Thursday, December 31, 2020

Tenderness by Derrick Austin


That summer I was a body. I was that body. The Body.
Overnight, a fog of linen inside the mauve Victorian down the block.
Another house empty for the season, for the season, for the season.
Hours built up on both sides of my bedroom door.
Morgan and Danez rowed in the Grand Canal at Versailles.
Morgan filled a postcard with her hands and memory.
Rose quartz? A diary? Holy water? (With what belief?) What could I have asked for?
Leaving my apartment for the first time in days,
I walked five minutes to Lake Mendota. Barking, honking, shrieking, grunting.
Men tested their bodies for each other and themselves.
Opened doors to admit the breeze, the possibility of that one guest.
When Emily Brontë wrote they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water,
and altered the colour of my mind, she wasn’t writing about my depression.
Double tapped a photo of Morgan and Angel
posing near a green door with hinges older than the Constitution.
They read their black poems in English
to black people who spoke English and French and Arabic.
If I sent a postcard to everyone I loved
it’d say, Sometimes I think you’re just too good for me.
The most personal question I’m consistently asked: Why are you so quiet?
That I’m getting this all down wrong. That I’m getting it down at all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Psalm of Despair by Radmila Lazić

Psalm of Despair

I dwell in a land of despair
In the city of despair
Among desperate people
Myself desperate
I embrace my desperate lover
With desperate hands
Whispering desperate words
Kissing him with desperate lips.
In despair we make children
In despair we strangle them
And feed our desperate offspring
With our own despair
So that they may multiply
By giving birth to ever more desperate children
And so on.
For the God of Despair is our Lord
And his envoys of despair
With their instruments of despair
That coat our homes with despair
Drape our windows with despair
And board up our doors with it
As despair rises around us like walls.
Preaching the religion of despair
For gain and wealth
Instructing us in Holy Despair
For which we are to earn life eternal
So our dead will rise again
In despair.
The wandering lamb
That found no path or shelter
No dawn and no morning
Forever and ever—
Damn you wicked hand
That wrote this in the year 2013 of our Lord.
(Translated by Charles Simić)

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

from 13th Balloon by Mark Bibbins

from 13th Balloon

Imagine a bird who lays her egg
then picks it up and flies without
landing until it hatches
Imagine a thousand
of these birds chopping away
at the soggy light
Since you died a thousand birds
have daily flown through me
each leaving behind an egg
      some of which rotted
some of which hatched
releasing more birds that pecked
at my skull
            but not generating the noise
            and pain one might expect
                        It’s more like hearing
                  someone typing
            an endless suicide note
            in a room at the end
            of a carpeted hall
Always one egg remains in me intact
and each time I yank it out
each time I crack it and crush it and throw
away the shell
      it reappears whole
I pull it out and pull it out
I break it a thousand times
but nothing is ever inside
I carry it and carry it           I do not land

Monday, December 28, 2020

Antebellum by Gregory Pardlo


Unfinished, the road turns off the fill
from the gulf coast, tracing the bay, to follow
the inland waterway. I lose it in the gritty
limbo of scrub pine, the once wealth
—infantile again, and lean—of lumber barons,
now vested in the state, now sanctuary for renegades
and shamans, for pot growers and moonshiners,
the upriver and clandestine industries that keep
mostly to themselves.
Misting over a lake-front terraced lawn, evening’s pink
tablet, japanning lawn and lake, magnolia leaf,
ember easing, dips and gives gilt to the veiled
nocturne vanishing in the view: the hint of maison
through the woods faint as features pressed on
an ancient coin. Swart arms of live oaks that hag
their bad backs surreptitiously, drip Spanish moss
like swamp things out of where a pelican taxis limp-
legged across the lake, pratfalls awkward as a drunk
on a bike. The bat above me, like a flung wristwatch. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

