Poems by Louisa May Alcott

downloadAmerican novelist and poet Louisa May Alcott worked hard her entire life and eventually was able to make a name for herself. Born on November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, Alcott came into the world as the daughter of two transcendentalist parents. She died on March 6, 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts. 

 

 

 

Fairy Song

The moonlight fades from flower and rose 
And the stars dim one by one; 
The tale is told, the song is sung, 
And the Fairy feast is done.
 
The night-wind rocks the sleeping flowers, 
And sings to them, soft and low.
 
The early birds erelong will wake: 
'T is time for the Elves to go.
 

O'er the sleeping earth we silently pass, 
Unseen by mortal eye, 
And send sweet dreams, as we lightly float 
Through the quiet moonlit sky;-- 
For the stars' soft eyes alone may see, 
And the flowers alone may know, 
The feasts we hold, the tales we tell; 
So't is time for the Elves to go
 

From bird, and blossom, and bee, 
We learn the lessons they teach; 
And seek, by kindly deeds, to win 
A loving friend in each.
 
And though unseen on earth we dwell, 
Sweet voices whisper low, 
And gentle hearts most joyously greet 
The Elves where'er they go.
 

When next we meet in the Fairy dell, 
May the silver moon's soft light 
Shine then on faces gay as now, 
And Elfin hearts as light.
 
Now spread each wing, for the eastern sky 
With sunlight soon shall glow.
 
The morning star shall light us home: 
Farewell! for the Elves must go.



 

The Rock and The Bubble

 Oh! a bare, brown rock 
Stood up in the sea, 
The waves at its feet 
Dancing merrily.
 

A little bubble 
Once came sailing by, 
And thus to the rock 
Did it gayly cry,-- 

"Ho! clumsy brown stone, 
Quick, make way for me: 
I'm the fairest thing 
That floats on the sea.
 

"See my rainbow-robe, 
See my crown of light, 
My glittering form, 
So airy and bright.
 

"O'er the waters blue, 
I'm floating away, 
To dance by the shore 
With the foam and spray.
 

"Now, make way, make way; 
For the waves are strong, 
And their rippling feet 
Bear me fast along.
" 

But the great rock stood 
Straight up in the sea: 
It looked gravely down, 
And said pleasantly-- 

"Little friend, you must 
Go some other way; 
For I have not stirred 
this many a long day.
 

"Great billows have dashed, 
And angry winds blown; 
But my sturdy form 
Is not overthrown.
 

"Nothing can stir me 
In the air or sea; 
Then, how can I move, 
Little friend, for thee?" 

Then the waves all laughed 
In their voices sweet; 
And the sea-birds looked, 
From their rocky seat, 

At the bubble gay, 
Who angrily cried, 
While its round cheek glowed 
With a foolish pride,-- 

"You SHALL move for me; 
And you shall not mock 
At the words I say, 
You ugly, rough rock.
 

"Be silent, wild birds! 
While stare you so? 
Stop laughing, rude waves, 
And help me to go! 

"For I am the queen 
Of the ocean here, 
And this cruel stone 
Cannot make me fear.
" 

Dashing fiercely up, 
With a scornful word, 
Foolish Bubble broke; 
But Rock never stirred.
 

Then said the sea-birds, 
Sitting in their nests 
To the little ones 
Leaning on their breasts,-- 

"Be not like Bubble, 
Headstrong, rude, and vain, 
Seeking by violence 
Your object to gain; 

"But be like the rock, 
Steadfast, true, and strong, 
Yet cheerful and kind, 
And firm against wrong.
 

"Heed, little birdlings, 
And wiser you'll be 
For the lesson learned 
To-day by the sea.



 

Transfiguration

 Mysterious death! who in a single hour 
Life's gold can so refine 
And by thy art divine 
Change mortal weakness to immortal power! 

Bending beneath the weight of eighty years 
Spent with the noble strife 
of a victorious life 
We watched her fading heavenward, through our tears.
 

But ere the sense of loss our hearts had wrung 
A miracle was wrought; 
And swift as happy thought 
She lived again -- brave, beautiful, and young.
 

