reader became the book; and summer night

 

Was like the conscious being of the book.

The house was quiet and the world was calm.

 

The words were spoken as if there was no book,

Except that the reader leaned above the page,

 

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be

The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

 

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.

The house was quiet because it had to be.

 

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:

The access of perfection to the page.

 

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,

In which there is no other meaning, itself

 

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself

Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

 

                                                ~ Wallace Stevens

 

"Der Bücherwurm" ("The Bookworm") by Hermann Fenner-Behmer, 1906

“Der Bücherwurm” (“The Bookworm”) by Hermann Fenner-Behmer, 1906

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