Sonnet 100, by Lord Brooke Fulke Greville

In night when colors all to black are cast,
Distinction lost, or gone down with the light;
The eye a watch to inward senses placed,
Not seeing, yet still having powers of sight,

Gives vain alarums to the inward sense,
Where fear stirred up with witty tyranny,
Confounds all powers, and thorough self-offense,
Doth forge and raise impossibility:

Such as in thick depriving darknesses,
Proper reflections of the error be,
And images of self-confusednesses,
Which hurt imaginations only see;

And from this nothing seen, tells news of devils,
Which but expressions be of inward evils.

The Empty Dance Shoes, by Cornelius Eady

My friends,
As it has been proven in the laboratory,   
An empty pair of dance shoes
Will sit on the floor like a wart
Until it is given a reason to move.

Those of us who study inertia
(Those of us covered with wild hair and sleep)
Can state this without fear:
The energy in a pair of shoes at rest   
Is about the same as that of a clown

Knocked flat by a sandbag.
This you can tell your friends with certainty:   
A clown, flat on his back,
Is a lot like an empty pair of
    dancing shoes.

An empty pair of dancing shoes
Is also a lot like a leaf   
Pressed in a book.
And now you know a simple truth:
A leaf pressed in, say, The Colossus
    by Sylvia Plath,
Is no different from an empty pair of dance shoes

Even if those shoes are in the middle of the Stardust Ballroom   
With all the lights on, and hot music shakes the windows   
    up and down the block.
This is the secret of inertia:
The shoes run on their own sense of the world.   
They are in sympathy with the rock the kid skips   
    over the lake
After it settles to the mud.
Not with the ripples,
But with the rock.

A practical and personal application of inertia
Can be found in the question:   
Whose Turn Is It
To Take Out The Garbage?   
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the answer to this question,
As well as book-length poems
Set in the Midwest.

To sum up:
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the sand the 98-pound weakling   
    brushes from his cheeks
As the bully tows away his girlfriend.   
Later,

When he spies the coupon at the back of the comic book,
He is about to act upon a different set of scientific principles.   
He is ready to dance.

Another Feeling, by Ruth Stone

Once you saw a drove of young pigs
crossing the highway. One of them
pulling his body by the front feet,
the hind legs dragging flat.
Without thinking,
you called the Humane Society.
They came with a net and went for him.
They were matter of fact, uniformed;
there were two of them,
their truck ominous, with a cage.
He was hiding in the weeds. It was then
you saw his eyes. He understood.
He was trembling.
After they took him, you began to suffer regret.
Years later, you remember his misfit body
scrambling to reach the others.
Even at this moment, your heart
is going too fast; your hands sweat.

Ghost Story, by Matthew Dickman

for matthew z and matthew r

I remember telling the joke
about child molestation and seeing
the face of the young man
I didn’t know well enough
turn from something with light
inside of it into something like
an animal that’s had its brain
bashed in, something like that, some
sky inside him breaking
all over the table and the beers.
It’s amazing, finding out
my thoughtlessness has no bounds,
is no match for any barbarian,
that it runs wild and hard
like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande.
No, the Columbia. A great river
of thorns and when this stranger
stood up and muttered
something about a cigarette,
the Hazmat team
in my chest begins to cordon
off my heart, glowing
a toxic yellow,
and all I could think about
was the punch line “sexy kids,”
that was it, “sexy kids,” and all the children
I’ve cared for, wiping
their noses, rocking them to sleep,
all the nieces and nephews I love,
and how no one ever
opened me up like a can of soup
in the second grade, the man
now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering
his body, a ghost unable
to hold his wrists down
or make a sound like a large knee in between
two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.

Sometimes Night is a Creek Too Wide to Leap, by Gail Martin

The sky wears black serge pants while
hemming up another pair for tomorrow
night. A bit shorter, but you won’t notice.
Some nights the blue pill brings a dream
where a young girl is trying not to cry
in the sheep pasture, stuck where her brothers
eyed the watery gap and mossy stones and sailed
to the other side. We didn’t know about E. coli
then, how our waders must have buzzed with it.
By the time I was ten, I’d pared my list of things
I was scared of down to four: the high board,
hoods and kidnappers, blue racers, and shaking
hands with Uncle John who’d lost four fingers
in the cornpicker. I pushed the scared parts of me
away, like the two finches my mother watched
nudge a dead fledgling off the edge of her deck.

Insomnia, by Alicia Suskin Ostriker

But it’s really fear you want to talk about
and cannot find the words
so you jeer at yourself

you call yourself a coward
you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,
fool, unable to sleep, unable to sleep

buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows
and a quilt, they call them comforters,
which implies that comfort can be bought

and paid for, to help with the fear, the failure
your two walnut chests of drawers snicker, the bookshelves mourn
the art on the walls pities you, the man himself beside you

asleep smelling like mushrooms and moss is a comfort
but never enough, never, the ceiling fixture lightless
velvet drapes hiding the window

traffic noise like a vicious animal
on the loose somewhere out there—
you brag to friends you won’t mind death only dying

what a liar you are—
all the other fears, of rejection, of physical pain,
of losing your mind, of losing your eyes,

they are all part of this!
Pawprints of this! Hair snarls in your comb
this glowing clock the single light in the room

The Witch-Bride, by William Allingham

A fair witch crept to a young man’s side,
And he kiss’d her and took her for his bride.

