Vintage verse – The Face of All the World (Sonnet 7) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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The Face of All the World (Sonnet 7)

The face of all the world is changed, I think,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul
Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole
Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink
Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink,
Was caught up into love, and taught the whole
Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole
God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink,
And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear.
The names of country, heaven, are changed away
For where thou art or shalt be, there or here;
And this… this lute and song… loved yesterday,
(The singing angels know) are only dear,
Because thy name moves right in what they say.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – December by Jean Kreiling

December

Arriving modestly, without a sound,
the first snow of the season fills the night
with tiny flakes of other-worldly light
that settles in pale patches on the ground.
The stone-cold air turns flannel-soft, transformed
by small wet stars that fall and thereby lift
the eye and heart—a fragile, frozen gift
that leaves our spirits fortified and warmed.
Another silent night may come to mind,
another star, another gift, but He
need not be sought as heaven falls to earth
in icy, cloud-spun pieces that will find
the pious and the pagan, equally
anointing all who see the season’s birth.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 2, 2015 — by Jean Kreiling, first published in The Tower Journal 5/2 (Winter 2013).

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Holidays by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Holidays

The holiest of all holidays are those
. . . .Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
. . . .The secret anniversaries of the heart,
. . . .When the full river of feeling overflows;—
The happy days unclouded to their close;
. . . .The sudden joys that out of darkness start
. . . .As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
. . . .Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
. . . .White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
. . . .White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;— a Fairy Tale
. . . .Of some enchanted land we know not where,
. . . .But lovely as a landscape in a dream.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – The Acrobats by Mary Meriam

The Acrobats

I spend my solo life in windy spaces,
way up above the throng, no safety net
below, exposed to row on row of faces
fixed on the acrobats in silhouette.
I’ll fall with one misstep or if the wire
splits or my fingers slip. I climb the rungs,
trembling, trembling. Rising higher, higher,
I cough out all the fumbles in my lungs,
and here’s my tiny platform, just a disk
that fits my feet. From here, I leap and swing
into the flashing lights, familiar with the risk
by now, but shocked to see you stand and fling
yourself from your own platform over there
and catch me from your swing through the thin air.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 4, 2015 — by Mary Meriam

artist Emily Nicole Tucker

Vintage verse – Patience Taught by Nature by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Patience Taught by Nature

“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by contented through the heat and cold.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

After the Storm by Michael Paul Hogan

After the Storm

Wading knee-deep
for six-pack and cigarettes
I watch my feet,
three inches from my knees,
under a foot of water
negotiate the curb.

They look like two fish
hugging the tarmac bottom,
trying to turn some silt
onto themselves. Their eyes
stare up at me, trailing
four broken-off hooks.

In the package store
my sneakers slap slap
between the aisles of tinned fruit
and cornflakes. Mrs Morales
wraps up the dry goods
in a mermaid’s purse.

Wading back home
I stop while a car swims
past the front of our house,
a bottle-nose Chevy
sending ripples
right up to the screen door.

Three days of rain
have filled the garden up.
The clothes line is no higher
than a tennis net.
A pelican sits on the fence-pole,
surprised at itself.

In the Florida room
my wife is sweeping out water
so heavy with sand
it holds the track of the bristles.
The hem of her dress sags
like a broken wing.

I open two beers
and a pack of Luckies,
and reach up and spin
the ceiling fan with the flat
of my hand. It turns once
and runs aground.

by Michael Paul Hogan

Michael on Facebook

Editor’s Note: In this poem, simile and metaphor describe the surreality of a flood. The clean imagery and short lines convey how it feels when the ground becomes water, and home becomes unfamiliar.

Fortunate Sons by Bruce Guernsey

Fortunate Sons

My Uncle Sheldon never went to war,
the oldest son exempt by law
to carry on our family name,
to care for the farm.
From milking cows his hands grew strong
those cold, Catskill mornings,
and gentle, too, bathed in milk,
his fingers long against the firm,
pink udders, and by the time his brothers
came back from overseas,
he’d taught himself to play the piano.

His brothers—
Alfred, Douglas, Charles—
he calmed with those hands
when they’d wake in their beds like boys
to the high whine of shells
and brute fact of lead,
the rhythm, like milking, of his fingers at the keys
stilling the rattling windows
with music like steam, grassy and sweet
from the buckets rising, filling with sleep
the house they each were born in.

by Bruce Guernsey, from FROM RAIN: Poems, 1970-2010.

Editor’s Note: This poem’s narrative is deceptively simple. Sometimes describing trauma is best approached from the side of things.

This is the Face of a Widow by Susan Butler

This is the Face of a Widow

These are the hands of a widow,
seeking comfort in pockets and pages,
flapping at the questions
like a frantic small bird trapped in a tangled snare.
These are the hands of a widow, ineffectual,
lurching, reaching for someone they will never touch,
growing thinner, even bones
nearly vanishing.

These are the eyes of a widow,
eyes that don’t see but never stop seeing,
dead stars that still must wake.
These are the eyes of a widow,
burnt crumbs
that still must burn, must disguise,
poorly,
this aching vacancy.

This is the mouth of a widow
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

This is the face of a widow,
stained with weeping salt, skin brittle,
this half moon
cradled in no other hands.
This is the face of a widow,
trying to look forward
instead of down at the earth,
the dirt that covers him,
that will cover her.

This is the word widow.
It means what will never be.

by Susan Butler

Twitter: @ouisuzette

Editor’s Note: Loss and grief illuminate this poem. The narrator’s search for words fails midway through the poem, though the trauma lingers.

Fire Watching by John Savoie

Fire Watching

Last night I dozed before the fire
watching the remnants collapse
in spurts of flame, quick blue tongues,
the secret whispered back and forth;

and saw the red tremulous heart
beat within black ribs, then frosting
over to the crystalline sound
of ice etching a window pane;

dimmer still, mere undulance
in the dark, ashes curled, embers
sighed like the hunter who can trudge
no more, leans back in drifted snow,

face to sky, catching pale flakes
(the darkness turning inside out)
so oddly warm upon the brow,
one eye open, as two eyes close.

by John Savoie

Editor’s Note: Anyone who has watched a fire burn down knows how mesmerizing the flames can be. In this poem, the imagery feels exactly like that strange slump into sleep.