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Neglected Poets A-F:  Conrad Aiken  Bella Akhmadulina  Rosario Castellanos   Jane Cooper   Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr.   Stephen Crane   Countee Cullen   Marceline Desbordes-Valmore   James Emanuel   Judith Fitzgerald   Hildegarde Flanner   Robert Francis

Conrad Aiken (1889-1973) 

  A neglected member of THE LOST GENERATION, most of Aiken's poems are long philosophical meditations- often too long. But his shorter poems convey some nice turns of phrase.

Beloved,....   Hatteras Calling   Music I Heard   The Room

Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise the Rain

Beloved, let us once more praise the rain.
Let us discover some new alphabet,
For this, the often praised; and be ourselves,
The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf,
The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone,
And all that welcomes the rain; the sparrow too,-
Who watches with a hard eye from seclusion,
Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain is done.
There is an oriole who, upside down,
Hangs at his nest, and flicks an orange wing,-
Under a tree as dead and still as lead;
There is a single leaf, in all this heaven
Of leaves, which rain has loosened from its twig:
The stem breaks, and it falls, but it is caught
Upon a sister leaf, and thus she hangs;
There is an acorn cup, beside a mushroom
Which catches three drops from the stooping cloud.
The timid bee goes back to the hive; the fly
Under the broad leaf of the hollyhock
Perpends stupid with cold; the raindark snail
Surveys the wet world from a watery stone...
And still the syllables of water whisper:
The wheel of cloud whirs slowly: while we wait
In the dark room; and in your heart I find
One silver raindrop,-on a hawthorn leaf,-
Orion in a cobweb, and the World.

Hatteras Calling

Southeast, and storm, and every weathervane
shivers and moans upon its dripping pin,
ragged on chimneys the cloud whips, the rain
howls at the flues and windows to get in,

the golden rooster claps his golden wings
and from the Baptist Chapel shrieks no more,
the golden arrow in the southeast sings
and hears on the roof the Atlantic Ocean roar.

Waves among wires, sea scudding over poles,
down every alley the magnificence of rain,
dead gutters live once more, the deep manholes
hollow in triumph a passage to the main.

Umbrellas, and in the Gardens one old man
hurries away along a dancing path,
listens to music on a watering-can,
observes among the tulips the sudden wrath,

pale willows thrashing to the needled lake,
and dinghies filled with water; while the sky
smashes the lilacs, swoops to shake and break,
till shattered branches shriek and railings cry.

Speak, Hatteras, your language of the sea
scour with kelp and spindrift the stale street:
that man in terror may learn once more to be
child of that hour when rock and ocean meet.

Music I Heard

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart that you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,
- They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.

The Room

Through that window – all else being extinct
Except itself and me – I saw the struggle
Of darkness against darkness. Within the room
It turned and turned, dived downward. Then I saw
How order might – if chaos wished – become:
And saw the darkness crush upon itself,
Contracting powerfully; it was as if
It killed itself, slowly: and with much pain.
Pain. The scene was pain, and nothing but pain.
What else, when chaos draws all forces inward
To shape a single leaf? . . .
                 For the leaf came
Alone and shining in the empty room;
After a while the twig shot downward from it;
And from the twig a bough; and then the trunk,
Massive and coarse; and last the one black root.
The black root cracked the walls. Boughs burst
               the window:
       The great tree took possession.
                          Tree of trees!
Remember (when time comes) how chaos died
To shape the shining leaf. Then turn, have courage,
Wrap arms and roots together, be convulsed
With grief, and bring back chaos out of shape.
I will be watching then as I watch now.
I will praise darkness now, but then the leaf. 


Bella Akhmadulina (1937-    )

  The conversational tone of many of her poems makes Akhmadulina a lighter read than many of her earlier 20th Century Russian poetic forebears.

  I'm Clinging....   Rain Flogs....   The Flowers

I’m clinging….