But a Shape came in at the dead of night,
And fill’d the room with snowy light.

And he saw how in his arms there lay
A thing more frightful than mouth may say.

And he rose in haste, and follow’d the Shape
Till morning crown’d an eastern cape.

And he girded himself, and follow’d still
When sunset sainted the western hill.

But, mocking and thwarting, clung to his side,
Weary day!—the foul Witch-Bride.

The Cloister, by William Matthews

The last light of a July evening drained
into the streets below: My love and I had hard
things to say and hear, and we sat over
wine, faltering, picking our words carefully.

The afternoon before I had lain across
my bed and my cat leapt up to lie
alongside me, purring and slowly
growing dozy. By this ritual I could

clear some clutter from my baroque brain.
And into that brief vacancy the image
of a horse cantered, coming straight to me,
and I knew it brought hard talk and hurt

and fear. How did we do? A medium job,
which is well above average. But because
she had opened her heart to me as far
as she did, I saw her fierce privacy,

like a gnarled, luxuriant tree all hung
with disappointments, and I knew
that to love her I must love the tree
and the nothing it cares for me.

The Ghazal of What Hurt, by Peter Cole

Pain froze you, for years-and fear-leaving scars.
But now, as though miraculously, it seems, here you are

walking easily across the ground, and into town
as though you were floating on air, which in part you are,

or riding a wave of what feels like the world’s good will-
though helped along by something foreign and older than you are

and yet much younger too, inside you, and so palpable
an X-ray, you’re sure, would show it, within the body you are,

not all that far beneath the skin, and even in
some bones. Making you wonder: Are you what you are-

with all that isn’t actually you having flowed
through and settled in you, and made you what you are?

The pain was never replaced, nor was it quite erased.
It’s memory now-so you know just how lucky you are.

You didn’t always. Were you then? And where’s the fear?
Inside your words, like an engine? The car you are?!

Face it, friend, you most exist when you’re driven
away, or on-by forms and forces greater than you are.

1939, by Marjorie Agosín

I

She knew how to seduce her destiny,
predict the time of flight
In 1939, dressed in garments
of night and happiness
at the threshold of a fearful
Hamburg Harbor
resolved to live,
she sailed
to Southern seas.

In 1938, the windows
of her house of water and stone
resisted the extreme
horror of that night
of broken crystals.

She, my grandmother,
taught me to recognize
the landscape of danger,
the shards of fear,
the impenetrable faces
of women,
fleeing,
accused,
audacious in their will to live.

II

Helena Broder,
created a domain
of papers, fragile vessels,
clandestine poems and
notes to be made,
discreet addresses.
With little baggage,
like a frail and ancient
angel,
she arrived,
although ready to embark again.

I survived next to her
and I was thankful for the gift of her presence.

Moths, by Caleb Klaces

A translator who has a phobia of moths
spent three years translating a book with a moth motif.
It’s ironic, she has said, that she knew more about the moths
than the author of the original, who was merely fascinated.
The translation contained a greater variety of moths than the original,
drawn from suggestions she had made, some of which were in fact
too perfect and changed back before it went to print.

Her moths, the ones that were too aptly named,
meant too much, her moths that she hated, where are they now?
The same place as all the versions of people
that have been undressed and slept with, in lieu of the people
themselves, by others. That must include a version
of almost everyone, lots of versions of some people,
some only a flutter, animated then decided against.

Humanimal [I want to make a dark mirror out of writing], by Bhanu Kapil

47. I want to make a dark mirror out of writing: one child facing the other, like Dora and little Hans. I want to write, for example, about the violence done to my father’s body as a child. In this re-telling, India is blue, green, black and yellow like the actual, reflective surface of a mercury globe. I pour the mercury into a shallow box to see it: my father’s right leg, linear and hard as the bone it contains, and silver. There are scooped out places where the flesh is missing, shiny, as they would be regardless of race. A scar is memory. Memory is wrong. The wrong face appears in the wrong memory. A face, for example, condenses on the surface of the mirror in the bathroom when I stop writing to wash my face. Hands on the basin, I look up, and see it: the distinct image of an owlgirl. Her eyes protrude, her tongue is sticking out, and she has horns, wings and feet. Talons. I look into her eyes and see his. Writing makes a mirror between the two children who perceive each other. In a physical world, the mirror is a slice of dark space. How do you break a space? No. Tell me a story set in a different time, in a different place. Because I’m scared. I’m scared of the child I’m making.

