Mindful by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?


The Little Dog’s Day by Rupert Brooke

All in the town were still asleep,
When the sun came up with a shout and a leap.
In the lonely streets unseen by man,
A little dog danced. And the day began.

All his life he’d been good, as far as he could,
And the poor little beast had done all that he should.
But this morning he swore, by Odin and Thor
And the Canine Valhalla—he’d stand it no more!

So his prayer he got granted—to do just what he wanted,
Prevented by none, for the space of one day.
“Jam incipiebo, sedere facebo,”
In dog-Latin he quoth, “Euge! sophos! hurray!”

He fought with the he-dogs, and winked at the she-dogs,
A thing that had never been heard of before.
“For the stigma of gluttony, I care not a button!” he
Cried, and ate all he could swallow—and more.

He took sinewy lumps from the shins of old frumps,
And mangled the errand-boys—when he could get ’em.
He shammed furious rabies, and bit all the babies,
And followed the cats up the trees, and then ate’ em!

They thought ’twas the devil was holding a revel,
And sent for the parson to drive him away;
For the town never knew such a hullabaloo
As that little dog raised—till the end of that day.

When the blood-red sun had gone burning down,
And the lights were lit in the little town,
Outside, in the gloom of the twilight grey,
The little dog died when he’d had his day.

Love after Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Sweet Sixteen by Eunice de Souza

Well, you can’t say
they didn’t try.
Mamas never mentioned menses.
A nun screamed: You vulgar girl
don’t say brassieres
say bracelets.
She pinned paper sleeves
onto our sleeveless dresses.
The preacher thundered:
Never go with a man alone
Never alone
and even if you’re engaged
only passionless kisses.

At sixteen, Phoebe asked me:
Can’t it happen when you’re in a dance hall
I mean, you know what,
getting preggers and all that, when
you’re dancing?
I, sixteen, assured her
you could.

The Fair Young Wife by Helen Adam

This is a tale for a night of snow.
It was lived in the north land long ago.
And old man, nearing the end of life,
Took to his arms a fair young wife.

A wife to keep his house in the woods.
His house of echoes and solitudes,
’Mid forests gloomy and unexplored,
Hunting ground of the wolves abhored.

Through miles of forest the wolves ran light.
She heard them running at dead of night.
She heard them running, though far away,
And her heart leapt up like a beast of prey.

“Lie still, my lady, lie still and sleep.
Though the north wind blows and the snow drifts deep.
My timid love, in our curtained bed,
The whine of the wolves you need not dread.”

Hunger, when the north wind blows.
Starving wolves on the winter snows.
When old age sags in a sleep profound,
The rush of the wolves is the only sound.

She dreamt she walked in the forest shade,
Alone, and naked, and unafraid.
The bonds of being dissolved and broke.
Her body she dropped like a cast off cloak.

Her shackled soul to its kindred sped.
In devouring lust with the wolves she fled.
But woke at dawn in a curtained bed.
By an old, grey man, in an airless bed.

She dreamt she walked where the wolf eyes gleam.
And soon she walked, and it was no dream.
She fell on fours from the world of man,
And howled her bliss when the rank beasts ran.

The morning life, and the mid-night life.
The sun and moon of the fair young wife.
The moon in the north land rules the sky.
She prays to it as it rises high.

“Moon in glory, shining so cold.
Oh! moon at my window big and bold.
On fields near the forest the snow lies white,
Will it show our tracks when we run tonight?

For fifty leagues on the frozen snow,
I’ll feel through my fur the north wind blow,
As I run to drink of a bounding flood,
With the mighty pack on its quest for blood.

Strong, free, furious, swift to slay,
But back to his bed by the break of day!
Can I lie down at a husband’s will,
When wild love runs, and my heart cries, Kill!”

“Wife, are you ready to come to bed?”
Her husband calls from the room overhead.
“The lights are out in the distant town.
And I can’t sleep until you lie down.”

Softly panting, she climbs the stair.
The moon lights the bed with a livid glare.
“I’ll draw the curtains, and hug you near.
And we’ll lie hid from the moon, my dear.”

Curtains drawn in the deep of night.
Through smothering velvet no glimmer of light.
He turns to his love, lying warm in the dark.
In her eyes, shining near him, he sees a red spark.

A spark as bright as the break of day.
She tosses him down in ravenous play.
To the edge of the forest ring his cries.
“A beast! A beast! on my body lies!”

The wolf pack howls in the waste of snow.
She howls to answer them long and low.
But she will not run with the wolves tonight
Though the full moon shines with a blinding light.

