We stood on the rented patio
While the party went on inside.
You knew the groom from college.
I was a friend of the bride.
We hugged the brownstone wall behind us
To keep our dress clothes dry
And watched the sudden summer storm
Floodlit against the sky.
The rain was like a waterfall
Of brilliant beaded light,
Cool and silent as the stars
The storm hid from the night.
To my surprise, you took my arm—
A gesture you didn’t explain—
And we spoke in whispers, as if we two
Might imitate the rain.
Then suddenly the storm receded
As swiftly as it came.
The doors behind us opened up.
The hostess called your name.
I watched you merge into the group,
Aloof and yet polite.
We didn’t speak another word
Except to say goodnight.
Why does that evening’s memory
Return with this night’s storm—
A party twenty years ago,
Its disappointments warm?
There are so many might have beens,
What ifs that won’t stay buried,
Other cities, other jobs,
Strangers we might have married.
And memory insists on pining
For places it never went,
As if life would be happier
Just by being different.
– Dana Gioia
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.
– Wendy Cope
Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.
Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work.
Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.
Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.
– Miguel de Unamuno
The world is
not with us enough.
O taste and see
the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,
grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform
into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being
hungry, and plucking
– Denise Levertov
I shall die in my boots.
Kick open the saloon doors
of heaven or hell,
lasso the darkest hombre
and shoot any hat in the house
who doesn’t buy me a drink.
– Kim Konopka
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to the air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
– Jane Kenyon
Actually: it’s the balls I look for, always.
Men in the street, offices, cars, restaurants,
it’s the nuts I imagine—
firm, soft, in hairy sacks
the way they are
down there rigged between the thighs,
the funny way they are.
One in front, a little in front of the other
slightly higher. The way they slip
between your fingers, the way they
slip around in their soft sack.
The way they swing when he walks,
hang down when he bends
over. You see them sometimes bright pink
out of a pair of shorts
when he sits wide and unaware—
the hair sparse and wiry
like that on a poland china pig.
You can see the skin right through—
speckled, with wrinkles like a prune,
but loose, slipping over those kernels
rocking the smooth, small huevos,
so delicate, the cock becomes a diversion,
a masthead overlarge, its flag distracting
from beautiful pebbles beneath.
– Anne McNaughton
It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
The only things moving are swirls of snow.
As I lift the mailbox door, I feel its cold iron.
There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.
Driving around, I will waste more time.
– Robert Bly
Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air
That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of—was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Downhill at dusk?
I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they’re gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.
I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.
Now no joy but lacks salt,
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the strain
Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.
When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,
The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.
– Robert Frost
The orchestra playing
the last waltz
at three o’clock
in the morning
in the Knights of Pythias Hall
in Hartland, New Brunswick,
Canada, North America,
world, solar system,
centre of the universe—
and all of us drunk,
to the music of rum
and a sad clarinet:
each with his beloved.
– Alden Nowlan