We who survived the war and took to wife
And sired the kids and made the decent living,
And piecemeal furnished forth the finished life
Not by grand theft so much as petty thieving–
Who had the routine middle-aged affair
And made our beds and had to lie in them
This way or that because the beds were there,
And turned our bile and choler in for phlegm–
Who saw grandparents, parents, to the vault
And wives and selves grow wrinkled, grey and fat
And children through their acne and revolt
And told the analyst about all that–
Are done with it. What is there to discuss?
There’s nothing left for us to say of us.
— Howard Nemerov
he dreamed of a place
past the moons
and cuckolds of his heart
where he and his lady could bask
in the warped rhapsody of their love
a story told an untold times
mounted against him
So he waited
strangled by principle
he waited for the revolution
to scream aloud with his bloody fist
in the air, in the name of all he held dear
for the sins to be unearthed
to labor for his children
and die a warrior
He waited for danger
to kill and spite his country
a gladiator in another time with another her
If only she were aware of the way he’d
bare knuckled three armed guards outside
her bedroom window
or how he stayed up all night
tending the fires so that she’d never know cold
but it never came
It passed him over in every century
a philosopher a teacher an artist
a woman an apprentice a poet
a lawyer a father a nurse
a dancer a devil a leader and a criminal
all couldn’t break character
not even for an instant did he
dispel a silent oath for anarchy
He perished unfulfilled and unsung
wondering what he had done
why visions of valor never came to be
why he needed the fight
why he dreamed of this
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— by Wendell Berry
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.
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If you thought that was hard
you’re in for a treat
‘here endeth the lesson’
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages,
aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I
He sang of life, serenely sweet,
With, now and then, a deeper note.
From some high peak, nigh yet remote,
He voiced the world’s absorbing beat.
He sang of love when earth was young,
And Love, itself, was in his lays.
But ah, the world, it turned to praise
A jingle in a broken tongue.
–Paul Laurence Dunbar