An Octopus by Marianne Moore

An Octopus
of ice. Deceptively reserved and flat,
it lies “in grandeur and in mass”
beneath a sea of shifting snow dunes;
dots of cyclamen red and maroon on its clearly defined pseudopodia
made of glass that will bend—a much needed invention—
comprising twenty-eight ice fields from fifty to five hundred feet thick,
of unimagined delicacy.
“Picking periwinkles from the cracks”
or killing prey with the concentric crushing rigor of the python,
it hovers forward “spider fashion
on its arms” misleadingly like lace;
its “ghostly pallor changing
to the green metallic tinge of an anemone starred pool.”
The fir trees in “the magnitude of their root systems,”
rise aloof from these maneuvers “creepy to behold,”
austere specimens of our American royal families,
“each like the shadow of the one beside it.
The rock seems frail compared with their dark energy of life,”
its vermilion and onyx and manganese blue interior expensiveness
left at the mercy of the weather;
“stained transversely by iron where the water drips down,”
recognized by its plants and its animals.
Completing a circle,
you have been deceived into thinking that you have progressed,
under the polite needles of the larches
“hung to filter not to intercept the sunlight”—
met by tightly wattled spruce twigs
“conformed to an edge like clipped cypress
as if no branch could penetrate the cold beyond its company”;
and dumps of gold and silver ore enclosing The Goat’s Mirror—
that lady-fingerlike depression in the shape of the left human foot,
which prejudices you in favor of itself
before you have had time to see the others
its indigo, pea-green, blue-green, and turquoise,
from a hundred to two hundred feet deep,
“merging in irregular patches in the middle lake
where like gusts of a storm
obliterating the shadows of the fir trees, the wind makes lanes of ripples.”
What spot could have merits of equal importance
for bears, elk, deer, wolves, goats, and ducks?
Preempted by their ancestors,
this is the property of the exacting porcupine,
and of the rat “slipping along to its burrow in the swamp
or pausing on high ground to smell the heather”;
of “thoughtful beavers
making drains which seem the work of careful men with shovels,”
and of the bears inspecting unexpectedly
ant hills and berry bushes.
Composed of calcium gems and alabaster pillars,
topaz, tourmaline crystals and amethyst quartz,
their den is somewhere else, concealed in the confusion
of “blue forests thrown together with marble and jasper and agate
as if whole quarries had been dynamited.”
And farther up, in stag-at-bay position
as a scintillating fragment of these terrible stalagmites,
stands the goat,
its eye fixed on the waterfall which never seems to fall—
an endless skein swayed by the wind,
immune to force of gravity in the perspective of the peaks.
A special antelope
acclimated to “grottoes from which issue penetrating draughts
which make you wonder why you came,”
it stands its ground
on cliffs the color of the clouds, of petrified white vapor—
black feet, eyes, nose, and horns engraved on dazzling ice-fields,
the ermine body on the crystal peak;
the sun kindling its shoulders to maximum heat like acetylene, dyeing them white—
upon this antique pedestal—
“a mountain with those graceful lines which prove it a volcano,”
its top a complete cone like Fujiyama’s
till an explosion blew it off.
Maintaining many minds, distinguished by a beauty
of which “the visitor dare never fully speak at home
for fear of being stoned as an imposter,”
Big Snow Mountain is the home of a diversity of creatures:
those who “have lived in hotels
but who now live in camps—who prefer to”;
the mountain guide evolving from the trapper,
“in two pairs of trousers, the outer one older,
wearing slowly away from the feet to the knees”;
“the nine-striped chipmunk
running with unmammallike agility along a log”;
the water ouzel
with “its passion for rapids and high pressured falls,”
building under the arch of some tiny Niagara;
the white-tailed ptarmigan “in winter solid white,
feeding on heather bells and alpine buckwheat”;
and the eleven eagles of the west,
“fond of the spring fragrance and the winter colors,”
used to the unegoistic action of the glaciers
and “several hours of frost every midsummer night.”
“They make a nice appearance, don’t they,”
happy seeing nothing?
Perched on treacherous lava and pumice—
those unadjusted chimney-pots and cleavers
which stipulate “the names and addresses of persons to notify
in case of disaster—”
they hear the roar of ice and supervise the water
winding slowly through the cliffs,
the road “climbing like the thread
which forms the groove around a snail-shell,
doubling back and forth until where snow begins, it ends.”
No “deliberate wide-eyed wistfulness” is here
among the boulders sunk in ripples and white water
where “when you hear the best wild music of the mountains it is sure to be a marmot,”
the victim on some slight observatory,
of “a struggle between curiosity and caution,”
inquiring what has scared it:
a stone from the moraine descending in leaps,
another marmot, or the spotted ponies with “glass eyes,”
brought up on frosty grass and flowers
and rapid draughts of ice water.
