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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

The night almost had me:
Sleep with no dream, no rest;
Dark without Abram’s stars;
Lead silence that freezes
Flesh, blood, bone and marrow.

I had no breath to plead —
No word, no cry;
Only a groan to ask
Deliverance.

And I heard in my breast
A woman bearing God
Groaning in labor pain,
Then a baby wailing,
Then two sighs, and soft breath
In the rhythm of sleep,
And rest.

That day Mother and Child
Spoke my language, uttered
A plea I understood.

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Schemes we have sought,
Schemes we have invented:
The skeleton, the smoking gun,
The “fair cop” and the well-timed flop;
Our defense when accused
Is accusation.

We sons of hell,
Satans of our father
The Snake, fill our mouth with our tail
And narrow the circle of hell
With every swallow.
Lord, have mercy.

Teach us, Wisdom,
Faithful Son of Faith begotten,
To set our jaws, to shut our mouths,
To glory in our “shames”
As you before.

Hell had “the goods”
On you from conception.
“Bastard son of fornication!”
Your Mother treasured these things in her heart.
Then Joseph said: “The Son of Heaven
Is no bastard on Earth,”
Setting Hell’s teeth
On edge.

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Were you there when He crawled atop skull hill,10-good-thief-2
Driven by Roman soldiers like a lamb,
Condemned and cursed by sons of Abraham
Who by perjury procured a true bill?

Were you there when His hands and feet were nailed
Down, His body lifted up, on a tree —
A spectacle for all the world to see
Where Israel’s sight and Rome’s Blind Justice failed?

Were you there when one man hanged by His side, 
One terrorist at death’s door, entered life,
And laid his “just cause” down, and ceased his strife,
And on the tree his King and God espied?

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There goes the last flicker of Sol’s great light

Over the horizon.

Now is the cold, the deep dreadful darkness,

With this benediction:

Abraham’s stars speak low

The sure promise of God,

The light of the eighth day as of the first.

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Rocky, you see, lived down on Long Island somewhere, miles away from New York; and not only that, but he had told me himself more than once that he never got up before twelve, and seldom earlier than one. Constitutionally the laziest young devil in America, he had hit on a walk in life which enabled him to go the limit in that direction. He was a poet. At least, he wrote poems when he did anything; but most of his time, as far as I could make out, he spent in a sort of trance. He told me once that he could sit on a fence, watching a worm and wondering what on earth it was up to, for hours at a stretch.

He had his scheme of life worked out to a fine point. About once a month he would take three days writing a few poems; the other three hundred and twenty-nine days of the year he rested. I didn’t know there was enough money in poetry to support a chappie, even in the way in which Rocky lived; but it seems that, if you stick to exhortations to young men to lead the strenuous life and don’t shove in any rhymes, American editors fight for the stuff. Rocky showed me one of his things once. It began:

Be!
Be!
The past is dead.
To-morrow is not born.
Be to-day!
To-day!
Be with every nerve,
With every muscle,
With every drop of your red blood!
Be!

It was printed opposite the frontispiece of a magazine with a sort of scroll round it, and a picture in the middle of a fairly-nude chappie, with bulging muscles, giving the rising sun the glad eye. Rocky said they gave him a hundred dollars for it, and he stayed in bed till four in the afternoon for over a month.

P. G. Wodehouse, The Aunt and the Sluggard, in My Man Jeeves (1919).

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Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.  Sing his praise
                                                  Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
                                                  With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.
 
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
                                                  With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
                                                  Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
 
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
                                                  Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts vied
                                                  And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

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A human touch! a pang of death!
    And in a low delight
Thou liest, waiting for new breath.
    For morning out of night.
 
Thou risest up: the earth is fair,
    The wind is cool; thou art free!
Is it a dream of hell’s despair
    Dissolves in ecstasy?
 
That man did touch thee! Eyes divine
    Make sunrise in thy soul;
Thou seest love in order shine:—
    His health hath made thee whole!
 
Thou, sharing in the awful doom,
    Didst help thy Lord to die;
Then, weeping o’er his empty tomb,
    Didst hear him Mary cry.
 
He stands in haste; he cannot stop;
    Home to his God he fares:
“Go tell my brothers I go up
    To my Father, mine and theirs.”
 
Run, Mary! lift thy heavenly voice;
    Cry, cry, and heed not how;
Make all the new-risen world rejoice—
    Its first apostle thou!

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