I’m clinging to the noble style,
I’m charmed by speech of our ancestors,
It can be sharper then we try,
And newer than our newest lectures.

To cry: “My kingdom for a horse!” –
Oh, what a largesse and hot-temper!
Then condescend to me, the lost
Futility of final fervour.

I’ll wake up in the darkness ones,
After I’d lost, for good, my battle,
And my reminiscence will thrust
Into resolve, that madman settled.

But I don’t care of kingdoms’ costs!
A child, bred by the ages’ lessons,
I’ll take a horse and give a horse
Just for a moment with a person,

I am in love with. Let you flee,
My horse, so ardent and attractive,
I will untie your rein for free
And you will overtake your native

Herd, which in distance now rustles, –
Midst prairies, empty, wide and reddish.
But I am bored by the bustles
Of many won or lost a skirmish.

I’m sorry for my horse and love!
And in the style of Middle Ages,
My lone steps are lead above
The left by only horseshoes traces.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

Rain flogs….

Rain flogs my face and collar-bones,
a thunderstorm roars over musts.
You thrust upon my flesh and soul,
like tempests upon ships do thrust.

I do not want, at all, to know,
what will befall to me the next –
would I be smashed against my woe,
or thrown into happiness.

In awe and gaiety elated,
like a ship, that’s going tempests through,
I am not sorry that I’ve met you,
and not afraid to love you, too.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver
The Flowers (a fragment) 

They grew inside a warming-house,
under the guidance of a cell,
their roots were sunk in fat and nourish,
and petals – always thin and well.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
Warm was the house they did sit in.
They gave them water, soil and light:
not for the reason of a pity
or wishing them a long-long life.

They are the gay gifts – to remember.
But bad a fate to wait them in, 
because they never will be able
to smell like their garden kin.

They would not stay the red lips middle,
they would not sway the golden bee,
they would not ever solve the riddle
whatever the wet earth could be.  

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974)

  Vivid, crackling imagery invigorates the psychologically complex vignettes that dominate this Mexican poet's verse. As a diplomat to Israel Castellanos died by accidental electrocution, while perming her hair, in her home in Tel Aviv. (nominated 4/23/01 by Dylan Garcia-Wahl)

Appeal....    Daybreak    Destiny

Appeal to the Lonely One

At times it suits us to find friendship. 

Friend, it is not possible to be born, 
or die, without the other. It is well 
that friendship removes from work 
that feel of punishment, and from joy 
the illicit airs of thievery. 

How can you be alone at the total hour, 
in which the things and you talk 
and talk, till dawn? 


What to do at death? Turn
your face to the wall?
Grab the shoulders of the closest
person, who will listen?
Do you run like a man on fire,
to the finish?

What rituals guide this ceremony?
Who owns the final agony? Who smooths the sheets?
Who watches from the last clear mirror?

In the end no mother nor heirs exist.

No sobbing. Terrible silence.

All become the attentive, incredulous  face
of the other side.

What is happening is not true.


We kill that we love. The rest never lived. 
No one is as close to us. No other is so hurt 
by forgetfulness, absence, mere nothingness. 
We kill that we love. Enough choking breath, 
of breathing through another’s lungs! 
The air is not enough 
for both, nor the earth 
for our bodies entwined. 
Hope's ration is small 
and sorrow cannot be shared. 

Man is made of solitudes, 
a deer in flight, bleeding, 
pierced by an arrow. 

Ah, but hatred, 
its insomniac glare of glass: 
repose and menace.

The deer lowers its head to drink, 
discovers a tiger image in the water. 
The deer drinks the water, the image. It becomes 
before devoured (astonished accomplice) 
equal to its enemy. 

We give life only to what we hate.

Jane Cooper (1924-    )

  A deft weaver of formal verse who later went freer, but retained alot of her power. Much better than contemporaries like Adrienne Rich or Grace Paley.

