April 29, 2017

The First Owner of This Book Says Its Story

by Lex Runciman

Smaller than an opened hand this little book —
war over, paper yet rare and dear.
The important word here, over — turn the page.

But how, when your child learned to walk
hand to stranger's hand in the Piccadilly Tube shelter -
sleep-fractured nights, a small girl's uneven

balance and stagger, each step kindness, distraction,
panic, dread. Deaths and Entrances, 1946,

acid pages foxing and foxed, that girl's prayers
by some trick older and her father returned
— no longer those fears he or she or I might be dead.

I read in memory of, in praise of.
In thanksgiving for, I keep and read this little book.

And one night between "Holy Spring"
and "Fern Hill," I place a curved inch
of that girl's cut hair, that I might forget

and then all Gabriel and radiant find
my child of apple towns, not war —
not dark, but windfall light.

April 27, 2017

The Old Astronomer (To His Pupil)

by Sarah Williams

Reach me down my Tycho Brah̩, РI would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, ‘tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men’s fellowship and wiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant’s fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;
You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.
I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.
You “have none but me,” you murmur, and I “leave you quite alone”?

Well then, kiss me, – since my mother left her blessing on my brow,
There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;
I can dimly comprehend it, – that I might have been more kind,
Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.

I “have never failed in kindness”? No, we lived too high for strife,–
Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;
But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you still
To the service of our science: you will further it? you will!

There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,
To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;
And remember, “Patience, Patience,” is the watchword of a sage,
Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.

I have sown, like Tycho Brahé, that a greater man may reap;
But if none should do my reaping, 'twill disturb me in my sleep
So be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;
See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.

I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;
Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:
It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,–
God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.

April 09, 2017

A Homecoming

by Wendell Berry

One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of old love, cultivation shows
a dark graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distances of our faith,
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.

April 07, 2017

Costume Jewelry

by me

You once said I wore grief like costume jewelry,
wrapped myself in it like the              drape
                                                                             and sweep
of a cheap
dress. I think the word
you were looking for is
                                       “gaudy.” And
maybe I have exalted grief, maybe
sorrow            swaddles
                                         me. Once I held
the knotted arthritic hand of a dying
woman, drowning
in her own lungs; once stood
dumb before a dear friend’s
mother after that friend
                                             hanged       herself;
thrice swallowed voice and terror
when shouting men followed me         
                                                         for blocks
in the dark. How many friends
have written goodbye letters, and how
many didn’t bother with goodbyes at all;
the countless ways gin
goes down
                         smoother than empty silence; how many
apologies I made for the ambit of my body,
for the chasm under my tongue, for how
urgently I constructed homes inside others when
they had issued me no invitation, and
how many times I should have known better.


Maybe you were right. Grief garments
me, that ancient weave. But you must
forgive me. I can only wear the clothes
                                                                 I am given.