Age, pain, and sorrow dropped the veils they wore 
And showed the tender eyes 
Of angels in disguise, 
Whose discipline so patiently she bore.
 

The past years brought their harvest rich and fair; 
While memory and love, 
Together, fondly wove 
A golden garland for the silver hair.
 

How could we mourn like those who are bereft, 
When every pang of grief 
found balm for its relief 
In counting up the treasures she had left?-- 

Faith that withstood the shocks of toil and time; 
Hope that defied despair; 
Patience that conquered care; 
And loyalty, whose courage was sublime; 

The great deep heart that was a home for all-- 
Just, eloquent, and strong 
In protest against wrong; 
Wide charity, that knew no sin, no fall; 

The spartan spirit that made life so grand, 
Mating poor daily needs 
With high, heroic deeds, 
That wrested happiness from Fate's hard hand.
 

We thought to weep, but sing for joy instead, 
Full of the grateful peace 
That follows her release; 
For nothing but the weary dust lies dead.
 

Oh, noble woman! never more a queen 
Than in the laying down 
Of sceptre and of crown 
To win a greater kingdom, yet unseen; 

Teaching us how to seek the highest goal, 
To earn the true success -- 
To live, to love, to bless -- 
And make death proud to take a royal soul.





Poems by Max Ehrmann

Max Ehrmann

Max Ehrmann (1872 – 1945 / Indianapolis, United States)

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

 


Whatever Else You Do

Whatever else you do or forbear,
impose upon yourself the task of happiness;
and now and then abandon yourself
to the joy of laughter.

And however much you condemn
the evil in the world, remember that the
world is not all evil; that somewhere
children are at play, as you yourself in the
old days; that women still find joy
in the stalwart hearts of men;

And that men, treading with restless feet
their many paths, may yet find refuge
from the storms of the world in the cheerful
house of love.


 
 

‘A Prayer’

Let me do my work each day; and if the darkened hours of despair overcome me, may I not forget the strength that comforted me in the desolation of other times.

May I still remember the bright hours that found me walking over the silent hills of my childhood, or dreaming on the margin of a quiet river, when a light glowed within me, and I promised my early God to have courage amid the tempests of the changing years.

Spare me from bitterness and from the sharp passions of unguarded moments. May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit.

Though the world knows me not, may my thoughts and actions be such as shall keep me friendly with myself.

Lift up my eyes from the earth, and let me not forget the uses of the stars. Forbid that I should judge others lest I condemn myself.

Let me not follow the clamor of the world, but walk calmly in my path.

Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am; and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope.

And though age and infirmity overtake me, and I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me still to be thankful for life, and for time’s olden memories that are good and sweet; and may the evening’s twilight find me gentle still.


‘Dark Days’

What fool shall say, “My days are fair,
God’s in his world and all is well,”
When half mankind shrieks in despair
Worse than in Dante’s flaming hell!I cannot sing in happy mood
While hostile armies take their toll.
On these dark days I toil and brood
With starless midnight in my soul.And yet, O World, O Life, O God!
I find myself, jest as the fool,
Believing in thy chastening rod,
Believing still that love must rule.



Poems by Maya Angelou

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Caged Bird

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.



Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.



 

Alone

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.



 

Equality

You declare you see me dimly
through a glass which will not shine,
though I stand before you boldly,
trim in rank and marking time.
You do own to hear me faintly
as a whisper out of range,
while my drums beat out the message
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

You announce my ways are wanton,
that I fly from man to man,
but if I’m just a shadow to you,
could you ever understand ?

We have lived a painful history,
we know the shameful past,
but I keep on marching forward,
and you keep on coming last.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

Take the blinders from your vision,
take the padding from your ears,
and confess you’ve heard me crying,
and admit you’ve seen my tears.

Hear the tempo so compelling,
hear the blood throb in my veins.
Yes, my drums are beating nightly,
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.



 

Human Family

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.



 

Preacher Don’t Send Me

Preacher, don’t send me
when I die
to some big ghetto
in the sky
where rats eat cats
of the leopard type
and Sunday brunch
is grits and tripe.

