Sunday, April 20, 2014

Praxilla, 450 BCE

Light and Earth

Most beautiful of things I leave is sunlight.
Then come glazing stars and the moon’s face.
Then ripe cucumbers and apples and pears.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Two for today.....

I missed yesterday; my husband took me out for a day-long adventure for my birthday. He's such a nice man. And so today I give you two: Thirteen ways of looking at a Blackbird, by Wallace Stevens, and The Unicorn in Captivity, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, two of my favorites. Enjoy!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
          ~ Wallace Stevens


Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird. II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds. III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime. IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one. V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after. VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause. VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you? VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know. IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles. X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply. XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds. XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying. XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

The Unicorn in Captivity
  ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Here sits the Unicorn
In captivity;
His bright invulnerability
Captive at last;
The Chase long past,
Winded and spent,
By the king's spears rent;
Collared and tied
To a pomegranate tree--
Here sits the Unicorn
In captivity,
Yet free.

Here sits the Unicorn;
His overtakelessness
Bound by a circle small
As a maid's embrace;
Ringed by a round corral;
Pinioned in place
By a fence of scarlet rail,
Fragile as a king's crown,
Delicately laid down
Over horn, hoofs, and tail,
As a butterfly net
Is lightly set.

He could leap the corral,
If he rose
To his full height;
He could splinter the fencing light,
With three blows
Of his porcelain hoofs in flight--
If he chose.
He could shatter his prison wall,
Could escape them all--
If he rose,
If he chose.

Here sits the Unicorn;
The wounds in his side
Still bleed
From the huntsmen's spears,
Yet he takes no heed
Of the blood-red tears
On his milk-white hide,
That spring unsealed,
Like flowers that rise
From the velvet field
In which he lies.
Dream wounds, dream ties
Do not bind him there
In a kingdom where
He is unaware
Of his wounds, of his snare.

Here sits the Unicorn;
Head in collar cased,
Like a girdle laced
Round a maiden's waist,
Broidered and buckled wide,
Carelessly tied.
He could slip his head
From the jeweled noose
So lightly tied--
If he tried,
As a maid could loose
The belt from her side;
He could slip the bond
So lightly tied--
If he tried.

Here sits the Unicorn;
Leashed by a chain of gold
To the pomegranate tree.
So light a chain to hold
So fierce a beast;
Delicate as a cross at rest
On a maiden's breast.
He could snap the golden chain
With one toss of his mane,
If he chose to move,
If he chose to prove
His liberty.
But he does not choose
What choice would lose.
He stays, the Unicorn,
In captivity.

In captivity,
Flank, hoofs, and mane--
Yet look again--
His horn is free,
Rising above chain, fence, and tree,
Free hymn of love; His horn
Bursts from his tranquil brow
Like a comet born;
Cleaves like a galley's prow
Into seas untorn;
Springs like a lily, white
From the Earth below;
Spirals, a bird in flight
To a longed-for height;
Or a fountain bright,
Spurting to light
Of early morn--
O luminous horn!

Here sits the Unicorn--
In captivity?
In repose.
Forgotten now the blows
When the huntsmen rose
With their spears; dread sounds
Of the baying hounds,
With their cry for blood;
And the answering flood
In his veins for strife,
Of his rage for life,
In hoofs that plunged,
In horn that lunged.
Forgotten the strife;
Now the need to kill
Has died like fire,
And the need to love
Has replaced desire;
Forgotten now the pain
Of the wounds, the fence, the chain--
Where he sits so still,
Where he waits Thy will.

Quiet, the Unicorn,
In contemplation stilled,
With acceptance filled;
Quiet, save for his horn;
Alive in his horn;
In captivity;
As prisoners might,
Looking on a high at night,
From day-close discipline
Of walls and bars,
To night-free infinity
Of sky and stars
Find here felicity;
So is he free--
The Unicorn.
What is liberty?
Here lives the Unicorn,
In captivity,

Thursday, April 17, 2014



'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll 

Picture book scavenger hunt!