Instructed none knows how, to climb the mountain,
by “business men who as totemic scenery of Canada,
require for recreation,
three hundred and sixty-five holidays in the year,”
these conspicuously spotted little horses are peculiar;
hard to discern among the birch trees, ferns, and lily pads,
avalanche lilies, Indian paintbrushes,
bears’ ears and kittentails,
and miniature cavalcades of chlorophylless fungi
magnified in profile on the moss beds like moonstones in the water;
the cavalcade of calico competing
with the original American “menagerie of styles”
among the white flowers of the rhododendron surmounting rigid leaves
upon which moisture works its alchemy,
transmuting verdure into onyx.
Larkspur, blue pincushions, blue peas, and lupin;
white flowers with white, and red with red;
the blue ones “growing close together
so that patches of them look like blue water in the distance”:
this arrangement of colors
as in Persian designs of hard stones with enamel,
forms a pleasing equation—
a diamond outside and inside, a white dot;
on the outside, a ruby; inside, a red dot;
black spots balanced with black
in the woodlands where fires have run over the ground—
separated by aspens, cat’s paws, and woolly sunflowers,
fireweed, asters, and Goliath thistles
“flowering at all altitudes as multiplicitous as barley,”
like pink sapphires in the pavement of the glistening plateau.
Inimical to “bristling, puny, swearing men
equipped with saws and axes,”
this treacherous glass mountain
admires gentians, lady’s slippers, harebells, mountain dryads,
and “Calypso, the goat flower—
that greenish orchid fond of snow”—
anomalously nourished upon shelving glacial ledges
where climbers have not gone or have gone timidly,
“the one resting his nerves while the other advanced,”
on this volcano with the blue jay, her principal companion.
“Hopping stiffly on sharp feet” like miniature icehacks—
“secretive, with a look of wisdom and distinction, but a villain,
fond of human society or the crumbs that go with it,”
he knows no Greek,
“that pride producing language,”
in which “rashness is rendered innocuous, and error exposed
by the collision of knowledge with knowledge.”
“Like happy souls in Hell,” enjoying mental difficulties,
the grasshoppers of Greece
amused themselves with delicate behavior
because it was “so noble and so fair”;
not practiced in adapting their intelligence
to eagle traps and snowshoes,
to alpenstocks and other toys contrived by those
“alive to the advantage of invigorating pleasures.”
Bows, arrows, oars, and paddles for which trees provide the wood,
in new countries are more eloquent than elsewhere—
augmenting evidence for the assertion
that essentially humane,
“the forest affords wood for dwellings and by its beauty stimulates
the moral vigor of its citizens.”
The Greeks liked smoothness, distrusting what was back
of what could not be clearly seen,
resolving with benevolent conclusiveness,
“complexities which still will be complexities
as long as the world lasts”;
ascribing what we clumsily call happiness,
“to “an accident or a quality,
a spiritual substance or the soul itself,
an act, a disposition, or a habit,
or a habit infused to which the soul has been persuaded,
or something distinct from a habit, a power—”
such power as Adam had and we are still devoid of.
“Emotionally sensitive, their hearts were hard”;
their wisdom was remote
from that of these odd oracles of cool official sarcasm,
upon this game preserve
where “guns, nets, seines, traps and explosives,
hired vehicles, gambling and intoxicants are prohibited,
disobedient persons being summarily removed
and not allowed to return without permission in writing.”
It is self evident
that it is frightful to have everything afraid of one;
that one must do as one is told
and eat “rice, prunes, dates, raisins, hardtack, and tomatoes”
if one would “conquer the main peak” of Mount Tacoma
this fossil flower concise without a shiver,
intact when it is cut,
damned for its sacrosanct remoteness—
like Henry James “damned by the public for decorum”;
not decorum, but restraint;
it was the love of doing hard things
that rebuffed and wore them out—a public out of sympathy with neatness.
Neatness of finish! Neatness of finish!
Relentless accuracy is the nature of this octopus
with its capacity for fact.
“Creeping slowly as with meditated stealth,
its arms seeming to approach from all directions,”
it receives one under winds that “tear the snow to bits
and hurl it like a sandblast,
shearing off twigs and loose bark from the trees.”
Is tree the word for these strange things
“flat on the ground like vines”;
some “bent in a half circle with branches on one side
suggesting dustbrushes, not trees;
some finding strength in union, forming little stunted groves,
their flattened mats of branches shrunk in trying to escape”
from the hard mountain “planed by ice and polished by the wind”—
the white volcano with no weather side;
the lightning flashing at its base,
rain falling in the valleys, and snow falling on the peak—
the glassy octopus symmetrically pointed,
its claw cut by the avalanche
“with a sound like the crack of a rifle,
in a curtain of powdered snow launched like a waterfall.”