I’ve known those rats
I’ve seen them kill
and grits I’ve had
would make a hill,
or maybe a mountain,
so what I need
from you on Sunday
is a different creed.

Preacher, please don’t
promise me
streets of gold
and milk for free.
I stopped all milk
at four years old
and once I’m dead
I won’t need gold.

I’d call a place
pure paradise
where families are loyal
and strangers are nice,
where the music is jazz
and the season is fall.
Promise me that
or nothing at all.



 

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose
Lions on the loose
They don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
On my counterpane
That doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight
All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
With their hair in curls)
They don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes
And listen for my scream,
If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
That I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
And never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.



 

Woman Work

I’ve got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I’ve got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
‘Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You’re all that I can call my own.



 

A Brave And Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Poems By E. Pauline Johnson

 

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Emily Pauline Johnson (also known in Mohawk as Tekahionwake –pronounced: dageh-eeon-wageh, literally: ‘double-life’), commonly known as E. Pauline Johnson or just Pauline Johnson, was a Canadian writer and performer popular in the late 19th century. Johnson was notable for her poems and performances that celebrated her First Nations heritage; her father was a Mohawk chief of mixed ancestry, and her mother an English immigrant. One such poem is the frequently anthologized “The Song My Paddle Sings”.



 

The Birds’ Lullaby

There are fires on Lulu Island, and the sky is opalescent
With the pearl and purple tinting from the smouldering of peat.
And the Dream Hills lift their summits in a sweeping, hazy crescent,
With the Capilano canyon at their feet.

There are fires on Lulu Island, and the smoke, uplifting, lingers
In a faded scarf of fragrance as it creeps across the day,
And the Inlet and the Narrows blur beneath its silent fingers,
And the canyon is enfolded in its grey.

But the sun its face is veiling like a cloistered nun at vespers;
As towards the alter candles of the night a censer swings,
And the echo of tradition wakes from slumbering and whispers,
Where the Capilano river sobs and sings.

It was Yaada, lovely Yaada, who first taught the stream its sighing,
For ’twas silent till her coming, and ’twas voiceless as the shore;
But throughout the great forever it will sing the song undying
That the lips of lovers sing for evermore.

He was chief of all the Squamish, and he ruled the coastal waters–
And he warred upon her people in the distant Charlotte Isles;
She, a winsome basket weaver, daintiest of Haida daughters,
Made him captive to her singing and her smiles.

Till his hands forgot to havoc and his weapons lost their lusting,
Till his stormy eyes allured her from the land of Totem Poles,
Till she followed where he called her, followed with a woman’s trusting,
To the canyon where the Capilano rolls.

And the women of the Haidas plied in vain their magic power,
Wailed for many moons her absence, wailed for many moons their prayer,

– Emily Pauline Johnson
 

 

The Cattle Country

Up the dusk-enfolded prairie,
Foot-falls, soft and sly,
Velvet cushioned, wild and wary,
Then–the coyote’s cry.

Rush of hoofs, and roar and rattle,
Beasts of blood and breed,
Twenty thousand frightened cattle,
Then–the wild stampede.

Pliant lasso circling wider
In the frenzied flight–
Loping horse and cursing rider,
Plunging through the night.

Rim of dawn the darkness losing
Trail of blackened soil;
Perfume of the sage brush oozing
On the air like oil.

Foothills to the Rockies lifting
Brown, and blue, and green,
Warm Alberta sunlight drifting
Over leagues between.

That’s the country of the ranges,
Plain and prairie land,
And the God who never changes
Holds it in His hand.

– Emily Pauline Johnson
 

 

Canadian Born

We first saw light in Canada, the land beloved of God;
We are the pulse of Canada, its marrow and its blood:
And we, the men of Canada, can face the world and brag
That we were born in Canada beneath the British flag.

Few of us have the blood of kings, few are of courtly birth,
But few are vagabonds or rogues of doubtful name and worth;
And all have one credential that entitles us to brag–
That we were born in Canada beneath the British flag.

