“O despairer, here is my neck, By God, you shall not go down!”

photograph by SHVETS production via Pexels

I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.

— “Song Of Myself”

That’s Why I’m Here

 

“Who goes with Fergus?”

photograph by Tim Foster via Unsplash

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

— W. B. Yeats
 

“Come, And Be My Baby”

cf. photograph taken from video by cottonbro studio via Pexels

The highway is full of big cars
going nowhere fast
And folks is smoking anything that’ll burn
Some people wrap their lies around a cocktail glass
And you sit wondering
where you’re going to turn
I got it.
Come. And be my baby.

— Maya Angelou

 

Prayers for Roberta Flack

“Bird-Understander”

photograph by Jordan Whitt via Unsplash

Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal all the people
ignoring it because they do not know
what to do with it except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

it makes you terribly terribly sad

You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird

All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless

but you are wrong

You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song

These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt

you have offered them
to me I am only
giving them back

if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

— Craig Arnold
 

“cry I can no more”

photograph by Ryan Byrne via Unsplash

NOT, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come…

— Gerard Manley Hopkins
 

“Full many a glorious morning have I seen”

Northeastern University, Course Catalog (1986-87)

FULL many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow;
But, out! alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

— Sonnet XXXIII
 

“Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain”

photograph by Joshua Teichroew via Pexels

THY gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full character’d with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain,
Beyond all date, even to eternity…

— Sonnet CXXII

Hollyann

 

“That time of year thou mayst in me behold”

photograph by Inga Seliverstova via Pexels

THAT time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

— Sonnet LXXIII

And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…

 

 

“Loss”

photograph by Antoine Da cunha via Unsplash

To live without the one you love
an empty dream never known
true happiness except as such youth

watching snow at window
listening to old music through morning.
Riding down that deserted street

by evening in a lonely cab
past a blighted theatre
oh god yes, I missed the chance of my life

when I gasped, when I got up and
rushed out the room
away from you.

— John Wieners
 

“To me, fair friend, you never can be old”

photograph by Anthony Tran via Unsplash

TO me, fair friend, you never can be old
For as you were when first your eye I ey’d,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion…

— Sonnet CIV

Roll with the Changes

 

I remember the night the Green–Schwarz mechanism was discovered

Northeastern University Course Catalog, 1984-85

String Theory

I remember the night the Green–Schwarz mechanism was discovered —
It was a stormy summer night in 1984.
The lightning that flashed across the equations on the blackboard
also flashed across my curtains,
two oranges on the dining room table,
a Pat Metheny album on the blue shag carpet.
I, too, thought I had solved something.
I, too, thought I was free of anomalies.
But the next day I still couldn’t figure it out.

— J.S.
 

“Duet On Mass Ave, June, 1981”

Mohamed Hayibor, Church of Christ, Scientist (2016)

Duet On Mass Ave, June, 1981

over the sound
of summer fountains
I heard your melody
echo
the city
ten true summers we’ll be there and laughing too
bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
but to be young was very heaven!

— J.S.
 

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

Grego, Street Musician (2014)

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

onrushing out into the
42nd street passage
huddled in the corner
frayed and fallen
drifted from the street
in pieces and broken-down
Yamaha nylon string guitar
the third Brandenburg
reverberated, echoed, re-echoed
transfixed and transfigured
I put all my money in his well-worn open case
It was almost Christmas

— J.S.

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048 – III. Allegro by TXGQ

“Think Not All Is Over”

photograph by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Think not, when the wailing winds of autumn
Drive the shivering leaflets from the tree,—
Think not all is over: spring returneth,
Buds and leaves and blossoms thou shalt see.

Think not, when the earth lies cold and sealed,
And the weary birds above her mourn,—
Think not all is over: God still liveth,
Songs and sunshine shall again return.

Think not, when thy heart is waste and dreary,
When thy cherished hopes lie chill and sere,—
Think not all is over: God still loveth,
He will wipe away thy every tear.

Weeping for a night alone endureth,
God at last shall bring a morning hour;
In the frozen buds of every winter
Sleep the blossoms of a future flower.