       The awesome blog Blog Me Mom has recently posted what is probably the most fun literary activity I have ever seen, and I'm stupidly ashamed to say that I never thought of it before now. Small children love treasure hunts. My little guy adores maps of any kind, probably because the bigger guy is a HUGE Dungeons and Dragons fan and has all the books he could possibly own, as well as several interactive maps and miniatures to go with it. Hence, the small one's love of all things cool and big brother-ish. So what did the geniuses at Blog Me Mom do? Came up with a picture book scavenger hunt. She hid books all around her yard, gave her children a list of clues, and set them loose. Very very cool. I have included the link below (hope it works!) and on the page the moms have added a downloadable link for the clues and book riddles. If you don't have all the books they used, you can of course make up your own. I don't know how good I'd be at making up riddles, but I can try. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's my birthday....

and so today I will share several of my favorite poems, because reading some of my favorite words is a lovely present for me to give myself!

The Little Mermaid
         ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Only the little mermaid knows the price
One pays for mortal love, what sacrifice
Exacted by the Sea-Witch, should one choose
A mermaid's careless liberty to lose.

Into the smoky cauldron she must throw
A mermaid's kingdom, gleaming far below
The restless waves in filtered light that falls
Through dim pellucid depths on palace walls.

All childhood haunts must go, all memories;
Her swaying garden of anemones
Circled  by conch-shells, where the sea-fans dance
To unheard music, bending in a trance.

No longer--now she seeks a mortal home--
Sharing with sisters laughter light as foam.
Those moon-bright nights alone upon the shore,
Singing a mermaid's song, are hers no more.

The magic sweetness of a mermaid's song,
She must abandon, if she would belong
To mortal world, the gift--O fatal choice--
That might have won the Prince, her golden voice.

The mermaid's silver tail, with which to dart
From octopi; the mermaid's coral heart
That felt no pain, she must now do without,
Exchanged for mortal longing, mortal doubt.

The Blind Goddess
          ~ Fadhila Chabbi

And the blind goddess, when we touched her
like a twinkling of the eye.
On the dry shore her hurried gait...
And in her face when sun and moon quarreled,
and in her step when the sea pecked a drop of life
the water receded--having become pregnant--for a time.
How can the letter be Seeing, Omnipotent,
a peer to the belated, jealous god.
And in the blind goddess when she dimmed
and the earth came to be
and it was the insolence of the ages.

White blossoms of the pear
and a woman in moonlight
reading a letter.

That snail--
one long horn, one short,
what's on his mind?
              ~ Buson

A bat flits
in moonlight
above the plum blossoms.
                    ~ Buson

          ~Ruben Dario

In the pale afternoon the clouds go by
Aimlessly roving in the quiet sky.
His head between his hands, the dreamer weaves
His dream of clouds and Autumn-colored leaves.
Ah, his intimate sorrow, his long sighs,
And the glad radiance that has dimmed his eyes!
And all the tender glances, the blond tresses,
The rose hands over-brimming with caresses,
The sudden faces smiling everywhere
In the gold-dusted curtains of the air!

In the pale afternoon
A friendly faerie maiden comes to me
And tells me tales of many a secret thing
Fraught with the spell and music of the moon,
And I have learned what wonder the birds sing,
And what the breezes bring over the sea,
All that lies hidden in the mist or gleams,
A fleeting presence, in a young girl's dreams.

And once the thirst of infinite desire
Possessed me like a fever, and I said,
'I want to feel all radiance, fragrance, fire
And joy of life within me, to inspire
My soul forever!' And the faerie maid
Called me to follow her, and when he spoke
It was as if a harp to the soft stroke
Of loving hands had wakened suddenly:
She syllabled hope's language, calling me.

Oh, thirst for the idea! From the height
Of a great mountain forested with night
She showed me all the stars and told their names;
It was a golden garden wherein grows
The fleur-de-lys of heaven, leaved with flames.
And I cried, 'More!' and then the dawn arose.

The dawn came blushing; on her forehead beamed
Delicate splendor, and to me it seemed
A girl that, opening her casement, sees
Her lover watching her, and with surprise
Reddens but cannot hide her from his eyes.

And I cried, 'More!' The faerie maiden smiled
And called the flowers, and the flowers were
Lovely and fresh and moist with essences, -
The virgin rose that in the woods grows wild,
The gentle lily tall and shy and fair,
The daisy glad and timid as a child,
Poppies and marigolds, and all the rare
Blossoms that freight with dreams the evening air.