We’ve yet to make our money, we’ve yet to make our fame,
But we have gold and glory in our clean colonial name;
And every man’s a millionaire if only he can brag
That he was born in Canada beneath the British flag.

No title and no coronet is half so proudly worn
As that which we inherited as men Canadian born.
We count no man so noble as the one who makes the brag
That he was born in Canada beneath the British flag.

The Dutch may have their Holland, the Spaniard have his Spain,
The Yankee to the south of us must south of us remain;
For not a man dare lift a hand against the men who brag
That they were born in Canada beneath the British flag.

 
– Emily Pauline Johnson

 
 

The Song My Paddle Sings

 

West wind, blow from your prairie nest,
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west
The sail is idle, the sailor too ;
O! wind of the west, we wait for you.
Blow, blow!
I have wooed you so,
But never a favour you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between,
But scorn to notice my white lateen.
I stow the sail, unship the mast :
I wooed you long but my wooing’s past ;
My paddle will lull you into rest.
O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
Sleep, sleep,
By your mountain steep,
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings.
August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I,
Drift, drift,
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.
The river rolls in its rocky bed ;
My paddle is plying its way ahead ;
Dip, dip,
While the water flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.
And oh, the river runs swifter now ;
The eddies circle about my bow.
Swirl, swirl!
How the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!
And forward far the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore.
Dash, dash,
With a mighty crash,
They seethe, and boil, and bound, and splash.
Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.
Reel, reel.
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.
We’ve raced the rapid, we’re far ahead!
The river slips through its silent bed.
Sway, sway,
As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.
And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Swings, swings,
Its emerald wings,
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.

 
– Emily Pauline Johnson
 

 

At Crow’s Nest Pass

 

At Crow’s Nest Pass the mountains rend
Themselves apart, the rivers wend
A lawless course about their feet,
And breaking into torrents beat
In useless fury where they blend
At Crow’s Nest Pass.

The nesting eagle, wise, discreet,
Wings up the gorge’s lone retreat
And makes some barren crag her friend
At Crow’s Nest Pass.

Uncertain clouds, half-high, suspend
Their shifting vapours, and contend
With rocks that suffer not defeat;
And snows, and suns, and mad winds meet
To battle where the cliffs defend
At Crow’s Nest Pass.

– Emily Pauline Johnson
 

 

An Etching

A meadow brown; across the yonder edge
A zigzag fence is ambling; here a wedge
Of underbush has cleft its course in twain,
Till where beyond it staggers up again;
The long, grey rails stretch in a broken line
Their ragged length of rough, split forest pine,
And in their zigzag tottering have reeled
In drunken efforts to enclose the field,
Which carries on its breast, September born,
A patch of rustling, yellow, Indian corn.
Beyond its shrivelled tassels, perched upon
The topmost rail, sits Joe, the settler’s son,
A little semi-savage boy of nine.
Now dozing in the warmth of Nature’s wine,
His face the sun has tampered with, and wrought,
By heated kisses, mischief, and has brought
Some vagrant freckles, while from here and there
A few wild locks of vagabond brown hair
Escape the old straw hat the sun looks through,
And blinks to meet his Irish eyes of blue.
Barefooted, innocent of coat or vest,
His grey checked shirt unbuttoned at his chest,
Both hardy hands within their usual nest–
His breeches pockets–so, he waits to rest
His little fingers, somewhat tired and worn,
That all day long were husking Indian corn.
His drowsy lids snap at some trivial sound,
With lazy yawns he slips towards the ground,
Then with an idle whistle lifts his load
And shambles home along the country road
That stretches on, fringed out with stumps and weeds,
And finally unto the backwoods leads,
Where forests wait with giant trunk and bough
The axe of pioneer, the settler’s plough.

– Emily Pauline Johnson
 


Canadian Poets #1

sue-goyette
Sue Goyette

Forty-Eight

Tourism was great until the ocean went all coyote on us.
Lurking behind schoolyards, attacking people.

