whoever you are holding me now in hand :: walt whitman

Whoever you are, holding me now in hand,
Without one thing, all will be useless,
I give you fair warning, before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.

Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?

The way is suspicious—the result uncertain, perhaps destructive;
You would have to give up all else—I alone would expect to be your God, sole and exclusive,
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,
The whole past theory of your life, and all conformity to the lives around you, would have to be abandon’d;
Therefore release me now, before troubling yourself any further—Let go your hand from my shoulders,
Put me down, and depart on your way.

Or else, by stealth, in some wood, for trial,
Or back of a rock, in the open air,
(For in any roof’d room of a house I emerge not—nor in company,
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill—first watching lest any person, for miles around, approach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea, or some quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,
With the comrade’s long-dwelling kiss, or the new husband’s kiss,
For I am the new husband, and I am the comrade.

Or, if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart, or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus, merely touching you, is enough—is best,
And thus, touching you, would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.

But these leaves conning, you con at peril,
For these leaves, and me, you will not understand,
They will elude you at first, and still more afterward—I will certainly elude you,
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.

For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book,
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,
Nor do those know me best who admire me, and vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love, (unless at most a very few,) prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only—they will do just as much evil, perhaps more;
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit—that which I hinted at;
Therefore release me, and depart on your way.

music is time :: jill bialosky

Music is time, said the violin master.
You can’t miss the stop or you’ll miss the train.
One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four,
one, two, three, four.

She clapped her hands together
as the boy moved the bow across the strings.
One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four,
one, two, three, four,
the violin master shouted,

louder and more shrill so that her voice
traveled through the house like a metronome,
guiding him, commanding him to translate the beat,
to trust his own internal rhythm.

Good boy, she said.
See how hard you have to be on yourself?
How will your violin know who you are
unless you make it speak?

Courtesy of American Life in Poetry

coy mistress :: annie finch

Sir, I am not a bird of prey:
a Lady does not seize the day.
I trust that brief Time will unfold
our youth, before he makes us old.
How could we two write lines of rhyme
were we not fond of numbered Time
and grateful to the vast and sweet
trials his days will make us meet:
The Grave’s not just the body’s curse;
no skeleton can pen a verse!
So while this numbered World we see,
let’s sweeten Time with poetry,
and Time, in turn, may sweeten Love
and give us time our love to prove.
You’ve praised my eyes, forehead, breast:
you’ve all our lives to praise the rest.

the strawberry shrub :: edna st. vincent millay

Strawberry Shrub, old-fashioned, quaint as quinces,
Hard to find in a world where neon and noise
Have flattened the ends of the three more subtle senses ;
And blare and magenta are all that a child enjoys.

More brown than red the bloom—it is a dense colour ;
Colour of dried blood ; colour of the key of F.
Tie it in your handkerchief, Dorcas, take it to school
To smell. But no, as I said, it is browner than red; it is duller
Than history, tinnier than algebra ; and you are colour-deaf.

Purple, a little, the bloom, like musty chocolate ;
Purpler than the purple avens of the wet fields ;
But brown and red and hard and hiding its fragrance ;
More like an herb it is : it is not exuberant.
You must brief a bit : it does not exude ; it yields.

summer :: xuân quỳnh

Translated by Carolyn Forche and Nguyen Ba Chung

It’s the season of birdsong.
The sky is deep blue, sunlight is everywhere.
The soil climbs the tree; the sap tends the fruits.
Man’s footsteps break new paths.

It’s the season in which nothing can hide.
The whole world is dressed in light.
The sea aqua, the white sails full.
And bitterness turns into poetry.

It’s the season of hopes and dreams,
Of man’s ancient and innumerable cravings.
Winds turn to storms, rains into rivers and seas.
A simple glance might light the spark of love.

It’s the season of twilights.
The paper kite parts the high open sky,
The crickets stay awake in the warm night singing,
The moor hen breaks the noon’s silence.

O summer, have you gone?
O desires of youth, are you here or not?
The earth still holds the deep blue of the sea,
And the sweet fruit, the faint color of blossoms.