Monday, December 30, 2013

Stephen Crane: Black Riders XXVIII


"Truth," said a traveller,
"Is a rock, a mighty fortress;
"Often have I been to it,
"Even to its highest tower,
"From whence the world looks black."

"Truth," said a traveller,
"Is a breath, a wind,
"A shadow, a phantom;
"Long have I pursued it,
"But never have I touched
"The hem of its garment."

And I believed the second traveller;
For truth was to me
A breath, a wind,
A shadow, a phantom,
And never had I touched
The hem of its garment.

               --Stephen Crane,
                   from Black Riders and Other Lines

Friday, December 27, 2013

Karl Marx: Nothing to Expect but a Hiding

He, who before was the money owner, now strides in front as capitalist; the possessor of labour power follows as his labourer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but--a hiding.

                      --Karl Marx, from Capital

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Rae Armantrout: Advent

(Image Credit: Charles Bernstein/PennSound)

In front of the craft shop,
a small nativity,
mother, baby, sheep
made of white
and blue balloons.



Pick out the one
that doesn't belong.


Some thing

close to nothing
from which,

everything has come.

    --Rae Armantrout

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wendell Berry: Landscape

(Fishing Alone. Wu Zhen, from here)

Winding out of the hills,
the small stream enters the river.
It began coming down
long before these trees arrived.
In his boat the fisherman waits
like the hills along the stream
for what will be brought to him
and what will be taken away.

After the painting by Wu Chen

--Wendell Berry, from An Eastward Look

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thomas Hardy: The Oxen

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

--Thomas Hardy

Monday, December 23, 2013

Robert Bly: Watering the Horse

(Image Credit: Nic McPhee)

Watering the Horse

How strange to think of giving up all ambition!
Suddenly I see with such clear eyes
The white flake of snow
That has just fallen in the horse's mane!
                              --Robert Bly

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Galway Kinnell: Blackberry Eating

(Image credit: Richard Brown)
Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks  very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
into the silent, startled, icy black language
of blackberry eating in late September.

--Galway Kinnell

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chomsky: Power Used Wisely

(Image Credit: Duncan Rawlinson)

It is only in folk tales, children's stories, and the journals of intellectual opinion that power is used wisely and well to destroy evil. The real world teaches very different lessons, and it takes willful and dedicated ignorance to fail to perceive them.

--Noam Chomsky, from a talk given at Tufts University in 2001

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chris Green: Christmas Tree Lots

(Glade jul, Viggo Johansen, 1891)
I was in the middle of writing a poem about Christmas tree lots, and I happened to come across this one by Chris Green. I'll lay mine to the side for a while, since this is much better than my attempt.

Christmas Tree Lots

Christmas trees lined like war refugees,
a fallen army made to stand in their greens.
Cut down at the foot, on their last leg,

they pull themselves up, arms raised.
We drop them like wood;
tied, they are driven through the streets,

dragged through the door, cornered
in a room, given a single blanket,
only water to drink, surrounded by joy.

Forced to wear a gaudy gold star,
to surrender their pride,
they do their best to look alive.

            --Chris Green.
               Source: Poetry (December 2001).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wordsworth: Faculties Never Used


           . . . he, who feels contempt
           For any living thing, hath faculties
           Which he has never used.

                  --William Wordsworth,
       from "Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree"