Ode on the death of a favorite cat,
drowned in a tub of goldfishes

Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
    The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
    Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
    The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
    She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ‘midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
    The genii of the stream:
Their scaly armor’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
    Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw,
    With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
    What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,
    Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
    She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
    Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
    A favorite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
    And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
    Nor all that glisters, gold.

– Thomas Gray

end

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

— W. B. Yeats 

end

Tell Me

Tell me, my dearest
now when I listen
to your heart beating,
when I drink from a little spring of warmth
in your neck,
when I look into you
as if you were transparent,
and see every thought of yours
and know
that you would die for me
were it necessary,
tell me now
whether we are the happiest
of all people
or the most unhappy.

— Anna Swir

end

Otherwise

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otehrwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

— Jane Kenyon 

end

Mother, in Love at Sixty

Reason number one it can’t work: his name is Bill. For god’s
sake, he hunts. He has no pets, other than two doting
daughters, and his ex-wife is still alive. He’s simply not my
type. Who wants to get married again, anyway? I’m too old.
I go South at the first frost. Plus, he’s messy. Men are messy.
He could die. Then where would I be?

— Susanna Styve 

end

Calling him back from layoff

I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been

confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was

and it turns out I’m OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars

painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that’s a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle

for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said

he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean

and his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through

with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod
which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions

as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried

with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward

than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other

and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other

forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones

hear?

— Bob Hicok 

end