“my beloved, isiZulu”

photograph by Ben Koorengevel via Unsplash

I can see the house on the hill where we make our own vegetables out back
and drink warm wine out of jam jars
and sing songs in the kitchen until the sun comes up
wena you make me feel like myself again.

— Yrsa Daley-Ward, “sthandwa sami (my beloved, isiZulu)” (excerpt)
 

“At ten o’clock of a winter eve”

photograph by cottonbro studio via Pexels

I HAD for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.

— Robert Frost, “Good Hours”
 

“I dare say he was alone, and had no one to love him”

photograph by RODNAE Productions via Pexels

“When I left you I found an organ-grinder in Russell Square playing to a child; and the simple fact that there was a child listening to him, that he was giving this pleasure, entitled him, according to my theory, as you know, to some money; so I put some coppers on the ledge of his organ, without so much as looking at him, and I was going on when a woman said to me: ‘Yes sir, he do look bad, don’t he? scarcely fit like to be working.’ And then I looked at the man, and O! he was so ill, so yellow and heavy-eyed and drooping. I did not like to go back somehow , and so I gave the woman a shilling and asked her to give it to him for me. I saw her do so and walked on; but the face followed me, and so when I had got to the end of the division, I turned and came back as hard as I could and filled his hand with money — ten to thirteen shillings, I should think. I was sure he was going to be ill, you know, and he was a young man; and I dare say he was alone, and had no one to love him.”

— Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Mrs. Sitwell, November, 1874
 

“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”

Nationaal Archief, “Enjoying the sunshine” (1965)

WHEN in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

— Sonnet XXIX
 

Ode to a Nightingale

photograph by Matheus Bertelli via Pexels

“I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination…”

— Letter from John Keats to Benjamin Bailey, November 22, 1817
 
 

 

“Narcissus”

photograph by kevin turcios via Unsplash

Near the path through the woods I’ve seen it:
a trail of white candles.

I could find it again, I could follow
its light deep into shadows.

Didn’t I stand there once?
Didn’t I choose to go back

down the cleared path, the familiar?
Narcissus, you said. Wasn’t this

the flower whose sudden enchantments
led Persephone down into Hades?

You remember the way she was changed
when she came every spring, having seen

the withering branches, the chasms,
and how she had to return there

helplessly, having eaten
the seed of desire. What was it

I saw you were offering me
without meaning to, there in the sunlight,

while the flowers beckoned and shone
in their flickering season?

— Patricia Hooper
 

The Great Gatsby

photograph by RODNAE Productions via Pexels

I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it…

The Great Gatsby

Walk On Water

 

“BEFORE the ice is in the pools”

photograph by Korney Violin via Unsplash

BEFORE the ice is in the pools,
Before the skaters go,
Or any cheek at nightfall
Is tarnished by the snow,

Before the fields have finished,
Before the Christmas tree,
Wonder upon wonder
Will arrive to me!

What we touch the hems of
On a summer’s day;
What is only walking
Just a bridge away;

That which sings so, speaks so,
When there’s no one here,—
Will the frock I wept in
Answer me to wear?

— Emily Dickinson
 

vissi d’amore

photograph by Maksym Kaharlytskyi via Unsplash

Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom. His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock and from this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy who was sitting frightened but graceful on the edge of a stiff chair.

The Great Gatsby
 

“One half of me is yours, the other half yours— Mine own, I would say— but if mine, then yours, And so all yours.”

photograph by Andrik Langfield via Unsplash

The horses started up, amid farewells and hand-wavings from the bystanders; and then, as Frau Chauchat sank smilingly back against the cushions of the sleigh, her eyes swept the facade of the Berghof, and rested for the fraction of a second upon Hans Castorp’s face. In pallid haste he sought his loggia, thence to get a last glimpse of the sleigh as it went jingling down the drive toward the Dorf. Then he flung himself into his chair…

The Magic Mountain (Tr. H. T. Lowe-Porter)

Every Time You Go Away

 

BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art—

photograph by Meghan Holmes via Unsplash

The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone—fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor’s mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars.

The Great Gatsby

I’ll Be Over You

 

“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
 

Chapter 4

photograph by Dids via Pexels

“It was a strange coincidence,” I said.

“But it wasn’t a coincidence at all.”

“Why not?”

“Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.”

Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor…

The Great Gatsby
 

“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…

 

 

I get confused ’cause I don’t know where I stand

photograph by Jared Sluyter via Unsplash

To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans,
Coy looks with heart-sore sighs, one fading
moment’s mirth
With twenty watchful, weary, tedious nights;
If haply won, perhaps a hapless gain;
If lost, why then a grievous labor won;
How ever, but a folly bought with wit,
Or else a wit by folly vanquishèd.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Spooky

 

For rain that’s fallen halfway down the sky I apologize

photograph by Joshua Sukoff via Unsplash

Admiringly, my liege. At first
I stuck my choice upon her, ere my heart
Durst make too bold a herald of my tongue;
Where the impression of mine eye infixing,
Contempt his scornful perspective did lend me,
Which warped the line of every other favor,
Scorned a fair color or expressed it stol’n,
Extended or contracted all proportions
To a most hideous object. Thence it came
That she whom all men praised and whom myself,
Since I have lost, have loved, was in mine eye
The dust that did offend it.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Baby Come Back

 

“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

 

“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

 

“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

“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

“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

“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

“Deceive, deceive me once again!”

photograph by John Moeses Bauan via Unsplash

You smiled, you spoke, and I believed,
By every word and smile deceived.
Another man would hope no more;
Nor hope I what I hoped before:
But let not this last wish be vain;
Deceive, deceive me once again!

— Walter Savage Landor

Found Out About You

“ONCE, in a house on egypt street”

“Edward?” said Abilene.
Yes, said Edward.
“Edward,” she said again, certain this time.
Yes, said Edward, yes, yes, yes.
It’s me.

— Kate DiCamillo, The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane

All my instincts, they return
The grand façade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside…

In Your Eyes

“I cannot live with you”

Texas State University Flickr Commons, Unidentified Negatives (1963)

I CANNOT live with you,
It would be life,
And life is over there
Behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to,
Putting up
Our life, his porcelain,
Like a cup…

So we must keep apart,
You there, I here,
With just the door ajar
That oceans are,
And prayer,
And that pale sustenance,
Despair!

— Emily Dickinson

Here You Come Again

“Long Neglect Has Worn Away”

Carol Highsmith, “Family Day on the grounds of the Alabama River Pulp Company” (2010)

Long neglect has worn away
Half the sweet enchanting smile;
Time has turned the bloom to gray;
Mold and damp the face defile.

But that lock of silky hair,
Still beneath the picture twined,
Tells what once those features were,
Paints their image on the mind.

Fair the hand that traced that line,
“Dearest, ever deem me true”;
Swiftly flew the fingers fine
When the pen that motto drew.

— Emily Brontë

Hollyann

“We’ll go no more a-roving”

photograph by Artem Maltsev via Unsplash

SO, we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

— Byron

Bluer Than Blue