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Pain Has an Element of Blank by Emily Dickinson

Pain Has an Element of Blank 

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there was
A time when it was not. 

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying by Noor Hindi

Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying

Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas at the Orphanage by Bill Knott

Christmas at the Orphanage

But if they’d give us toys and twice the stuff
most parents splurge on the average kid,
orphans, I submit, need more than enough;
in fact, stacks wrapped with our names nearly hid
the tree where sparkling allotments yearly
guaranteed a lack of—what?—family?—
I knew exactly what it was I missed:
(did each boy there feel the same denials?)
to share my pals’ tearing open their piles
meant sealing the self, the child that wanted
to scream at all You stole those gifts from me;
whose birthday is worth such words? The wish-lists
they’d made us write out in May lay granted
against starred branches. I said I’m sorry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas in the Heart by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Christmas in the Heart

The snow lies deep upon the ground,
And winter's brightness all around
Decks bravely out the forest sere,
With jewels of the brave old year.
The coasting crowd upon the hill
With some new spirit seems to thrill;
And all the temple bells achime.
Ring out the glee of Christmas time.
In happy homes the brown oak-bough
Vies with the red-gemmed holly now;
And here and there, like pearls, there show
The berries of the mistletoe.
A sprig upon the chandelier
Says to the maidens, "Come not here!"
Even the pauper of the earth
Some kindly gift has cheered to mirth!
Within his chamber, dim and cold,
There sits a grasping miser old.
He has no thought save one of gain,—
To grind and gather and grasp and drain.
A peal of bells, a merry shout
Assail his ear: he gazes out
Upon a world to him all gray,
And snarls, "Why, this is Christmas Day!"
No, man of ice,—for shame, for shame!
For "Christmas Day" is no mere name.
No, not for you this ringing cheer,
This festal season of the year.
And not for you the chime of bells
From holy temple rolls and swells.
In day and deed he has no part—
Who holds not Christmas in his heart!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Funny Loss of Face by Brian Blanchfield

Funny Loss of Face 

Late in the last of the sun all over the wall
across the lot the bordello larks on the ivy vine
visit one another’s resting closets
like boys and men in Taiwanese baths:
anyone could be behind that leaf or must he
prefer sleep to sharing sleep, the overcome one,
flustering, not just anyone, retorts
and have him know, special again only once
the turnkey checks, before the wind top to bottom
as in a movie of itself plays the shuddering
singularity of love, selecting no one
particularly anyway, but all in las peliculas
sit deeper in their popcorn parkas down.
Everyone’s in for the night except
you who had flown all day didn’t want to fall asleep
here I was telling your neck relax your eyes
were going to wake up raw without solution
for lenses, so it was better you find
the little baths they had at home. Why it was
funny I suggested we concoct it from scratch’s hard
to say and whether one of us or which was
good about everything. When you call and
the leaves are brighter red, it’s later, nearer
the sun, and relief is that vibrant.
That you can see already where more doors
were and birds the ropey circuitry
the wall will bare is an occupancy of mine.

