A Poem A Day

The Soldier

by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Tower of Light

by Pablo Neruda

O tower of light, sad beauty
that magnified necklaces and statues in the sea,
calcareous eye, insignia of the vast waters, cry
of the mourning petrel, tooth of the sea, wife
of the Oceanian wind, O separate rose
from the long stem of the trampled bush
that the depths, converted into archipelago,
O natural star, green diadem,
alone in your lonesome dynasty,
still unattainable, elusive, desolate
like one drop, like one grape, like the sea.

Snowfall in the Afternoon

by Robert Bly

I
The grass is half-covered with snow.
It was the sort of snowfall that starts in late afternoon,
And now the little houses of the grass are growing dark.

II
If I could reach down, near the earth,
I could take handfuls of darkness!
A darkness that was always there, which we never noticed.

III
As the snow grows heavier, the cornstalks fade farther away,
And the barn moves nearer to the house.
The barn moves all alone in the growing storm.

IV
The barn is full of corn, and moving toward us now,
Like a hulk blown toward us in a storm at sea;
All the sailors on deck have been blind for many years.

There Is No God, the Wicked Sayeth

by Arthur Hugh Clough

"There is no God," the wicked saith,
"And truly it’s a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
It’s better only guessing.”

"There is no God," a youngster thinks,
"or really, if there may be,
He surely did not mean a man
Always to be a baby.”

"There is no God, or if there is,"
The tradesman thinks, “‘twere funny
If He should take it ill in me
To make a little money.”

"Whether there be," the rich man says,
"It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual.”

Some others, also, to themselves,
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.

But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson’s wife,
And mostly married people;

Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;

And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him.

Better to Light Candles

by Merle Shain

It is better to light candles
than to curse the darkness.
It is better to plant seeds
than to accuse the earth.
The world needs all of our power
and love and energy,
and each of us has something that we can give.
The trick is to find it and use it,
to find it and give it away.
So there will always be more.
We can be lights for each other,
and through each other’s illumination
we will see the way.
Each of us is a seed,
a silent promise,
and it is always spring.

Taking a Mermaid to Church

by Sarah Fletcher

They told me she did not exist, at first,
that stained glass loves to trick the eye.
The worst thing about the windows is that God rarely 
passes by; the church does not illuminate
with light. Instead, we’re tricked into thinking
that this bright-leggèd woman has a tail.

And so my mermaid paled and wept;
I’d made her wear a shirt so I could bring her
as my guest. The tops of her white breasts crowded
like the heads of newborn babies to her chest.
She was Madonna for the possessed,
her giant tail wetting the wood of pews.

We read Micah, Chapter Seven, in the mass:
And he will cast our sins into the depths of sea. 
Verse Nineteen. My mermaid said It’s true.
Each prayer is caught by seaweed on the floor 
and anchors itself deep beneath the sand. 
The mermaids dig them up to use as bricks

and laugh at humans’ meaningless demands.

(Source: the-toast.net)

The Sun Rising

by John Donne

  Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
        Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run ?
        Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
        Late school-boys and sour prentices,
    Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
    Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

        Thy beams so reverend, and strong
        Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
        If her eyes have not blinded thine,
        Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
    Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
    Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay.”

        She’s all states, and all princes I ;
        Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
        Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
        In that the world’s contracted thus ;
    Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
    To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.

The Black Art

by Anne Sexton

A woman who writes feels too much,
those trances and portents!
As if cycles and children and islands
weren’t enough; as if mourners and gossips
and vegetables were never enough.
She thinks she can warn the stars.
A writer is essentially a spy.
Dear love, I am that girl.

A man who writes knows too much,
such spells and fetiches!
As if erections and congresses and products
weren’t enough; as if machines and galleons
and wars were never enough.
With used furniture he makes a tree.
A writer is essentially a crook.
Dear love, you are that man.

Never loving ourselves,
hating even our shoes and our hats,
we love each other precious, precious.
Our hands are light blue and gentle.
Our eyes are full of terrible confessions.
But when we marry,
the children leave in disgust.
There is too much good and no one left over
to eat up all the weird abundance.

A Room in the Past

by Ted Kooser

It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
with a morning light so bright
you can’t see beyond its windows
into the afternoon. A kitchen
falling through time with its things
in their places, the dishes jingling
up in the cupboard, the bucket
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck
was thirty years. No one’s at home
in this room. Its counter is wiped,
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
moved through this life like a ghost,
and when she had finished her years,
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back
on the rest of us, forever.

