“You don’t ever let go of the thread”

photograph by Danica Tanjutco via Unsplash

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die: and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

— William Stafford, “The Way It Is”
 

“But to persevere he left it in thy power”

photograph by Elijah O’Donnell via Pexels

God made thee perfet, not immutable;
And good he made thee, but to persevere
He left it in thy power…

— Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 5

Jacob’s Ladder

 

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson) calculates orbital insertion trajectories for the Mercury program using Euler’s method in this scene from the movie Hidden Figures. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

AL HARRISON:
You think we can get to the moon?

[Katherine nods, with all the certainty in the world:]

KATHERINE:
We’re already there, sir.

Hidden Figures (2016)

 

“Darkness”

photograph by Adam Winger via Unsplash

When hurrying home on a rainy night
And hearing tree-tops rubbed and tossed,
And seeing never a friendly star
And feeling your way when paths are crossed:
Stop fast and turn three times around
And try the logic of the lost.

Where is the heavenly light you dreamed?
Where is your hearth and glowing ash?
Where is your love by the mellow moon?
Here is not even a lightning-flash,
And in a place no worse than this
Lost men shall wail and teeth shall gnash.

Lightning is quick and perilous,
The dawn comes on too slow and pale,
Your love brings only a yellow lamp,
Yet of these lights one shall avail:
The dark shall break for one of these,
I’ve never known this thing to fail.

— John Crowe Ransom
 

Of longitudes

photograph by cottonbro studio via Pexels

To take a latitude
Sun, or stars, are fitliest viewed
At their brightest, but to conclude,
Of longitudes, what other way have we,
But to mark when, and where the dark eclipses be?

— John Donne, “A Valediction of the Book” (excerpt)
 

“The Soul selects her own Society”

photograph by Haydn Golden via Unsplash

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

— Emily Dickinson
 

“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
 

A Christmas Carol

photograph by Sarwer e Kainat Welfare via Pexels

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”

— Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Man in the Mirror

 

“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
 
 

 

“EACH life converges to some centre”

photograph by Hadwt via Unsplash

EACH life converges to some centre
Expressed or still;
Exists in every human nature
A goal,

Admitted scarcely to itself, it may be,
Too fair
For credibility’s temerity
To dare.

Adored with caution, as a brittle heaven,
To reach
Were hopeless as the rainbow’s raiment
To touch,

Yet persevered toward, surer for the distance;
How high
Unto the saints’ slow diligence
The sky!

Ungained, it may be, by a life’s low venture,
But then,
Eternity enables the endeavoring
Again.

— Emily Dickinson

Finally Found A Home

 

“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 docent”

photograph by Pesce Huang via Unsplash

the docent

just before
closing time
i found myself
in european sculpture and decorative arts
lost in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries
with so much to learn
and you resplendently reverberant
in a white blouse
like an impressionist painting

— J.S.

Sure

 

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
 

“A Time to Talk”

photograph by Zac Ong via Unsplash

WHEN a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

— Robert Frost
 

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

 

“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
 

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
 

“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…

 

 

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

 

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”
 

“Full souls are double mirrors”

cf. The Glucksman Library, “Interior of Foundation Building” (edited digital collage)

Full souls are double mirrors, making still
An endless vista of fair things before,
Repeating things behind.

Middlemarch, Epigraph to Chapter LXXII

Kayleigh

 

“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