Poem of the Week

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Izumi Shikibu (Japan, 974?-1034?) [translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani]

From Poetry Foundation 

Poem of the Week

December 1st

by Billy Collins

Today is my mother’s birthday,
but she’s not here to celebrate
by opening a flowery card
or looking calmly out a window.

If my mother were alive,
she’d be 114 years old,
and I am guessing neither of us
would be enjoying her birthday very much.

Mother, I would love to see you again
to take you shopping or to sit
in your sunny apartment with a pot of tea,
but it wouldn’t be the same at 114.

And I’m no prize either,
almost 20 years older than the last time
you saw me sitting by your deathbed.
Some days, I look worse than yesterday’s oatmeal.

Happy Birthday, anyway. Happy Birthday to you.
Here I am in a wallpapered room
raising a glass of birthday whiskey
and picturing your face, the brooch on your collar.

It must have been frigid that morning
in the hour just before dawn
on your first December 1st
at the family farm a hundred miles north of Toronto.

I imagine they had you wrapped up tight,
and there was your tiny pink face
sticking out of the bunting,
and all those McIsaacs getting used to saying your name.

 

Poem of the Week

 

The First Snow

By james Russell Lowell

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
   And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
   With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
   Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
   Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
   Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan’s-down,
   And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
   The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
   Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
   Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
   As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
   Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?”
And I told of the good All-father
   Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall,
   And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
   When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
   That fell from that cloud-like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
   The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
   “The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
   Alone can make it fall!”

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
   And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
   Folded close under deepening snow.

Poem of the Week

browning4

Among the Rocks

By Robert Browning

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,
This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i’ the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!

Poem of the Week

 

For Halloween

From Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act IV

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.