The Ballad of East and West

by Rudyard Kipling

OH, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgement Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

Kamal is out with twenty men to raise the Border side,
And he has lifted the Colonel’s mare that is the Colonel’s pride:
He has lifted her out of the stable-door between the dawn and the day,
And turned the calkins upon her feet, and ridden her far away.
Then up and spoke the Colonel’s son that led a troop of the Guides:
“Is there never a man of all my men can say where Kamal hides?
”Then up and spoke Mahommed Khan, the son of the Ressaldar,“
If ye know the track of the morning-mist, ye know where his pickets are.
At dusk he harries the Abazai—-at dawn he is into Borair,
But he must go by Fort Bukloh to his own place to fare,
So if ye gallop to Fort Bukloh as fast as a bird can fly,
By the favour of God ye may cut him off ere he win to the Tonuge of Jagai,
But if he be passed the Tongue of Jagai, right swiftly turn ye then,
For the length and the breadth of that grisly plain is sown with Kamal’s men.
There is rock to the left, and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
And ye may hear a breech-bolt snick where never a man is seen.”

The Colonel’s son has taken a horse, and a raw rough dun was he,
With the mouth of a bell and the heart of Hell, and the head of a gallows-tree.
The Colonel’s son to the Fort has won, they bid him stay to eat—
Who rides at the tail of a Border thief, he sits not long at his meat.
He’s up and away from Fort Bukloh as fast as he can fly,
Till he was aware of his father’s mare in the gut of the Tonue of Jagai,
Till he was aware of his father’s mare with Kamal upon her back,
And when he could spy the white of her eye, he made the pistol crack.
He has fired once, he has fired twice, but the whistling ball went wide.
“Ye shoot like a soldier,” Kamal said. “Show now if ye can ride.”
It’s up and over the Tongue of Jagai, as blown dust-devils go,
The dun he fled like a stag of ten, but the mare like a barren doe.
The dun he leaned against the bit and slugged his head above,
But the red mare played with the snaffle-bars, as a maiden plays with a glove.
There was rock to the left and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
And thrice he heard a breech-bolt snick tho’ never a man was seen.
They have ridden the low moon out of the sky, their hoofs drum up the dawn,
The dun he went like a wounded bull, but the mare like a new-roused fawn.
The dun he fell at a water-course—in a woeful heap fell he,
And Kamal has turned the red mare back, and pulled the rider free.
He has knocked the pistol out of his hand—small room was there to strive,
“’Twas only by favour of mine,” quoth he, “ye rode so long alive:
There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree,
But covered a man of my own men with his rifle cocked on his knee.
If I had raised my bridle-hand, as I have held it low,
The little jackals that flee so fast were feasting all in a row:
If I had bowed my head on my breast, as I have held it high,
The kite that whistles above us now were gorged till she could not fly.”
Lightly answered the Colonel’s son:—“Do good to bird and beast,
But count who come for the broken meats before thou makest a feast.
If there should follow a thousand swords to carry my bones away,
Belike the price of a jackal’s meal were more than a thief could pay.
They will feed their horse on the standing crop, their men on the garnered grain,
The thatch of the byres will serve their fires when all the cattle are slain.
But if thou thinkest the price be fair,—thy brethren wait to sup,
The hound is kin to the jackal-spawn,—howl, dog, and call them up!
And if thou thinkest the price be high, in steer and gear and stack,
Give me my father’s mare again, and I’ll fight my own way back!”
Kamal has gripped him by the hand and set him upon his feet.
“No talk shall be of dogs,” said he, “when wolf and grey wolf meet.
May I eat dirt if thou hast hurt of me in deed or breath;
What dam of lances brought thee forth to jest at the dawn with Death?”
Lightly answered the Colonel’s son: “I hold by the blood of my clan:
Take up the mare for my father’s gift,—by God, she has carried a man!”
The red mare ran to the Colonel’s son, and nuzzled against his breast,
“We be two strong men,” said Kamal then, “but she loveth the younger best.
So she shall go with a lifter’s dower, my turquoise-studded rein,
My broidered saddle and saddle-cloth, and silver stirrups twain.”

The Colonel’s son a pistol drew and held it muzzle-end,
“Ye have taken the one from a foe,” said he; “will ye take the mate from a friend?”
“A gift for a gift,” said Kamal straight, “a limb for the risk of limb.
Thy father has sent his son to me, I’ll send my son to him!”
With that he whistled his only son, that dropped from a mountain-crest—
He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance at rest.
“Now here is thy master,” Kamal said, “who leads a troop of the Guides,
And thou must ride at his left side as shield on the shoulder rides.
Till Death or I cut loose the tie, at camp and board and bed,
Thy life is his—thy fate it is to guard him with thy head.
So thou must eat the White Queen’s meat, and all her foes are thine,
And thou must harry thy father’s hold for the peace of the Border-line,
And thou must make a trooper tough and hack thy way to power—
Belike they will raise thee to Ressaldar when I am hanged in Peshawur.”

They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found not fault,
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,
On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.
The Colonel’s son he rides the mare and Kamal’s boy the dun,
And two have come back to Fort Bukloh where there went forth but one.
And when they drew to the Quarter-Guard, full twenty swords flew clear—
There was not a man but carried his feud with the blood of the mountaineer.
“Ha’ done! ha’ done!” said the Colonel’s son. “Put up the steel at your sides!
Last night ye had struck at a Border thief—to-night ‘tis a man of the Guides!”

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgement Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!