For Thomas Hardy      Rent      Roman Dream

For Thomas Hardy
(after reading "Nobody Comes", dated on my birthday)

 But you were wrong that desolate dusk
   When up the street the crawl
    Of age and night grew tall
 As a shadow-self leaning away
   From the gray religious husk
Of a streetlamp keeping watch above dead day.
   Another took some risk.

 You thought yourself alone
   In a world whose nearest ghost
   Was the alien pentecost
 Of strumming telegraph, the throb
   Of a motor quickly gone-
While over the animal sea my outraged sob
   Took life from the same dawn.


If you want my apartment, sleep in 
but let's have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.

If the rocking chair's arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don't want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle's flame when we eat,

I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us-
Not a roof but a field of stars.


Si tu veux mon appartement, tu y dors
mais que la chose soit bien claire entre nous :
les livres restent libres de leurs actes. 

Si le fauteuil à bascule te prend dans ses bras
il peut tout aussi bien te lâcher,
il peut donner au vide la forme d'un corps. 

Je ne veux pas de ton loyer, je veux 
que rayonne ton attention
comme la flame de la bougie quand nous dînons, 

un peu comme si les espaces qui nous entourent
s'emplissaient de déférence...
Pas un toit, non, mais un champ d'étoiles. 

(A Cosmoetica exclusive- Rent translated into French by James Emanuel's translator Jean Migrenne)

Roman Dream

She-death, my green-mother, you
climbed invisibly toward me
up the black stairwell. I heard
you scratch, scratch, moistening
your lips as i tucked my shirt
tighter, sitting on the top
step, American, waiting.

Waiting for you to pass I
felt no fear. Behind me red-
gold Rome, rooftop cafe, my
lover, his woman, flowers....Cold
stroked my throat. I thought, No
one will know, no one in Rome
will ever know to find me.

Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr. (1895-1919)

  Had a chance to be the 1st great black poet in America but was cut down by illness. Cotter was the closest thing to an American Wilfred Owen.

Out Of The Shadows- Sonnet X       Rain Music

Out Of The Shadows- Sonnet X

Purpled to softness comes the twilight hour,
  Out of the travail of the feverish day,
Soothing the hot, quickened breath with the power
  Of Gilead's balm to ease the sinner's way.
Girt with the memories of a kindred time,
  Pensive I sit beneath the summer sky,
Dreaming of love that fires my feeble rhyme,
  Longing for words to clothe the old-time cry.
Passion that wings me to forgotten years,
  Give to my heart this flame of mad desire,
Send to my dreams from out the anguished tears
  Words that shall breathe of an immortal fire!
O, but to sing an unforgetting chord-
Better it is than wield the Conqueror's sword.

Rain Music 

On the dusty earth-drum 
Beats the falling rain; 
Now a whispered murmur, 
Now a louder strain. 

Slender, silvery drumsticks, 
On an ancient drum, 
Beat the mellow music 
Bidding life to come. 

Chords of earth awakened, 
Notes of greening spring, 
Rise and fall triumphant 
Over every thing. 

Slender, silvery drumsticks 
Beat the long tattoo-- 
God, the Great Musician, 
Calling life anew. 

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

  The "other" Crane- poetically. Better known as a novelist, there is no denying the aphoristic power of his so-called "lines.

A man feared....  A man said....  A man saw....  In the desert....  I saw a man....  Many workmen....


A man feared that he might find an assassin; 
Another that he might find a victim. 
One was more wise than the other. 


A man said to the universe: 
"Sir I exist!" 
"However," replied the universe, 
"The fact has not created in me 
A sense of obligation." 


A man saw a ball of gold in the sky; 
He climbed for it, 
And eventually he achieved it -- 
It was clay. 

Now this is the strange part: 
When the man went to the earth 
And looked again, 
Lo, there was the ball of gold. 
Now this is the strange part: 
It was a ball of gold. 
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold. 