Behind the curtains her jaws drip red.
She has found her prey in her own dark bed;
The man, who nearing the end of life,
Took to his arms a fair young wife.

The Natural History of Elephants by Milton Acorn

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The whole world’s both table and shithouse
Where he wanders seeking viandes, exchanging great farts
For compliments. The rumble of his belly
Is like the contortions of a crumpling planetary system.
Long has he roved, his tongue longing to press the juices
From the ultimate berry, large as
But tenderer and sweeter than a watermelon;
And he leaves such signs in his wake that pygmies have fallen
And drowned in his great fragrant marshes of turds.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The wind is diverted by the draughts of his breath,
Rivers are sweet gulps, and the ocean
After a certain distance is too deep for wading.
The earth is trivial, it has the shakes
And must be severely tested, else
It’ll crumble into unsteppable clumps and scatter off
Leaving the great beast bellowing among the stars.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Dwarves have an incredible vicious sincerity,
A persistent will to undo things. The beast cannot grasp
The convolutions of destructqon, always his mind
Turns to other things – the vastness of green
And of frangibility of forest. If only once he could descend
To trivialities he’d sweep the whole earth clean of his tormentors
In one sneeze so mighty as to be observed from Mars.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Sun and moon are the pieces in a delightfully complex ballgame
That have to do with him…never does he doubt
The sky has opened and rain and thunder descend
For his special ministration. He dreams of mastodons
And mammoths and still his pride beats
Like the heart of the world, he knows he could reach
To the end of space if he stood still and imagined the effort.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Poems are composed as a silent substitute for laughter,
His thoughts while resting in the shade
Are long and solemn as novels and he knows his companions
By names differing for each quality of morning.
Noon and evening are ruminated on and each overlaid
With the taste of night. He loves his horny perambulating hide
As other tribes love their houses, and remembers
He’s left flakes of skin and his smell
As a sign and permanent stamp on wherever he has been.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The entire Oxford dictionary’ld be too small
To contain all the concepts which after all are too weighty
Each individually ever to be mentioned;
Thus of course the beast has no language
Only an eternal pondering hesitation.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The pliable trunk’s a continuous diversion
That in his great innocence he never thinks of as perverse,
The pieces of the world are handled with such a thrilling
Tenderness that all his hours
Are consummated and exhausted with love.
Not slow to mate every female bull and baby
Is blessed with a gesture grandly gracious and felt lovely
Down to the sensitive great elephant toenails.

And when his more urgent pricking member
Stabs him on its horrifying season he becomes
A blundering mass of bewilderment …. No thought
But twenty tons of lust he fishes madly for whales
And spiders for copulation. Sperm falls in great gouts
And the whole forest is sticky, colonies of ants
Are nourished for generations on dried elephant semen.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Death is accorded no belief and old friends
Are continually expected, patience
Is longer than the lives of glaciers and the centuries
Are rattled like toy drums. A life is planned
Like a brushstroke on the canvas of eternity,
And the beginning of a damnation is handled
With great thought as to its middle and its end.

The Owls by Charles Baudelaire

Under the overhanging yews,
The dark owls sit in solemn state.
Like stranger gods; by twos and twos
Their red eyes gleam. They meditate.

Motionless thus they sit and dream
Until that melancholy hour
When, with the sun’s last fading gleam,
The nightly shades assume their power.

From their still attitude the wise
Will learn with terror to despise
All tumult, movement, and unrest;

For he who follows every shade,
Carries the memory in his breast,
Of each unhappy journey made.

Reversibility by Charles Baudelaire

Angel of gaiety, have you tasted grief?
Shame and remorse and sobs and weary spite,
And the vague terrors of the fearful night
That crush the heart up like a crumpled leaf?
Angel of gaiety, have you tasted grief?

Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate?
With hands clenched in the shade and tears of gall,
When Vengeance beats her hellish battle-call,
And makes herself the captain of our fate,
Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate?

Angel of health, did ever you know pain,
Which like an exile trails his tired footfalls
The cold length of the white infirmary walls,
With lips compressed, seeking the sun in vain?
Angel of health, did ever you know pain?

Angel of beauty, do you wrinkles know?
Know you the fear of age, the torment vile
Of reading secret horror in the smile
Of eyes your eyes have loved since long ago?
Angel of beauty, do you wrinkles know?

Angel of happiness, and joy, and light,
Old David would have asked for youth afresh
From the pure touch of your enchanted flesh;
I but implore your prayers to aid my plight,
Angel of happiness, and joy, and light.

The wings of Daylight by W.S. Merwin

Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings