20141219

The Garden of the Nations

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

(1923)

When we that are the bitten flower and fruit
Of time’s achievement are undone between
The blight above, where blight has always been,
And the old worm of evil at the root,

We shall not have to crumble destitute
Of recompense, or measure our chagrin;
We shall be dead, and so shall not be seen
Amid the salvage of our disrepute.

And when we are all gone, shall mightier seeds
And scions of a warmer spring put forth
A bloom and fruitage of a larger worth

Than ours? God save the garden, if by chance,
Or by approved short sight, more numerous weeds
And weevils be the next inheritance!


Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20141217

Noel

by Anne Porter
When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they’re cut down 
And brought into our houses 

When clustered sparks 
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night 
In ordinary windows 

We hear and sing
The customary carols 

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles 
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common 

But there are carols
That carry phrases 
Of the haunting music
Of the other world 
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet’s message 

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies 
Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices 

They look at us
With their clear eyes 
And ask the piercing questions 
God alone can answer.
Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20141215

Christmas Away from Home

by Jane Kenyon
Her sickness brought me to Connecticut.
Mornings I walk the dog: that part of life
is intact. Who’s painted, who’s insulated
or put siding on, who’s burned the lawn
with lime—that’s the news on Ardmore Street.

The leaves of the neighbor’s respectable
rhododendrons curl under in the cold.
He has backed the car
through the white nimbus of its exhaust
and disappeared for the day.

In the hiatus between mayors
the city has left leaves in the gutters,
and passing cars lift them in maelstroms.

We pass the house two doors down, the one
with the wildest lights in the neighborhood,
an establishment without irony.
All summer their putto empties a water jar,
their St. Francis feeds the birds.
Now it’s angels, festoons, waist-high
candles, and swans pulling sleighs.

Two hundred miles north I’d let the dog
run among birches and the black shade of pines.
I miss the hills, the woods and stony
streams, where the swish of jacket sleeves
against my sides seems loud, and a crow
caws sleepily at dawn.

By now the streams must run under a skin
of ice, white air-bubbles passing erratically,
like blood cells through a vein. Soon the mail,
forwarded, will begin to reach me here.

20141214

To Winter

by William Blake


O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.
He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear’d his scepter o’er the world.
Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
He takes his seat upon the cliffs, the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch! that deal’st
With storms, till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driven yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.

20141212

Herbert, Who Was Always Blowing Bubbles

by Robin and Jocelyn Wild

An ordinary boy was Herbert,
fond of lollipops and sherbert
and sticky things, which dentists say,
make children’s little teeth decay—
but bubble gum was Herbert’s passion,
for gum was what he spent his cash on.
For hours on end, he’d chew the stuff,
but he couldn’t chew it fast enough.

While no one thinks it’s impolite 
for cows to chew all day and night,
in people it’s considered rude:
Mealtimes are for chewing food.
And the bubbles Herbert blew!
(A thing no cow would ever do.)
He’d huff and puff and only stop
when the horrid bubble would pop.
The pieces stuck in Herbert’s hair,
the walls, the ceiling, everywhere!
It gave his mother screaming fits,
scraping off those gummy bits.

But now the boy—and all his bubbles—
cause his mother no more troubles,
for, on a breezy summer day,
Herbert simply blew away.
He’d blown a bubble, vast and round,
that lifted him right off the ground;
above the houses and up so high,
he vanished in a cloudless sky.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20141210

Reunion

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

By some derision of wild circumstance
Not then our pleasure somehow to perceive,
Last night we fell together to achieve
A light eclipse of years. But the pale chance

Of youth resumed was lost. Time gave a glance
At each of us, and there was no reprieve;
And when there was at last a way to leave,
Farewell was a foreseen extravagance.

Tonight the west has yet a failing red,
While silence whispers of all things not here;
And round there where the fire was that is dead,

Dusk-hidden tenants that are chairs appear.
The same old stars will soon be overhead,
But not so friendly and not quite so near.


Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20141209

A Christmas Sonnet

For One in Doubt

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

While you that in your sorrow disavow
Service and hope, see love and brotherhood
Far off as ever, it will do no good
For you to wear his thorns upon your brow
For doubt of him. And should you question how
To serve him best, he might say, if he could,
“Whether or not the cross was made of wood
Whereon you nailed me, is no matter now.”

Though other saviors have in older lore
A Legend, and for older gods have died—
Though death may wear the crown it always wore
And ignorance be still the sword of pride—
Something is here that was not here before,
And strangely has not yet been crucified.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.