In the desert 
I saw a creature, naked, bestial, 
who, squatting upon the ground, 
Held his heart in his hands, 
And ate of it. 
I said, "Is it good, friend?" 
"It is bitter -- bitter," he answered; 
"But I like it 
Because it is bitter, 
And because it is my heart." 


I saw a man pursuing the horizon; 
Round and round they sped. 
I was disturbed at this; 
I accosted the man. 
"It is futile," I said, 
"You can never -- " 

"You lie," he cried, 
And ran on. 


Many workmen 
Built a huge ball of masonry 
Upon a mountain-top. 
Then they went to the valley below, 
And turned to behold their work. 
"It is grand," they said; 
They loved the thing. 

Of a sudden, it moved: 
It came upon them swiftly; 
It crushed them all to blood. 
But some had opportunity to squeal. 

Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

  Black, male, homosexual, devout Christian, & remembered more for his famed feud with Langston Hughes over whether a black poet is a poet first (his position) or a black first (Hughes's position). But he is, along with John Donne & Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the best theistic poets in the Western world- as well a devastating lyricist. Note the sublime child-like majesty of Incident- & how his purposeful dictive flaws accentuate such. 

A Brown Girl Dead     Incident     Yet Do I Marvel

A Brown Girl Dead

With two white roses on her breasts,
  White candles at her head and feet,
Dark Madonna of the grave she rests;
  Lord Death has found her sweet.

Her mother pawned her wedding ring
  To lay her out in white;
She'd be so proud she'd dance and sing
  To see herself tonight.

(for Eric Walrond)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me. 

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger." 

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

A video of this poem can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfSyLchJUBI&list=UUN5kTfj5u8XcTBg51Z65EKw 

Yet Do I Marvel

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,
And did he stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable his ways are, and immune
to catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859)

  A Frenchwoman who rejected alot of the Romantic conceits, Desbordes-Valmore's poems flesh out imagery sometimes brutal & often her music lulls the reader into such with pleasure.

James Emanuel (1921-    )

  For my money THE most neglected published poet of the 20th Century. An expatriate African-American, Emanuel is masterly in free verse & form, personal & political. Click here for The Negro & To Kill A Morning Spider.

[Hear James Emanuel read these poems on Omniversica's Show # 2, recorded 2/8/03. Click here for more on James Emanuel]

Experience    For A Farmer    Sonnet For A Writer


"To all things great and glorious":
his wine moved to his lips.
"There are so few," she answered;
her brim touched his fingertips.

They stared the fire into an ash;
their glasses bent their hands
while they, enchanted wistfully,
re-travelled many lands.

For A Farmer

Something slow moves through him, watched by hills.
Something low within each rock receives
His noonday wish, then crumbles rich; so fills
Each furrow that the prairie year upheaves.
His arm has lain with boulders. His copper hand
Has mused on roots, uncaring of barbed wire.
His fist has closed on thistle, and dug the land
For corn October snows have whelmed entire.
Something flows within him in stubborn streams,
And in the parted foliage something lives
In upright green, stirred by the rhythmic gleams
Of his hoe and spade. From worn-out arms he gives;
The earth receives, turns all his pain to soil,
Where he believes, and testifies through toil.

(A Cosmoetica exclusive- For A Farmer translated into French by James Emanuel's translator Jean Migrenne) 

Au Paysan

Lente est la force en lui, sous l’œil lourd des collines.
Riche est la glèbe quand à ses vœux de midi

Se rend la pierre si basse ; quand la prairie
Féconde en sa saison se donne à son labour.
Il a étreint les roches et sa main de cuivre
A flatté les racines sous le barbelé.
Il a empoigné le chardon, vu ses maïs
Disparaître sous les hautes neiges d’octobre.
Des fleuves obstinés se déversent en lui,

Et du feuillage écarté il point une vie
De virile verdure qu’impulsent sa houe
Et l’éclat de son fer. Ses bras harassés donnent ;
La terre reçoit, que fertilise un labeur
Qui est sa foi, son credo, sa condition.