We were told to act big. To stand aggressively in our place.
Experts in animal control told us we had polluted its natural habitat

with our motored hands and greasy mayor. It had to feed further
afield and was too wild to mediate. The marriage counselors

suggested we do five random kind things for it on a weekly basis
until it trusted us again. Also, to show we were listening,

we were to “mirror” what it was saying. We gave that job
to the poets. Apparently, it was “a tired bus driver”

and “a wayward friend.” It was “the midnight of the death
of nights” and “the orphanage we’d been taken from.”

A fourth grade class made it their Spring Fling project.
With glitter glue and feathers, we were given murals

of how our life should look. We’d need more diving boards,
exploding rainbows and smiling dolphins/unicorns to achieve

any of it. The mothers of teenage boys elected themselves
to counsel. They wore wedge shoes and pink nail polish

and were either fiercely tired or determined to get supper on,
nodding while we explained how it sprawled its stuff everywhere.

How it stayed up until all hours of the night and gave us no
respect. Sound familiar, we asked. They leaned in as if over a map:

you are here, they said, manicured but in the trenches, trust us,
let go of any ideas of what you think it should be doing.

From Ocean by Sue Goyette
Text copyright © Sue Goyette, 2013



 

Clark New
George Elliot Clarke

Discourse on Pure Virtue

à Geeta

The brown girl, golden, sable-eyed,
flourishing yellow hibiscus,
steps exuberant, august,
into August—
her lushly brocaded gold silk sari
lavishing honey light at her auburn feet,
sandalled, cedarly,
with scent of sandalwood haloing her,
her individualized, warm, light-dark body,
her every glance a direction of the air,
her look of mischievous—even tart—sweetness….
O has she…?
She has
come in from morning’s slight autumnal chill,
her feet moistened with diamantine dew—
how the sea summers in grass
(that same grass that rears at the sun
while butterflies mob frangipani…).
Behold her smile declaring
warm, sun-dyed, terracotta lips—
that chance come home—
and I answer,
“You are light uplifting,
liberating me from murk,
from an inferno of squalor.”
O! Let there be rum and molasses,
rice and mackerel, O Muse,
the Indian Ocean softening and sweetening the Atlantic,
this august autumn.
All these pleasures we will prove:
lotus like slow-motion lightning,
ivory gold fountaining from earth,

like you, a fresh light, sprung from earth.

 

– “Discourse on Pure Virtue” by George Elliot Clarke, from Blue, copyright © 2001 by George Elliot Clarke.



 

4030
Michael Ondaadje

The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to you hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
–your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers…

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
you climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner’s daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler’s wife. Smell me.

 

– Michael Ondaatje



avison
Margaret Avison
 

The World Still Needs

Frivolity is out of season.
Yet, in this poetry, let it be admitted
The world still needs piano-tuners
And has fewer, and more of these
Grey fellows prone to liquor
On an unlikely Tuesday, gritty with wind,
When somewhere behind windows,
A housewife stays for him until the
Hour of the uneasy bridge-club cocktails
And the office rush at the groceteria
And the vesper-bell and lit-up buses passing
And the supper trays along the hospital corridor,
Suffering from
Sore throat and dusty curtains.

Not all alone on the deserted boathouse
Or even on the prairie freight
(The engineer leaned out, watchful and blank
And had no Christmas worries
Mainly because it was the eve of April),
Is like the moment
When the piano in the concert-hall
Finds texture absolute, a single solitude
For those hundreds in rows, half out of overcoats,
Their eyes swimming with sleep.

From this communal cramp of understanding
Springs up suburbia, where every man would build
A clapboard in a well of Russian forest
With yard enough for a high clothesline strung
To a small balcony …
A woman whose eyes shine like evening’s star
Takes in the freshblown linen
While sky a lonely wash of pink is still
reflected in brown mud
Where lettuces will grow, another spring.

– This poem is from the first volume of ‘Always Now’, the collected poems of Margaret Avison. It was originally published in her first book ‘Winter Sun’ (Routledge,Kegan Paul, 1960 )



 

Margaret Atwood-584
Margaret Atwood

This Is A Photograph Of Me

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
eventually
you will be able to see me.

