Evening Poetry, September 12

Adam’s Curse

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,   
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,   
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.   
Better go down upon your marrow-bones   
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones   
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;   
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet   
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen   
The martyrs call the world.’


                                          And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake   
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache   
On finding that her voice is sweet and low   
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing   
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be   
So much compounded of high courtesy   
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks   
Precedents out of beautiful old books;   
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;   
We saw the last embers of daylight die,   
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky   
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell   
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell   
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:   
That you were beautiful, and that I strove   
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown   
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

You can find this poem in The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats.

Evening Poetry, September 11

Photograph from September 11 

By Wislawa Szymborska

Translated By Clare Cavanagh

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them   
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.

You can find this poem in Monologue of a Dog.

Evening Poetry, September 10

Living Together

by David Whyte

We are like children in the master’s violin shop
not yet allowed to touch the tiny planes or the rare wood
but given brooms to sweep the farthest corners
of the room, to gather shavings, mop spilled resins
and watch with apprehension the tender curves
emerging from apprenticed hands.  The master
rarely shows himself but whenever he does he demonstrates
a concentrated ease so different from the willful accumulation
of experience we have come to expect,
a stripping away, a direct appreciation of all the elements
we are bound, one day, to find beneath our hands.
He stands in our minds so clearly now, his confident back
caught in the light from pale clerestory windows
and we note the way the slight tremor of his palms
disappears the moment they encounter wood.

In this light we hunger for maturity, see it not as stasis
but a form of love.  We want the stillness and confidence
of age, the space between self and all the objects of the world
honoured and defined, the possibility that everything
left alone can ripen of its own accord,
all passionate transformations arranged only
through innocent meetings, one to another,
the way we see resin allowed to seep into the wood
in the wood’s own secret time.  We intuit our natures
becoming resonant with one another according
to the grain of the way we are made.  Nothing forced
or wanted until it ripens in our own expectant hands.
But for now, in the busy room, we stand in the child’s
first shy witness of one another, and see ourselves again,
gladly and always, falling in love with our future.

You can find this poem in The Sea in You.

Evening Poetry, September 9

The Taxi

by Amy Lowell

When I go away from you

The world beats dead

Like a slackened drum.

I call out for you against the jutted stars

And shout into the ridges of the wind.

Streets coming fast,

One a after the other,

Wedge you away from me,

And the lamps of the city prick my eyes

So that I can no longer see your face.

Why should I leave you

To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

You can find this poem in The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell.

Evening Poetry, September 8

Praying

by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

You can find this poem in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, September 7

Opal

by Amy Lowell

You are ice and fire,

The touch of you burns my hands like snow.

You are cold and flame.

You are the crimson of amaryllis,

The silver of moon-touched magnolias.

When I am with you,

My heart is a frozen pond

Gleaming with agitated torches.

This poem can be found in The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell.

Evening Poetry, September 6

This is a poem found in The Book of a Monastic Life from Rilke’s Book of Hours.

by Rainer Maria Rilke

I,5

I love the dark hours of my being.

My mind deepens into them.

There I can find, as in old letters,

the days of my life, already lived,

and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open

to another life that’s wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree

rustling over a gravesite

and making real the dream

of the one its living roots

embrace:

a dream once lost

among sorrows and songs.

You can find this in Rilke’s Book of Hours.