Grieve Not

Grieve not that winter masks the yet quick earth,
Nor still that summer walks the hills no more;
That fickle spring has doffed the plaid she wore
To swathe herself in napkins till rebirth.

These buddings, flowerings, are nothing worth;
This ermine cloud stretched firm across the lakes
Will presently be shattered into flakes;
Then, starveling world, be subject to my mirth.

After Fifty Years

Her house is empty and her heart is old,
And filled with shades and echoes that deceive
No one save her, for still she tries to weave
With blind bent fingers, nets that cannot hold.
Once all men’ s arms rose up to her, ‘tis told,
And hovered like white birds for her caress:
A crown she could have had to bind each tress
Of hair, and her sweet arms the Witches’ Gold.

The Rosehead Nail

“But can you forge a nail?” the blond boy asks,
And the blacksmith shoves a length of  iron rod
Deep in the coal fire cherished by the bellows
Until it glows volcanic. He was a god
Before anachronism, before the tasks
That had been craft were jobbed out to machine.
By dint of   hammer-song he makes his keen,
Raw point, and crowns utility with rose:
Quincunx of facets petaling its head.
The breeze-made-visible sidewinds. The boy’ s
Blonde mother shifts and coughs. Once Work was wed

Professional Middle-class Couple, 1927

Professional Middle-class Couple, 1927 by August Sander
What justifies the inequality
That issues her a tastefully square-cut
Ruby for her finger, him a suit
Whose rumpled, unemphatic dignity
Declares a life of working sitting down,
While someone in a sweatshop has to squint
And palsy sewing, and a continent
Sheds blood to pry the gemstone from the ground,
Could not be justice. Nothing but the use
To which they put prosperity can speak
In their defense: the faces money makes,

Draw Near

For near is where you’ ll meet what you have wandered
far to find. And near is where you’ ll very likely see
how far the near obtains. In the dark katholikon
the lighted candles lent their gold to give the eye
a more than common sense of what lay flickering
just beyond the ken, and lent the mind a likely
swoon just shy of apprehension. It was then
that time’ s neat artifice fell in and made for us
a figure for when time would slip free altogether.
I have no sense of what this means to you, so little

Dan Emmett Writes “Dixie,” 1859

He started with the tune his mother had hummed
in Ohio, nostalgia he’ d carried for years,
and by Sunday afternoon he had the words.
A triumph, already; he whistled the banjo’ s part.

(Himself a sympathizer from the North,
called copperhead, called traitor by his own kin.)

Something lively, some git-up-and-git they’ d wanted
and didn’ t he deliver —
Miss Susan got seven encores the first night.
That gave them their tune, their Negro walk-around —

My Grandmother Plays Emily in Our Town

I

I am asking something gone
return: at least one night, her face

a girl’ s, just twenty, and
to be married in a month,

holding the dress’ s hem to her lips
as places are called. And I,

come along too late to know her
trembling, parting the curtain —

let me hear her now
perched on the ladder, recite

“But Mama,...
am I pretty enough...?”

II

When Emily marries, ladies in hats
drown out the proper vows

— it’ s what the play requires;
the everyday over the sacred. Even the set

The Eve of St. Agnes

St. Agnes' Eve — Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,

A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,

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