Sonnet For A Writer

Far rather would I search my chaff for grain
And cease at last with hunger in my soul,
Than suck the polished wheat another brain
Refurbished till it shone, by art's control.
To stray across my own mind's half-hewn stone
And chisel in the dark, in hopes to cast
A fragment of our common self, my own,
Excels the mimicry of sages past.
Go forth, my soul, in painful, lonely flight,
Even if no higher than the earthbound tree,
And feel suffusion with more glorious light,
Nor envy eagles their proud brilliancy.
Far better to create one living line
Than learn a hundred sunk in fame's recline.

(A Cosmoetica exclusive- Sonnet For A Writer translated into French by James Emanuel's translator Jean Migrenne) 

Sonnet À l’homme de plume

Plutôt racler les fonds de mon propre grenier
Et me retrouver Gros-Jean la disette à l’âme,
Que resucer le froment bien fourbi qu’un autre
A bruni de son art et longtemps peaufiné.
Passer le marbre dégrossi de mon idée,
Et, ciseau en aveugle, espérer que je forme
Un banal fragment, le mien, de l’humanité,
C’est rendre au centuple la sagesse d’antan.
Pars, souffre, mon âme et t’envole solitaire,
Même si tu vas pas plus haut que mon arbre,
Imprègne-toi et brille de belle lumière
Sans envier l’aigle et son magnifique orgueil.
Mieux vaut écrire un seul vers et lui donner vie
Que d’en apprendre mille amolli dans la gloire.

Judith Fitzgerald (1952-    ) 

  A Canadian poet known for her experimentation with sounds and wordplay. Her website is: http://www.judithfitzgerald.ca/index.htm 

1 September 1979   Harmony Of Moonlight   Hurt   Listening To The Darkness Sing   Que Besa Sus....

1 September 1979

For the error bred in the bone 
Of each woman and each man 
Craves what it cannot have, 
Not universal love 
But to be loved alone.
— W. H. Auden 
As mad as Nijinski         
he fumbles in mid-forever 
     and forgives those around 
        his habit of disappearance, almost 
its own universal — 
          what it cannot have 
is stasis, a space across 
the span of a maudlin                
universe, devalued and           
deflowered, cannot have 
miniature incarcerations 
          of the abnormal heart — 
          the insistent craving 
to not stand apart.      

Harmony Of Moonlight

I watch my plane ascend towards the jagged moon suspended 
in its rectangular frame; west by mere degrees, the smouldering Ever- 
glades reminding me of a card, a relic signed and seared with phrases 
from a permanent island of temporary refuge. "Neverrending Love." 
A flourishing epiphany inscribed on a page from the book of my heart. 
I don't know.  I believe I absorb you through my fingers until you tear 
my future from the socket of your everlasting past.  I remove a strand 
of wool you pull over my neatly structured, sadly chaotic complimentary 
closing.  Yours unconditionally, indestructibly.  The upside oblong view 
of life above the Tropic of Cancer, trans/parallelogramme, latitude of love. 
I could not begin at the beginning at the best of times.  Now, crenelated 
indanthrone blue and carmine interplay south of this acute juncture 
of flight.  Yours infinitively, with various shades of chromium cerulean hue, 
Everglades dissolving in a frame of smoke-red lead.  A heart burns up 
the atmosphere.  The atmospheric camarilla.  Infinitesimally yours, 
chronicles rapturous and wild. 


                        The stark estrangement of your need accelerates

                                    your attenuated flight from grace but, it's too quiet

            to listen and you're too mutilated to cut so you hold it

close to your bones knowing your world depends upon

            its stillness, its syllable air your name holds no purchase

                        here here, with the Pleiades promising sweet fuck all.


