Category Archives: poetry

The clarity of early morning.


Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.

I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget—I kept saying—that we are all children of the King.

For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago—
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef—they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.

-Czeslaw Milosz, 2004




This lady whom everyone loves.

Yesterday afternoon the garden was brilliant under the sunbeams that followed rain showers. This strip of purple caught my eye, revealing itself to be violets that had quietly grown lush over the wet winter, along the edge of the patio where they also had planted themselves years ago. Sometimes they volunteer in pots and choke out whatever I had intended to nurture, but this little border didn’t encroach on anything, so I was pleased to see them suddenly dressed in their purple gowns, as one more sign announcing: SPRING!

I’m afraid my grandchildren went home before the violets bloomed, but I will invite a few young outdoorsy friends over soon, and invite them to gather happiness in their small hands.


And this is the lady
Whom everyone loves,
Ms. Violet
in her purple gown

Or, on special occasions,
A dress the color
Of sunlight. She sits
In the mossy weeds and waits

To be noticed.
She loves dampness.
She loves attention.
She loves especially

To be picked by careful fingers,
Young fingers, entranced
By what has happened
To the world.

We, the older ones,
Call it Spring,
And we have been through it
Many times.

But there is still nothing
Like the children bringing home
Such happiness
In their small hands.

-Mary Oliver

Looking through windows or stones.


The birds are in their trees,
the toast is in the toaster,
and the poets are at their windows.

They are at their windows
in every section of the tangerine of earth–
the Chinese poets looking up at the moon,
the American poets gazing out
at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.

The clerks are at their desks,
the miners are down in their mines,
and the poets are looking out their windows
maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea,
and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.

The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong
game of proofreading,
glancing back and forth from page to page,
the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes,
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.

Which window it hardly seems to matter
though many have a favorite,
for there is always something to see–
a bird grasping a thin branch,
the headlight of a taxi rounding a corner,
those two boys in wool caps angling across the street.

The fishermen bob in their boats,
the linemen climb their round poles,
the barbers wait by their mirrors and chairs,
and the poets continue to stare at the cracked birdbath
or a limb knocked down by the wind.

By now, it should go without saying
that what the oven is to the baker
and the berry-stained blouse to the dry cleaner,
so the window is to the poet.

Just think–
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.

And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.

I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman’s heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.

-Billy Collins

I found this poem recently on A Poem a Day.

Durham Cathedral from Durham Castle, 2005. Pippin photo.

The triumph of the machine.


They talk of triumph of the machine,
but the machine will never triumph.

Out of the thousands and thousands of centuries of man
the unrolling of ferns, white tongues of the acanthus lapping at the sun,
for one sad century
machines have triumphed, rolled us hither and thither,
shaking the lark’s nest till the eggs have broken.

Shaken the marshes, till the geese have gone
and the wild swans flown away singing the swan-song at us.

Hard, hard on the earth the machines are rolling,
but through some hearts they will never roll.

The lark nests in his heart
and the white swan swims in the marshes of his loins,
and through the wide prairies of his breast a young bull herds his cows,
lambs frisk among the daisies of his brain.

And at last
all these creatures that cannot die, driven back
into the uttermost corners of the soul,
will send up the wild cry of despair.

The thrilling lark in a wild despair will trill down arrows from the sky,
the swan will beat the waters in rage, white rage of an enraged swan,
even the lambs will stretch forth their necks like serpents,
like snakes of hate, against the man in the machine:
even the shaking white poplar will dazzle like splinters of glass against him.

And against this inward revolt of the native creatures of the soul
mechanical man, in triumph seated upon the seat of his machine
will be powerless, for no engine can reach into the marshes and depths of a man.

So mechanical man in triumph seated upon the seat of his machine
will be driven mad from within himself, and sightless, and on that day
the machines will turn to run into one another
traffic will tangle up in a long-drawn-out crash of collision
and engines will rush at the solid houses, the edifice of our life
will rock in the shock of the mad machine, and the house will come down.

Then, far beyond the ruin, in the far, in the ultimate, remote places
the swan will lift up again his flattened, smitten head
and look round, and rise, and on the great vaults of his wings
will sweep round and up to greet the sun with a silky glitter of a new day
and the lark will follow trilling, angerless again,
and the lambs will bite off the heads of the daisies for very friskiness.
But over the middle of the earth will be the smoky ruin of iron
the triumph of the machine.

-D.H. Lawrence