the caterpillar :: robert graves

Under this loop of honeysuckle,
A creeping, coloured caterpillar,
I gnaw the fresh green hawthorn spray,
I nibble it leaf by leaf away.

Down beneath grow dandelions,
Daisies, old-man’s-looking-glasses;
Rooks flap croaking across the lane.
I eat and swallow and eat again.

Here come raindrops helter-skelter;
I munch and nibble unregarding:
Hawthorn leaves are juicy and firm.
I’ll mind my business: I’m a good worm.

When I’m old, tired, melancholy,
I’ll build a leaf-green mausoleum
Close by, here on this lovely spray,
And die and dream the ages away.

Some say worms win resurrection,
With white wings beating flitter-flutter,
But wings or a sound sleep, why should I care?
Either way I’ll miss my share.

Under this loop of honeysuckle,
A hungry, hairy caterpillar,
I crawl on my high and swinging seat,
And eat, eat, eat—as one ought to eat.

many-roofed building in moonlight :: jane hirshfield

I found myself
suddenly voluminous,
three-dimensioned,
a many-roofed building in moonlight.

Thought traversed
me as simply as moths might.
Feelings traversed me as fish.

I heard myself thinking,
It isn’t the piano, it isn’t the ears.

Then heard, too soon, the ordinary furnace,
the usual footsteps above me.

Washed my face again with hot water,
as I did when I was a child.

tourists :: yehuda amichai

Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel’s Tomb and Herzl’s Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.

Once I sat on the steps by agate at David’s Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. “You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head.” “But he’s moving, he’s moving!”
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
“You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”

Courtesy of MEM

altars of light :: pierre joris

If the light is the soul
then soul is what’s
all around me.

It is you,
it is around you too,
it is you.

The darkness is inside me,
the opaqueness of organs folded
upon organs–

to make light in the house of
the body–
      thus to bring the
outside in,
      the impossible job.

      And the only place to become
the skin
      the border, the inbetween, where
dark meets light, where I meets
      you.

      In the house of world the
many darknesses are surrounded
by light.

      To see the one, we need
the other / it cuts both ways

      light on light is blind
      dark on dark is blind

      light through dark is not

      dark through light is movement
      dark through light becomes,
is becoming,
      to move through
light is becoming,

      is all
            we can know.

planting a sequoia :: dana gioia

for TH

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the orchard,
Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing the soil.
Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first son’s birth—
An olive or a fig tree-a sign that the earth has one more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new stock into my father’s
orchard,
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple boughs,
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an infant’s birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can — our labor and our soil,
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by the circuit of
bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn down,
His mother’s beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth.

visitation :: eamon grennan

Last night you called me out to the December dark
to look up and see what neither of us had ever seen
before: a burnished flock of Canada geese, bent
into a flexed bow and heading south across a clear-
starred moonless sky in silence, winging it
to warmer quarters, and all lit up—like mystery,
I thought, a lit thing bearing nothing but the self
we see and savor but know no more the meaning of
than I know what in the cave of its fixed gaze
our cat is thinking. The geese were lit to the shade
of tarnished gold or dead oak leaves hanging still
in sunshine, or the color tall reeds have when
car-lights stream and splash over them in winter.
And they were—these beings moving as one—
a mystery to us: Why, we asked, their color, who
by daylight are simply black-winged shapes
quickening southwards across a sky-blue canvas?
How could they be lit from below like that, from
somewhere near where we stood on the earth
we shared with them, staring up, the earth that
for this inhabited minute or two must have been
giving off a light that made these creatures shine
for us who were there by chance, with no moonshine
to explain it? Then they’re gone, gone dark, gone on,
though in their aftermath the cold dark we stood
our ground in was for a little while neither cold
nor dark but a place of visitation, and we were in it.

I am! :: john clare

I am! yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest—that I loved the best—
Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.