Listening To The Darkness Sing


My tragedian of timeliness, mon maître de la mélancolie,

the heart breathes and you stand fastened, absorbing the world

huge as the hole in the night reclining on causeless ceaseways

where amazing grace swells and Hell's on the other side

of forever, for at least this moment, this lasting instant and all

the love, the need, the wanting of it all, now consonant,

now pacific, now the silent mother-of-pearl moon swirling,

tumbling down to kiss your wounded words, illuminated,

not simply by light, but the price of honouring the bearing

the soul slashed by half yet seamlessly whole bestows.


Que Besa Sus Pies, Que Besa Sus Manos  

To Edward Strickland

The delicate gorgeosity of your vital words,
each shimmering with irresistible possibility,
barely containing the truth catching in one's throat,

such exquisite intensity, the blackness each repudiates,

porous with damage and longing, indelibly sorrow-
streaked in one transparent universe where knives
of knowledge carve wide swaths through history,
luminous among moon's slow-dawning curves, now
arcing to pull you towards the radiance of darkness
serrated, swallowing pain, gasping for air
in those shadowed chambers of the heart yielding
to the contours of thinking skin in the perfect syntax
of stone and aether, grasping the universal finality
language's liquid purity salvages almost anything
but that, solves all conundra but that, that which
you cannot overcome, that cacophony of time wound up,

ground down, astounding in its irrefutable injury;

the circus of our love, its amusement-park attentions
spanning a millennium of, ultimately, swift midnights
(where the hands on the doomsway clock stand still
an instant, stand at attention, stand ready to embrace
whatever remains of a human face gone missing
without a trace).  Hear that?  It is cold; it is lethal;
and, it is threatening to break into itself in the name
of answers materialising on the horizon when the sun
rises to reveal dysphoria in all its splendorous glory.
That?  Think crux.  Think matter.  Think father,
son, and wholly ghost-trace host.  Think shatter.

Hildegarde Flanner (1899-1987)

  Adept at both formal & free verse this unrecognized poet was a Master of the small & understated.

Hill Over Rincon   Moon And Motor  O Motor, Motors   Poem   Sonnets....   The Feast   Valley Quail

Hill Over Rincon

Waking, turning, saw the unlit hill,
Felt that valley Indian, without sound:
How bodies, man and beast, still still
Lay sleeping: and sleep lay in the ground.

Felt that hill austere in finish of night,
Night that dwindles purpose to repose,
And piles up dreams in languor upon sight,
Unsenses every sense and fondles those.

But waking, turning, saw one hill intense
And kneeling on the sky for dawn: saw how
The flaky morning star, white and immense,
Shook scales of blazing mica on that brow.

Moon And Motor

The glide of moon along my fenders flowing
Is like a motion milking upon light,
So rapt and pallid does it lap and draw
From silver sources crescent with the night.
The earth is pouring off her liquid miles
Whose waterless water is the way I feel
Coursing on the desert, every sense
Collected and yet fluid at the wheel,
While cylinder and floating cylinder
So perfectly receive the plunge of power
That night, and rumors of capricious night,
Time’s own, the frictionless anointed hour
Wait on the motor mystical that drives,
Lean to the fury lovely and repose
That are the piston’s plunder and the sum
Of tranquil labor that an engine knows.

O Motor, Motors

O Motor, Motors, O intuitive steel,
My source is sober earth, yet I claim
Elliptic nature with the moonlike wheel
And metal introverted in your name.
With you, O summoned and ascended matter,
The brain is beautified and full of poise,
But leaves a woman’s heart, the unforgetter,
To shake the flesh with old human noise,
To recollect, and very like despair,
Your endless excellence is far too great
For all my clamorous kind whose mind will bear
Only perfection’s print and not its weight.
Yet, mystical and motor, yet I burn,
A fool to be your close of kin, to feel
-If only once what many never learn-
The heavenly wholeness of the smallest wheel.