— Harriet Beecher Stowe
 

“A Drinking Song”

cf. Charles O’Rear, “Passengers enjoy the view in the observation car…” (1974)

WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

— Yeats
 

“Souvenir”

cf. photograph by RODNAE Productions via Pexels

Just a rainy day or two
In a windy tower,
That was all I had of you—
Saving half an hour.

Marred by greeting passing groups
In a cinder walk,
Near some naked blackberry hoops
Dim with purple chalk.

I remember three or four
Things you said in spite,
And an ugly coat you wore,
Plaided black and white.

Just a rainy day or two
And a bitter word.
Why do I remember you
As a singing bird?

— Edna St. Vincent Millay
 

“Flower-gathering”

cf. LIFE Magazine (1963)

I LEFT you in the morning,
And in the morning glow,
You walked a way beside me
To make me sad to go.
Do you know me in the gloaming,
Gaunt and dusty grey with roaming?
Are you dumb because you know me not,
Or dumb because you know?

All for me? And not a question
For the faded flowers gay
That could take me from beside you
For the ages of a day?
They are yours, and be the measure
Of their worth for you to treasure,
The measure of the little while
That I’ve been long away.

— Robert Frost

Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely

 

“His soul has in its Autumn”

photograph by Shaan Johari via Pexels

His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness—to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.

— Keats, “The Human Seasons”

It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference

 

“His Phoenix”

edited digital collage including photograph by Yoann Boyer via Unsplash

There’ll be that crowd to make men wild through all the centuries,
And maybe there’ll be some young belle walk out to make men wild
Who is my beauty’s equal, though that my heart denies,
But not the exact likeness, the simplicity of a child,
And that proud look as though she had gazed into the burning sun,
And all the shapely body no tittle gone astray,
I mourn for that most lonely thing; and yet God’s will be done,
I knew a phoenix in my youth, so let them have their day.

— W.B. Yeats
 

A Million Miles Away

photograph by Clay Banks via Unsplash

A third time pass’d they by, and, passing, turn’d
Each one the face a moment whiles to me;
Then faded, and to follow them I burn’d
And ached for wings, because I knew the three;
The first was a fair Maid, and Love her name…

— Keats, “Ode on Indolence”
 

“For the rain it raineth every day.”

photograph by Kalle Saarinen via Unsplash

But when I came, alas, to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

Twelfth Night

You Make Me Crazy

 

“WHY, who makes much of a miracle?”

photograph by Jason King via Unsplash

WHY, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky…
Or talk by day with any one I love…

— Whitman, Leaves of Grass (“Miracles”)

Miracles

 

“Savez-vous quelque bien qui console du regret d’un monde?”

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

Again I feel the words inspire
Their mournful calm; serene,
Yet tinged with infinite desire
For all that might have been—

— Matthew Arnold, “Obermann Once More”

“Thel’s Motto”

photograph by Mikita Yo via Unsplash

Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
Or wilt thou go ask the Mole:
Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
Or Love in a golden bowl?

— William Blake, from “The Book of Thel”

The Rainbow Connection

 

“I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”

cf. video by Yaroslav Shuraev via Pexels

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!

— Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

“SUCCESS is counted sweetest”

photograph by Zane Lindsay via Unsplash

SUCCESS is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.

— Emily Dickinson

“Convalescence”

photograph by Oveth Martinez via Unsplash

From out the dragging vastness of the sea,
Wave-fettered, bound in sinuous seaweed strands,
He toils toward the rounding beach, and stands
One moment, white and dripping, silently,
Cut like a cameo in lazuli,
Then falls, betrayed by shifting shells, and lands
Prone in the jeering water, and his hands
Clutch for support where no support can be.
So up, and down, and forward, inch by inch,
He gains upon the shore, where poppies glow
And sandflies dance their little lives away.
The sucking waves retard, and tighter clinch
The weeds about him, but the land-winds blow,
And in the sky there blooms the sun of May.

— Amy Lowell

Just One Victory

 

“La Fraisne”

photograph by Les Anderson via Unsplash

Once when I was among the young men …
And they said I was quite strong, among the young men …
Once there was a woman …
… but I forget … she was …
… I hope she will not come again.

