Every Word Leads to Every Other, and No Spaces Between

We do not speak of geography,

so shortcuts cannot affect our way.

I cannot even permit your saying “No shortcuts,”

because the blackbird must sing three notes

before it sings a fourth,

because there are (movements

to be passed through)

no shortcuts,

because the bubbles that rise to the pond’s surface

must work their way through the lily roots,

and each concentric circle touch the shore.

 

This is not geography,

because we cannot foretell

where we are going,

seeing as how we are carried,

and know only where we have come,

recognized if we are lucky

by where we were last.

The rose leaf has no destination

when it drops through the trellis

and could not land on the bench

without drifting by the hedge

and does not after all stay

 

anywhere. A breeze lifts it

beside the cat who comes round the corner

of the hedge to find the lizard,

a surprise impossible to fall upon

by crawling through the hedge

with any idea of shortcut.

I find myself

in a garden of no geography,

and could not have come another way

when I did not even know

this as a place where we would arrive.

Judith Lee Stronach (1943–2002) was a journalist, poet, arts patron and social activist. A leader in numerous human rights and peace organizations as well as Buddhist groups, she was also a great friend to Inquiring Mind and served as poetry editor for the past few years.

Praise for Emily

The brain is wider than the sky, 
  For, put them side by side, 
The one the other will contain beside.
  With ease,and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea, 
  For hold them, blue to blue, 
The one the other will absorb, 
  As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God, 
  For, heft them, pound for pound, 
And they will differ, if they do, 
  As syllable from sound.

Emily Dickinson’s mind was so much her own that there is nothing in literature quite like her unpredictable twists of thought and her trick of changing cryptic non sequiturs into crystal epigrams. She is inexhaustible and inimitable.

Lives of the Poets

Tired

Dream Variations
Langston Hughes – 1902-1967



To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Charlotte Mew, a poet you never knew

Monsieur Qui Passe

A purple blot against the dead white door
In my friend’s rooms, bathed in their vile pink light,
I had not noticed her before
She snatched my eyes and threw them back to me:
She did not speak till we came out into the night,
Paused at this bench beside the klosk on the quay.
 
God knows precisely what she said—
I left to her the twisted skein,
Though here and there I caught a thread,—
Something, at first, about “the lamps along the Seine,
And Paris, with that witching card of Spring
Kept up her sleeve,—why you could see
The trick done on these freezing winter nights!
While half the kisses of the Quay—
Youth, hope,-the whole enchanted string
Of dreams hung on the Seine’s long line of lights.”
 
Then suddenly she stripped, the very skin
Came off her soul,-a mere girl clings
Longer to some last rag, however thin,
When she has shown you-well-all sorts of things:
“If it were daylight-oh! one keeps one’s head—
But fourteen years!—No one has ever guessed—
The whole thing starts when one gets to bed—
Death?-If the dead would tell us they had rest!
But your eyes held it as I stood there by the door—
One speaks to Christ-one tries to catch His garment’s hem—
One hardly says as much to Him—no more:
It was not you, it was your eyes—I spoke to them.”
 
She stopped like a shot bird that flutters still,
And drops, and tries to run again, and swerves.
The tale should end in some walled house upon a hill.
My eyes, at least, won’t play such havoc there,—
Or hers—But she had hair!—blood dipped in gold;
And there she left me throwing back the first odd stare.
Some sort of beauty once, but turning yellow, getting old.
Pouah! These women and their nerves!
God! but the night is cold!

And Paris, with that witching card of Spring Kept up her sleeve,—why you could see The trick done on these freezing winter nights! While half the kisses of the Quay—

Two Races

I SEEK not what his soul desires. 
  He dreads not what my spirit fears. 
Our Heavens have shown us separate fires. 
  Our dooms have dealt us differing years.
Our daysprings and our timeless dead 
  Ordained for us and still control 
Lives sundered at the fountain-head, 
  And distant, now, as Pole from Pole.
Yet, dwelling thus, these worlds apart, 
  When we encounter each is free 
To bare that larger, liberal heart 
  Our kin and neighbours seldom see.
(Custom and code compared in jest-- 
  Weakness delivered without shame-- 
And certain common sins confessed 
  Which all men know, and none dare blame.)
E'en so it is, and well content 
  It should be so a moment's space, 
Each finds the other excellent, 
  And--runs to follow his own race!

by Rudyard Kipling

Romancing Infrastructure

City Union Bridge spanning the River Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland

River Clyde

The Glasgow people do take pride
In their river both deep and wide,
In early times the youth and maid
Did o’er its shallow waters wade.

But city money did not grudge,
And dug it deep with the steam dredge,
And now proudly on its bosom floats
The mighty ships and great steamboats.

No wonder citizens take pride
For they themselves have made the Clyde,
Great and navigable river,
Where huge fleets will float forever.

Dunbarton’s lofty castle rock
Which oft’ has stood the battle’s shock,
The river it doth boldly guard,
So industry may reap reward.

But more protection still they deem
Is yet required so down the stream
Strong batteries are erected,
So commerce may be safe protected.

Old ocean now he doth take pride
To see upon his bosom ride
The commerce of his youngest bride,
The fair and lovely charming Clyde.

James Mcintyre

Chaucer’s henpecked husbands

The husbands portrayed by Chaucer are uniformly unromantic and pathetically unheroic. Rarely in literature have males been so roundly ridiculed, so easily cajoled, and so blandly cuckolded. Chaucer’s married men are regularly henpecked, humiliated, beaten, betrayed, and exhibited as objects of defenseless servility. In a few rare instances-“The Knight’s Tale” and “The Franklin’s Tale” are two of them-Chaucer allows that marriage and love can flourish in the same bed. But the poor husband is at peace only if he relinquishes the role of master and remains a servant to his termagant spouse.

Lives of the Poet’s, Louis Untermeyer

Apparently the macho male, master of his family, is a more modern creation. From the 1300’s to today, something changed in the power structure of marriage. Domestic power in the Middle Ages swilled around the women. And Chaucer didn’t mince words on how its influence appeared in the fairer sex.

Women as women, however-and, in particular, women as wives were terrible realities. They were not merely shrewish but shameless, garrulous, greedy, disloyal, and licentious. Worse, they were united in an un written but universally recognized conspiracy to subject their husbands to every possible indignity. The husband of Philippa cannot be definitely identified with the creator of The Canterbury Tales, but it is unlikely that a happily married author would speak so scurrilously of the marital state and take obvious pleasure in so many humiliating incidents, grimly detailing the triumphs ofSo wifehood and the ignominious capitulation of the woman’s miserable partner.

In the 600 years since Chaucer is thought to have wrote The Canterbury Tales (around 1380) household power dynamics made a mighty shift. Now that women have come back into their own, maybe it’s time to be on the watch once again for the hen pecked husbands.

The Butterfly

The Butterfly

by Alice Freeman Palmer

I HOLD you at last in my hand,
— Exquisite child of the air.
Can I ever understand
— How you grew to be so fair?

You came to my linden tree
— To taste its delicious sweet,
I sitting here in the shadow and shine
— Playing around its feet.

Now I hold you fast in my hand,
— You marvelous butterfly,
Till you help me to understand
— The eternal mystery.

From that creeping thing in the dust
— To this shining bliss in the blue!
God give me courage to trust
— I can break my chrysalis too!

Robert Louis Stevenson weighs in on Shadows

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Source: The Golden Book of Poetry (1947)