Of Age by Amit Majmudar

Of Age

You’ve come of age in the age of migrations.
The board tilts, and the bodies roll west.
Fanaticism’s come back into fashion,
come back with a vengeance.
In this new country, there’s no gravitas,
no grace. The ancient Chevys migrate
west and plunge like maddened buffalo
into a canyon. Where the oil-slick geese go,
no one knows—maybe the Holland Tunnel
because they take it for the monstrous turbine
promised them in prophecy. I brought you
to this world, and I do not regret it.
The sky’s still blue, for now. I want to show you
an island where the trees are older than redwoods
ever since Prospero turned them
into books. You’ll meet him when you’re ready.
For now, though, study this list of endangered
species: it’s incomplete, of course, since all
species are in some danger nowadays.
This is the country I bequeath to you,
the country I bequeath you to. You’ve come
of age, and you’re inheriting the whole house,
busted pipes and splintered deck and all.
This is your people, this, the mythic West
your grandparents wished to reach, and reached.
The oceans surge, but the boat is up on blocks.
There’s no America to sail to anymore.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

June 25, 1955 by Patricia Smith

June 25, 1955

It is a backbreaker delivery, with no knife
slipped beneath the bed to cut the pain.
In a deep-bleached cavern of beeping
machines and sterilized silver, she can’t
get loose. Her legs are strapped flat,
and men are holding down her hands.
She wails. Not from hurt, but from knowing.
There will be no running from this.
This child is a chaos she must name. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Nothing by Randall Mann


My mother is scared of the world.
She left my father after forty years.
She was like, Happy anniversary, goodbye;
I respect that.
The moon tonight is dazzling, is full
of   itself  but not quite full.
A man should not love the moon, said Milosz.
Not exactly. He translated himself
into saying it. A man should not love translation;
there’s so much I can’t know. An hour ago,
marking time with someone I would like to like,
we passed some trees and there were crickets
(crickets!) chirping right off  Divisadero.
I touched his hand, and for a cold moment
I was like a child again,
nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Should, Should Not by Czesław Miłosz

Should, Should Not

A man should not love the moon.
An axe should not lose weight in his hand.
His garden should smell of rotting apples
And grow a fair amount of nettles.
A man when he talks should not use words that are dear to him,
Or split open a seed to find out what is inside it.
He should not drop a crumb of bread, or spit in the fire
(So at least I was taught in Lithuania).
When he steps on marble stairs,
He may, that boor, try to chip them with his boot
As a reminder that the stairs will not last forever.
(Translated by Czesław Miłosz) 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Evasive Me by Marcus Jackson

Evasive Me

Of course there’s a certificate, bleeding
carbon at the creases and impressions,
detailing my metrics and lineage the night
I entered the earthly air in a new hospital
built by the intricate partnership between
Rust Belt governance, capitalism
and Christ, though I lie to people I like,
saying I was born in a garden so near
the sea that my mother—multilingual
and remarkably tall—rinsed me at the fringe
of the tide the morning after labor,
the horizon cloudless and birdless
while the sand whispered spells of protection,
depth, and solemnity upon the pair of us,
and amid this farce my dear listeners
don expressions of distrust or ire
as likely they should, faced with evasive
me, so wearied even before boyhood
by the truth that I’ve forever disallowed
my ears and my mouth any songs not made
from the water, dirt, wind, salt, and fire
of American manipulation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Visitor by Carolyn Forché

The Visitor 

In Spanish he whispers there is no time left.
It is the sound of scythes arcing in wheat,
the ache of some field song in Salvador.
The wind along the prison, cautious
as Francisco’s hands on the inside, touching
the walls as he walks, it is his wife’s breath
slipping into his cell each night while he
imagines his hand to be hers. It is a small country.
There is nothing one man will not do to another.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

August Insomnia by Franz Wright

August Insomnia

He slowly replaced the receiver like somebody who had just used it.
He slowly replaced the receiver
like somebody who had just used it
to strike himself
several times,
on the skull.
Midnight, blue leaves swarming against the glass.
The pregnant child alone on her front doorstep,
the starving moon.
He slowly replaced the receiver. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Things Haunt by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Things Haunt

California is a desert and I am a woman inside it.
The road ahead bends sideways and I lurch within myself.
I’m full of ugly feelings, awful thoughts, bad dreams
of doom, and so much love left unspoken.
Is mercury in retrograde? someone asks.
Someone answers, No, it’s something else
like that though. Something else like that.
That should be my name.
When you ask me am I really a woman, a human being,
a coherent identity, I’ll say No, I’m something else
like that though.
A true citizen of planet earth closes their eyes
and says what they are before the mirror.
A good person gives and asks for nothing in return.
I give and I ask for only one thing—
Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me.
Hear me. Bear the weight of my voice and don’t forget—
things haunt. Things exist long after they are killed.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Aubade by Major Jackson


 After R.W.