At least and still at lingering last we can
Console ourselves because this earth is ours,
Though we could never hurl the hurricane,
Nor weld a hill, nor soft unlock the showers,
Nor rivet the diamond under the abyss,
Nor add the desert up, nor crumble the frost
Over the flower’s face. Remembering this
The warm security of pride is lost,
For we are dull mismasters of a huge event
And cannot think who tutored us to fail,
We ruin so quick, and hope is nearly spent;
But faint at intervals, benign and frail
A courage whispers, just this side of fate,
Cling earthward, inward, do not abdicate! 

Sonnets In Quaker Language, VI

Hearing a sound that may be thy return,
I set my heart upon the window sill.
By such a mortal lamp thee may discern
The tossing pathway on the hidden hill.
The leaves are stepping softly from the trees.
I listen. That was a bird sighed in her nest.
I lean and wonder if thee runs and sees
The lighted dream upon the dreamer’s breast.
But no foot springs upon the silken air,
No strand of silence breaks to let thee by.
Thee does not come. But still I wait and stare
Then turn from the massive darkness with a cry.
For now the desolate owl with lonely shout
descends the mountain and my light goes out.

The Feast

The young lovers at the next table
Are very hungry ones.
Their deepest cups run over.
They laugh and languish in their spoons,
They boast of sweet, they boast of sour.

We call to them gently, Come to our
Table, here the truly happy, the passionate
Sit down to a shrug of salt
By cold potato light,
And only the empty platter can excite.
Blessed be hunger, we say,
For love must learn to starve before it eats.
Give us no more, we say,
Of sour, of sweets.
Take the cup, take the cupboard away.

It is richer fare and richer sleep tonight
To know that honey longs for honey
In the empty comb of twilight.

Valley Quail

These laughing birds have voices like the moon
That pours with loosened mildness over space.
(A little light, a little moth, and soon
The dikes go out that held the dark in place.)
A cryptic shout, a low unfleshly mirth
Roll without an effort on the air,
Then drop in balls of ether back to earth,
Leaving me caught in wonder, half aware
It was a valley creature that just flung
A sphery taunt from such a narrow tongue.

Robert Francis (1901-1987)

  The ‘other’ New England poet named Robert F., Francis generally wrote much ‘smaller’ poems than Frost, although he did write a long poem Valhalla. Minute observations & spare pastorals are his hallmark.

A Boy's November   Artist   Enigma   The Mouse Whose...   The Hound   Winter

A Boy’s November

I can see farther now,
Now that the leaves are few.
November strips the bough
And lets a boy look through.
The ground seems tall somehow.
The far-off world looks new.
Tell me, can the ground grow?
Or is it I that grew?


He cuts each log in lengths exact
As truly as truth cuts a fact.

When he sawed an honest pile
Of wood, he stops and chops awhile.

Each section is twice split in two
As truly as a fact is true.

Then having split all to be split,
He sets to work at stacking it.

No comb constructed by a bee
Is more a work of symmetry

Than is this woodstack whose strict grace
Is having each piece in its place.


Nothing Egypt did
In her dark pyramid
Remains forever hid.

The undeciphered land
Is here beside my hand-
This pyramid of sand.

The Mouse Whose Name Is Time

The Mouse whose name is Time
Is out of sound and sight.
He nibbles at the day
And nibbles at the night.

He nibbles at the summer
Till all of it is gone.
He nibbles at the seashore.
He nibbles at the moon.

Yet no man not a seer,
No woman not a sibyl
Can ever ever hear
Or see him nibble, nibble.

And whence or how he comes
And how or where he goes
Nobody dead remembers,
Nobody living knows.

The Hound

Life the hound
Comes at a bound
Either to rend me
Or to befriend me.
I cannot tell
The hound’s intent
Till he has sprung
At my bare hand
With teeth or tongue.
Meanwhile I stand
And wait the event.


The wasp upon the windowpane
Observes the brief day wax and wane.

The year is old.
The glass is cold.

How should he whirr electric wings
Who cannot crawl, who only clings?

How should he fly
Who cannot try?

The strength is there but not the will.
The nerves are stung. The brain is still.  

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