… I do not remember …
I think she hurt me once, but …
That was very long ago.

— Ezra Pound


Tequila

“Instructions on Not Giving Up”

photograph by Johan Godínez via Unsplash

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

— Ada Limón

Feelin’ Stronger Every Day

“GOING to him! Happy letter! Tell him—”

photograph by Jan Tinneberg via Unsplash

“GOING to him! Happy letter! Tell him—
Tell him the page I did n’t write;
Tell him I only said the syntax,
And left the verb and the pronoun out.
Tell him just how the fingers hurried,
Then how they waded, slow, slow, slow;
And then you wished you had eyes in your pages,
So you could see what moved them so.

“Tell him it was n’t a practised writer,
You guessed, from the way the sentence toiled;
You could hear the bodice tug, behind you,
As if it held but the might of a child;
You almost pitied it, you, it worked so.
Tell him—No, you may quibble there,
For it would split his heart to know it,
And then you and I were silenter.

“Tell him night finished before we finished,
And the old clock kept neighing ‘day!’
And you got sleepy and begged to be ended—
What could it hinder so, to say?
Tell him just how she sealed you, cautious,
But if he ask where you are hid
Until to-morrow,—happy letter!
Gesture, coquette, and shake your head!”

— Emily Dickinson


2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)

Antony and Cleopatra

photograph by Alisa Anton via Unsplash

The barge she sat in like a burnished throne
Burned on the water. The poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them. The oars were
silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggared all description: she did lie
In her pavilion—cloth-of-gold, of tissue—
O’erpicturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature. On each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colored fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.

Antony and Cleopatra

Mercedes Boy

“Kind Are Her Answers”

photograph by Hello Revival via Unsplash

Kind are her answers,
But her performance keeps no day;
Breaks time, as dancers
From their own music when they stray:
All her free favors
And smooth words wing my hopes in vain.
O did ever voice so sweet but only feign?
Can true love yield such delay,
Converting joy to pain?

— Thomas Campion

Hey Deanie

“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

photograph by Riccardo Mion via Unsplash

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

— Wallace Stevens

What Is Life

“Thou Dusky Spirit Of The Wood”

photograph by David Tran via Unsplash

Thou dusky spirit of the wood,
Bird of an ancient brood,
Flitting thy lonely way,
A meteor in the summer’s day,
From wood to wood, from hill to hill,
Low over forest, field and rill,
What wouldst thou say?
Why shouldst thou haunt the day?
What makes thy melancholy float?
What bravery inspires thy throat,
And bears thee up above the clouds,
Over desponding human crowds,
Which far below
Lay thy haunts low?

— Henry David Thoreau

Change Myself

“Elms”

photograph by Lisanto 李奕良 via Unsplash

All day I tried to distinguish
need from desire. Now, in the dark,
I feel only bitter sadness for us,
the builders, the planers of wood,
because I have been looking
steadily at these elms
and seen the process that creates
the writhing, stationary tree
is torment, and have understood
it will make no forms but twisted forms.

— Louise Glück

“A Winter’s Tale”

photograph by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Yesterday the fields were only grey with scattered snow,
And now the longest grass-leaves hardly emerge;
Yet her deep footsteps mark the snow, and go
On towards the pines at the hills’ white verge.

I cannot see her, since the mist’s white scarf
Obscures the dark wood and the dull orange sky;
But she’s waiting, I know, impatient and cold, half
Sobs struggling into her frosty sigh.

Why does she come so promptly, when she must know
That she’s only the nearer to the inevitable farewell;
The hill is steep, on the snow my steps are slow –
Why does she come, when she knows what I have to tell?

— D. H. Lawrence

“Nothing Gold Can Stay”

photograph by Florencia Viadana via Unsplash

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

— Robert Frost

Mainstreet

“Song in the Songless”

photograph by Scott Webb via Unsplash

They have no song, the sedges dry,
And still they sing.
It is within my breast they sing,
As I pass by.
Within my breast they touch a string,
They wake a sigh.
There is but sound of sedges dry;
In me they sing.

— George Meredith