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A poem that doesn’t name its subject

In southern Maine we are getting our first significant snowfall.  Here is a lovely, clever poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) which never names its subject.

snow landscape

It sifts from Leaden Sieves –

It powders all the Wood.

It fills with Alabaster Wool

The Wrinkles of the Road –

 

It makes an Even Face

Of Mountain, and of Plain –

Unbroken Forehead from the East

Unto the East again –

 

It reaches to the Fence –

It wraps it Rail by Rail

Till it is lost in Fleeces –

It deals Celestial Vail

 

To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –

A Summer’s empty Room –

Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,

Recordless, but for them –

 

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts

As Ankles of a Queen –

Then stills its Artisans – like Ghosts –

Denying they have been –

 

November for Beginners

Despite wild storms recently, we still have some colorful foliage here in Maine.  For me the time changeover is hard; I don’t like the dark closing in so early.

Here is an elegant fall poem by the wonderful Rita Dove, who served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995.  Copyright 1981 by Rita Dove.

 

NOVEMBER FOR BEGINNERS

 

Snow would be the easy

way out–that softening

sky like a sigh of relief

at finally being allowed

to yield.  No dice.

We stack twigs for burning

in glistening patches

but the rain won’t give.

 

So we wait, breeding

mood, making music

of decline.  We sit down

in the smell of the past

and rise in a light

that is already leaving.

We ache in secret,

memorizing

 

a gloomy line

or two of German.

When spring comes

we promise to act

the fool.  Pour,

rain! Sail, wind,

with your cargo of zithers!

 

fall leaves and blue sky

To Be in Maine in October

October might be my favorite month in Maine.  It’s hard to beat the still-warm days, cool nights and spectacular foliage.  All the Norman Rockwell stuff happens–county fairs, pumpkins on front steps and baking things with apples. Here is a poem in the public domain by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).  Like many children, I first came to love poetry because of his justly famous collection A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Autumn Fires

 

In the other gardens

And all up the vale,

From the autumn bonfires

See the smoke trail!

 

Pleasant summer over

And all the summer flowers,

The red fire blazes,

The grey smoke towers.

 

Sing a song of seasons!

Something bright in all!

Flowers in the summer,

Fires in the fall!

fall leaves and water

 

Moving Into Fall

fall road

 

We’re seeing some red leaves here in southern Maine. The fall foliage will peak

the first week of October.  There are so many good poems about fall, many with an elegiac tone.

Here is one by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926).

 

AUTUMN

 

The leaves fall, fall as from far,

Like distant gardens withered in the heavens;

They fall with slow and lingering descent.

 

Andin the nights the heavy Earth, too, falls

From out the stars into the Solitude.

 

Thus all doth fall.  This hand of mine must fall

And lo! the other one:  it is the law.

But there is One who holds this falling

Infinitely softly in His hands.

 

 

Mouser and Monk

gray cat books

International Cat Day was this past week, but of course every day is Cat Day at my house.

Here is a delightful ninth century Irish poem, newly translated by Seamus Heaney, written by a monk about his cat.

Pangur Ban

 

Pangur Ban and I at work,

Adepts, equals, cat and clerk:

His whole instinct is to hunt,

Mine to free the meaning pent.

 

Moe than loud acclaim, I love

Books, silence, thought, my alcove.

Happy for me, Pangur Ban

Child-plays round some mouse’s den.

 

Truth to tell, just being here,

Housed alone, housed together,

Adds up to its own reward:

Concentration, stealthy art.

 

Next thing an unwary mouse

Bares his flank: Pangur pounces.

Next thing lines that held and held

Meaning back begin to yield.

 

All the while, his round bright eye

Fixes on the wall, while I

Focus my less piercing gaze

On the challenge of the page.

 

With his unsheathed, perfect nails

Pangur springs, exults and kills.

When the longed-for, difficult

Answers come, I too exult.

 

So it goes.  To each his own.

No vying.  No vexation.

Taking pleasure, taking pains,

Kindred spirits, veterans.

 

Day and night, soft purr, soft pad,

Pangur Ban has learned his trade.

Day and night, my own hard work

Solves the cruxes, makes a mark.

 

Dog days at last

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dog joy ride

This year we got to the solstice before summer finally came to southern Maine.  I’ve been reading a lot of excellent poems about dogs; it seems like a good time to post one.  This fine example, from the dog’s point of view, is by the late Michael Macklin,  a popular poet and teacher who lived in Portland.  It’s in a Moon Pie Press anthology of animal poems (by many poets) called THE WILDEST PEAL (2015).  There was also a first animal poetry anthology called AGREEABLE FRIENDS, published in 2008.  Profits from both these books go to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, a non-profit based in Windham, Maine that is the largest horse shelter in New England. (For more about the wonderful work they do,  see http://www.msspa.org.)

Watching the Westminster Dog Show With My Human

He sits in the chair opposite
me and I watch his jowls droop

Notice the way his face has whitened
and see the stiffness in his hips

as he rises slowly. Though his youth
has been slipping lately, his eyes

still shine when I approach. Neither
of us moves as quickly as we used to,

unless, of course, someone younger and
female enters to turn back our clocks.

Funny how at middle age everything
runs to our middles and stops.

Even though we ought to know
better, we each want one more

chase, through the deepest brambles
our voices rising from the memory

of young muscles. But after a hundred
yards breath comes in wheezes

so we turn back to curl in our corners
and dream what we woulda done,

could done yesterday when we
were pups and best in show

was still ahead of us.

 

 

Childhood memory

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This is an evocative poem by George VanDeventer, a largely unsung hero of Maine literature.  George is a Bristol, Maine resident who has been writing, publishing, teaching and promoting poetry in Maine for decades.  George started the poetry journal OFF THE COAST and ran it for many years, giving countless  Maine poets of all ages their first publication. Now in his eighties, George continues to write, tackle ambitious gardening projects, and help promote poetry.

 

Thomas Street, Newark, 1943

My dog has a special place to go.
I sweep away the waste
for the begonias next spring.
Sunflowers rise off the railroad bank.

My Sicilian neighbor walks his goats
early every Sunday morning,
to nibble the dandelions
on a hill that rises to a railroad track,
sunflowers, thistles and old freight cars.

A pony pulls a decorated yellow wagon,
four children and a man
sitting upright
clip-clopping cobbled Thomas Street.

People from away, so near,
I watch them passing –
gesticulating in the air –

with four children in a yellow wagon,
a pony and a man.

sunflowers RR track.jpg