You could be home boiling a pot
of tea as you sit on your terrace,
reading up on last night’s soccer shot
beneath a scarf of cirrus.
You could be diving headlong
into the waves of Cocoa Beach
or teaching Mao Tse-tung
whose theories are easy to reach
or dropping off your dry cleaning,
making the New Americans wealthier,
or mowing your lawn, greening
up, but isn’t this healthier?
Just imagine the hours you’re
not squandering away,
or the antlike minutes frittered
with a tentative fiancé.
Your whole body agrees you’d
rather lie here like a snail
in my arm’s crook, nude
and oblivious of all e-mails.
Yes, it’s nearly one o’clock,
but we have more reasons
to kiss, to engage in small talk.
For one, these blissful seasons
are short, & tomorrow is never
insured, so bounce downstairs:
pour us glasses of whatever,
a tray of crackers, Bosc pears,
then let drop your sarong,
the wind high on your skin,
so we can test all day long
the notion of original sin.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Colostrum by Kevin Young


We are not born
with tears. Your
first dozen cries
are dry.
It takes some time
for the world to arrive
and salt the eyes. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Night Migrations by Louise Glück

The Night Migrations

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds’ night migrations.
It grieves me to think
the dead won’t see them—
these things we depend on,
they disappear.
What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won’t need
these pleasures anymore; 
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Pact by Ezra Pound

A Pact

I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman.
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you like a grown child
Who has had a pigheaded father.
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood;
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root:
Let there be commerce between us. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.
Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.
I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape of my head in the sunlit water,
Look’d on the haze on the hills southward and south-westward,
Look’d on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Look’d toward the lower bay to notice the vessels arriving,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw the ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their pilot-houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the frolicsome crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray walls of the granite storehouses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely flank’d on each side by the barges, the hay-boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore the fires from the foundry chimneys burning high and glaringly into the night,
Casting their flicker of black contrasted with wild red and yellow light over the tops of houses, and down into the clefts of streets.
These and all else were to me the same as they are to you,
I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid river,
The men and women I saw were all near to me,
Others the same—others who look back on me because I look’d forward to them,
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.)
What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed they came upon me,
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution,
I too had receiv’d identity by my body,
That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should be I knew I should be of my body.
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudg’d,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting,
Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest,
Was call’d by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.
Closer yet I approach you,
What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you—I laid in my stores in advance,
I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.
Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?
Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast-hemm’d Manhattan?
River and sunset and scallop-edg’d waves of flood-tide?
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, and the belated lighter?
What gods can exceed these that clasp me by the hand, and with voices I love call me promptly and loudly by my nighest name as I approach?
What is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face?
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you?
We understand then do we not?
What I promis’d without mentioning it, have you not accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the preaching could not accomplish is accomplish’d, is it not?
Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg’d waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! drench with your splendor me, or the men and women generations after me!
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house or street or public assembly!
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically call me by my nighest name!
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the actor or actress!
Play the old role, the role that is great or small according as one makes it!
Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may not in unknown ways be looking upon you;
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who lean idly, yet haste with the hasting current;
Fly on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large circles high in the air;
Receive the summer sky, you water, and faithfully hold it till all downcast eyes have time to take it from you!
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of my head, or any one’s head, in the sunlit water!
Come on, ships from the lower bay! pass up or down, white-sail’d schooners, sloops, lighters!
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lower’d at sunset!
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black shadows at nightfall! cast red and yellow light over the tops of the houses!
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are,
You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul,
About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung out divinest aromas,
Thrive, cities—bring your freight, bring your shows, ample and sufficient rivers,
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more spiritual,
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more lasting.
You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful ministers,
We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate henceforward,
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves from us,
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we plant you permanently within us,
We fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection in you also,
You furnish your parts toward eternity,
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.