To the Stone-Cutters

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For manwill be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the
brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained
thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.

-Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

Too Much Snow

Unlike the Eskimos we only have one word for snow but we have a
lot of
modifiers for that word. There is too much snow, which, unlike rain,
does not
immediately run off. It falls and stays for months. Someone wished for
snow. Someone got a deal, five cents on the dollar, and spent the
entire family
fortune. It's the simple solution, it covers everything. We are never
with the arrangement of the snow so we spend hours moving the snow from
place to another. Too much snow. I box it up and send it to family and
I send a big box to my cousin in California. I send a small box to my
She writes "Don't send so much. I'm all alone now. I'll never be able
to use so
much." To you I send a single snowflake, beautiful, complex and
different from all the others.

- Louis Jenkins (1942-)


Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,--
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!
We see him stand by the open door,
With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

He makes as though in our arms repelling,
He fain would lie as he lay before;--
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,--
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

Ah, who shall help us from over-spelling
That sweet forgotten, forbidden lore!
E'en as we doubt in our heart once more,
With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling,
Love comes back to vacant dwelling.

Austin Dobson (1880)

Jade Stairs Resentment

On steps of jade
White dew forms.
It creeps within
Her stocking of fine silk
As night grows long.

She lowers then
The water-crystal blind,
And through its glittering gems
She gazes
At the autumn moon.

Li Bai (740 A.D.)

the Third Wonder

Two things said Kant, 'fill me with breathless awe:
The starry heavens and the moral law.'
I know a thing more awful and obscure --
The long, long patience of the plundered poor.

Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

No Girls Allowed

When we're playing tag
and the girls want to play,
we yell and we scream
and we chase them away.

When we're playing stickball
or racing our toys
and the girls ask to join,
we say "Only for boys."

We play hide-and-go-seek
and the girls wander near.
They say, "Please let us hide."
We pretend not to hear.

We don't care for girls
so we don't let them in,
we think that they're dumb--
and besides, they might win.

- Jack Prelutsky (2011)

Epinician Ode 1 (excerpt)

Listen: you have your health
and enough to live on? What else can you want?
You are one of the lucky few
and ought to enjoy it.
Life, if you aren't sick or destitute,
is good, but we waste our time
in this golden sunshine looking
always to someone else and thinking,
"he must be happy".
It's not so.
The rich are never content.
They want as fervently as we do,
more, more.
It's how men are made.
They want what they don't have,
whatever is hard to attain,
and they spend their strength
reaching out, mostly for baubles and toys,
wealth and power.
But these are trivial things,
and the bone yards are full
of utter non-entities
who had more than their share.
Virtue is different, difficult, real:
those who have earned that have it forever,
in life and after, forever.
True distinction, fame, glory,
that never dies.

Bacchylides (500 B.C. ?)

Not Henry Miller but Mother

Passion is the letter "p." A jeweled pear, another Guernica shattering
our souls, a giant liced with Lilliputians. Passion fell flat on its face when a date
used too much tongue. Passion ran, shotput into the air past the scoreboard,
past the empty lots where children brawled silently, past the manicured
lawns of Silicon Valley's royalty and past my sweaty, consumptive
grasp. Following the flock, I traveled to Europe and scaled the Catalan steps
to view a landscape of stone. It was cold. I left early. Later in Paris,
I searched for passion in the vessel of a Frenchman and only found a janitor
who cleaned the toilets of Notre Dame and whispered "I have many, many
flaws." She was the one who hoarded passion. Mother, who shaved my
head when I was three, who dieted on tears and Maalox, who shouted in
hyena rage and one minute later cradled my face and whispered a song in
my ear, while I watched the clock in front of me, ticking.

- Cathy Park Hong

Paradoxes and Oxymorons

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don't have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What's a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren't there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

- John Ashbery (1927)

Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher

I just said I didn't know
And now you are holding me
In your arms,
How kind.
Parachutes, my love could carry us higher.
Yet around the net I am floating
Pink and pale blue fish are caught in it,
They are beautiful,
But they are not good for eating.
Parachutes, my love, could carry us higher
Than this mid-air in which we tremble,
Having exercised our arms in swimming,
Now the suspension, you say,
Is exquisite. I do not know.
There is coral below the surface,
There is sand and berries
Like pomegranates grow.
The wide net, I am treading water
Near it, bubbles are rising and salt
Drying on my lashes, yet I am no nearer
Air than water. I am closer to you
Than land and I am in a stranger ocean
Than I wished.

- Barbara Guest (1920)

November Surf

Some lucky day each November great waves awake and are drawn
Like smoking mountains bright from the west
And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness: then
The old granite forgets half a year's filth:
The orange-peel, eggshells, papers, pieces of clothing, the clots
Of dung in corners of the rock, and used
Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all the droppings
of the summer
Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy:
I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then.... But all
The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep,
Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up the long
Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines:
The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks more nu-
The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two-footed
Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains
The dignity of room, the value of rareness.

- Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

The Fishing-Tackle

In mu room, on the whitewashed wall
Hangs a short bamboo stick bound with cord
With an iron hook designed
To snag fishing-nets from the water. The stick
Came from a second-hand store downtown. My son
Gave it to me for my birthday. It is worn.
In salt water the hook's rust has eaten through the binding.
These traces of use and of work
Lend great dignity to the stick. I
Like to think that this fishing-tackle
Was left behind by those Japanese fishermen
Whom they have now driven from the West Coast into camps
As suspect aliens; that it came into my hands
To keep me in mind of so many
Unsolved but not insoluble
Questions of humanity.

- Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses--
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads--
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. --As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

- Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)