– Margaret Atwood



 

johnson
E. Pauline Johnson
(Tekahionwake)

The Lost Lagoon

IT is dusk on the Lost Lagoon,
And we two dreaming the dusk away,
Beneath the drift of a twilight grey,
Beneath the drowse of an ending day,
And the curve of a golden moon.

It is dark in the Lost Lagoon,
And gone are the depths of haunting blue,
The grouping gulls, and the old canoe,
The singing firs, and the dusk and–you,
And gone is the golden moon.

O lure of the Lost Lagoon!–
I dream to-night that my paddle blurs
The purple shade where the seaweed stirs,
I hear the call of the singing firs
In the hush of the golden moon.

– E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)



 

The Invitation

This poem is an excerpt from the book, “The Invitation (1999)”, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Oriah is a spiritual counselor and story teller among other things. This poem offers an invitation to every single one of us to “show up” in the universe. She reminds us that we do not serve the universe by being small. Rather, we serve the universe by making the most out of our lives.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesnt interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

– By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

 



 

Poems by Leonard Cohen

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Suzanne

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

– Leonard Cohen


Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
but now it’s come to distances and both of us must try,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

– Leonard Cohen


Waiting For The Miracle

Baby, I’ve been waiting,
I’ve been waiting night and day.
I didn’t see the time,
I waited half my life away.
There were lots of invitations
and I know you sent me some,
but I was waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
I know you really loved me.
but, you see, my hands were tied.
I know it must have hurt you,
it must have hurt your pride
to have to stand beneath my window
with your bugle and your drum,
and me I’m up there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
Ah I don’t believe you’d like it,
You wouldn’t like it here.
There ain’t no entertainment
and the judgements are severe.
The Maestro says it’s Mozart
but it sounds like bubble gum
when you’re waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
Waiting for the miracle
There’s nothing left to do.
I haven’t been this happy
since the end of World War II.
Nothing left to do
when you know that you’ve been taken.
Nothing left to do
when you’re begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you’ve got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come.
I dreamed about you, baby.
It was just the other night.
Most of you was naked
Ah but some of you was light.
The sands of time were falling
from your fingers and your thumb,
and you were waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come
Ah baby, let’s get married,
we’ve been alone too long.
Let’s be alone together.
Let’s see if we’re that strong.
Yeah let’s do something crazy,
something absolutely wrong
while we’re waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
Nothing left to do…
When you’ve fallen on the highway
and you’re lying in the rain,
and they ask you how you’re doing
of course you’ll say you can’t complain –
If you’re squeezed for information,
that’s when you’ve got to play it dumb:
You just say you’re out there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

– Leonard Cohen (Co-written by Sharon Robinson)


 

Hallelujah

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord
but you don’t really care for music, do you?
it goes like this
the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall, the major lift
the baffled king composing Hallelujah

Your faith was strong, but you needed proof
you saw her bathing on the roof
her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
she tied you
to a kitchen chair
she broke your throne, she cut your hair
and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Baby, I’ve been here before
I know this room,
I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
but love is not a victory march
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!

There was a time you let me know
what’s really going on below
but now you never show it to me, do you?
I remember when I moved in you,
and the holy dove was moving, too,
and every breath we drew was Hallelujah!

Now maybe there’s a God above,
but all I ever learned from love
is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.
And it’s no complaint you hear tonight,
and it’s not some pilgrim who’s seen the light—
it’s a cold and it’s a lonely Hallelujah!

You say I took the Name in vain
I don’t even know the Name
but if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
there’s a blaze of light
in every word
it doesn’t matter which you heard
the holy or the broken Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
and even though
it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

– Leonard Cohen 1984



 

 

Still I Rise

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Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

– Maya Angelou

The Way Through The Woods

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THEY shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a path through the woods
Before they planted the trees:
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ring’d pools
Where the otter whistles his mate
(They fear not men in the woods
Because they see so few),
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …
But there is no road through the woods.

– Rudyard Kipling