But I cried, 'More!' And then the winds brushed by
Bearing the laughter of the world, the cry
Of all glad lovers in the woods of Spring,
And echoes, and all pleasant murmuring
Of rustling leaf or southward-flying bird,
Unworded songs and musics never heard.
The faerie maiden, smiling, led me where
The sky is stretched over the world, above
Our heights and depths of hoping and despair,
Beyond the reach of singing and of love.
And then the tore the veil. And I say there
That all was dawn. And in the deeps there
A woman's Face radiant exceedingly.-
Ah, never, Muses, never could ye say
The holy joyance that enkindled me!-
'More?…' said the faerie in her laughing way;
But I saw the Face only. And I dreamed.       

          ~Ruben Dario

Now is come the month of roses!
To the woods my verse has flown
Gathering fragrance and honey
From the blossoms newly blown.
Beloved, come to the forest,
The woodland shall be our shrine
Scented with the holy perfume
Of the laurel and the vine.
From tree-top to tree-top flitting
The birds greet you with sweet lay,
Finding joyance in your beauty
Fairer than the birth of day;
And the haughty oaks and hemlocks
Bend their leafy branches green
Forming rustling, regal arches
For the passage of a queen.
All is perfume, song and radiance;
Flowers open and birds sing:
O Beloved, 'tis the season
Of the Spring!

Flowing from a haunted cavern
Is a crystal fountain where
Naiads nude and flower-breasted
Bathe and play and freight the air
With the joyance of their laughter
And the gladness of the wave
When they stoop over the fountain
And their tresses'gin to lave.
And they know the hymns of Eros
That in lovely Grecian tongue
Pan one day made in the forest
In the glorious age of song.
Sweetest, of that glorious hymnal
I shall choose the fairest phrase
To enrich with ancient music
The full cadence of my lays.
Sweet as sweetest Grecian honey
Will my song be when I sing,
O Beloved, in the season
Of the Spring!        

The Highwayman
             ~Alfred Noyes

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,   
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.   
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.   
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.   
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,   
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,   
Then look for me by moonlight,
         Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;   
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
         (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.


He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;   
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,   
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,   
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.   
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!   
There was death at every window;
         And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
         Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!   
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.   
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.   
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;   
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
         Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;   
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!   
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,   
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
         Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood   
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!   
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear   
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
         Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

.       .       .

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,   
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.   
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Sonnet XIX - The Beautiful Diana
                            ~Louise Labe

The beautiful Diana draws her bow,
Takes aim, and then lets fly her flaming dart:
Will she, in truth, strike straight through to the heart?
And though afraid, without a doubt we know

That once again, she will deliver
A rain of arrows from her pliant bow.
And she will say, “O woman, do not go
Before me now without a bow and quiver.”

A virgin goddess hunting for her prey,
She always strikes at any passer-by,
And nearby ones will watch and step away

As soon as she’s within clear sight.  We know
At once she’ll notch her arrows to her bow,
Take aim, and hit one hundred straight bull’s eyes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Poetry by Theodora Goss (one of my favorite authors!)

Song of the Lady in the Corn

                ~Theodora Goss


 Cornflowers bloom in the borders,

poppies suffuse the field.

He expected resistance,

I was accustomed to yield.


The rough straw clung between us,

the fragrant hay our couch,

and he was a rugged farm-boy,

and I was a lady smooth.


Come into my household,

awkward handsome boy.

The badgers walk in the trenches,

the delicate deer slip by.


The rowan offers her berries freely, eaglets wail.

The wild woods hymn together.

Come live in rain and hail,

where bears pad through the forests,


and rivers deeply glide through cavernous embankments

carved out from mountainside,

where we shall live in regions shadowy and chill,

and dance with crooked creatures come from beneath the hill,


and you shall cry a-mornings

For your mother and your bed,

and can no more return to them

than wake the dead.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Poetry is....

Poetry is the place where language in its silence is most beautifully articulated. Poetry is the language of silence. ~John O' Donohue

With the birth
of a poem,
     comes a flow
     of frustration,
excitement, and joy...
     A poem
     is a song,
created by
the soul,
     that will live beyond
     my own mortality.....
                             ~unknown author

by a bitter candle
of oil and braided rags,
I wrote verses
about love and sleigh bells.

                         ~Margaret Atwood