48. They dragged her from a dark room and put her in a sheet. They broke her legs then re-set them. Both children, the wolfgirls, were given a fine yellow powder to clean their kidneys but their bodies, having adapted to animal ways of excreting meat, could not cope with this technology. Red worms came out of their bodies and the younger girl died. Kamala mourned the death of her sister with, as Joseph wrote, “an affection.” There, in a dark room deep in the Home. Many rooms are dark in India to kill the sun. In Midnapure, I stood in that room, and blinked. When my vision adjusted, I saw a picture of Jesus above a bed, positioned yet dusty on a faded turquoise wall. Many walls in India are turquoise, which is a color the human soul soaks up in an architecture not even knowing it was thirsty. I was thirsty and a girl of about eight, Joseph’s great-granddaughter, brought me tea. I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to focus upon the memory available to me in the room, but there was no experience. When I opened my eyes, I observed Jesus once again, the blood pouring from his open chest, the heart, and onto, it seemed, the floor, in drips.

In the Surgical Theatre, by Dana Levin

In the moment between
the old heart and the new
two angels gather at the empty chest.

The doctors flow over them as winds, as blurs, unnoticed but as currents
around this body, the flesh of the chest peeled back
as petals, revealing

a hole.
In it

the layers are fluttering—the back muscle, the bone, the chrome
of the table,
the tiled floor with its spatters of blood—

—fluttering as veils over the solid,
fluttering—

The angels, gathering. Small, and untroubled, perched quietly
on the rib-cage, its cupped hands trying
to keep in.
Around them the hands of the doctors,
hurrying—white flaps,
white wings—
the clicks and whirrs of the lung machine…

Do you want it to be stars, do you want it to be a hole to heaven,
clean and round—

Do you want their hands, dipping and dipping, flesh sticking like jelly
to the tips of their gloves—

Hovering at the edge of this
spot-lit stage,
loathe to enter, loathe to leave, is it terror,
fascination,
the angels too occupied to turn their gaze to you?
Go down,

go in.
The angels perch on either side of the hole like handles
round a grail.
The bleeding tissues part, underneath the solid shimmers
black, like a pool.
The lights above the table enter and extinguish,
the light of your face

enters,
is extinguished,
is this why you’ve come? The frigid cauldron
that is life without a heart?
I know,
I’m tired of the battle too, the visible and invisible clashing together,
the hands with the scalpels

flashing and glinting like flags and standards,
fighting,
fighting to the death—
When they cut you down the middle you fled.
The angels descended.
You came up here with me,
with the voiceless

thousands at the edge of the curtain, hearts beating
with ambivalence.
Do you know if you want it? Is that jumble of spit and bone
so worth it
that you would go down again and be
a body
raging with loss, each beat of the heart

like the strike of a hammer,
spiking the nails in, to feel, to feel—
I learned this from you, Father, all my life
I’ve felt your resign to the hurt
of living,
so I came up here, to the scaffolding above
the surgical theatre

to watch you decide.
Can you go on with this mortal vision? To the sword rearing up now
in orange fire, the angels turning
to face you poised at the hole’s
brink, their eyes in flames, in sprays of blood
their wings beating
against the steel wedge prying open the rib cage, is it

for you? Are they protecting
you?

But you bend down, you look in, you dip in
a finger, Father,
you bring it to your mouth and you taste it,
and I can feel the cold that is black on my tongue, it is bitter,
it is numbing,
snuffing the heart out, the heat,
the light,
and when will they lift the new heart like a lamp—

and will you wait—

the doctors pausing with their knives uplifted, the rush of wings
stirring a wind—

April to May, by Joyce Peseroff

1.
It is cold enough for rain
to coagulate and fall in heavy drops.
Tonight a skin of ice will grow
over the bones of the smallest bush,

making it droop like the wrist
of someone carrying a heavy suitcase. This moving on,
from season to season, is exhausting
and violent, the break from the Berlin Wall

of winter especially. Like a frostbitten
hand coming to life, I color
first with warmth,
then with pain. Thawing, letting

the great powers go
their own way, in rivers and in flesh,
frightens me, as this day
warns me of an icy night.

2.
Each year I am astonished
at the havoc wrought
on other lives: fathers
made tiny by cancer;

a mother swollen around
a bad heart “brought on by aggravation.”
To suffer is to do something new
yet always the same—

a change of life
from the sexual dread. Some women
wish they were men, some men
wish they were dead; still,

there is coin in suffering . . .
It makes us rich
as Croesus in his golden tears,
and we are rarely hated for it.

This coin I store in a purse
made of my mother’s
milk and flesh, which God says I must not mix.
I use it instead to seek pleasure.

3.
Walking around with this thing in me
all day, this loving cup
full of jelly, waiting for you
to come home—seven o’clock,

eight o’clock, eight-thirty . . .
What could be more important
than love? I can’t imagine; you can.
Not a good day, not about to get better.

4.
The bird comes complete
with heart, liver, and neck-bone
wrapped chastely in white paper.
Still half-frozen,

the legs are hard to separate.
Inside, wax paper sticks to the ribs.
I reach like a vet delivering pigs,
or a boy finger-fucking a virgin.

5.
Air the same sweet
temperature inside the house
as outside the house.
Stepping up from the cellar

with an armful of sheets,
I listen for the dirge of flies
under the chittering birds,
both painfully loud. There is a stridency

that’s stubborn in a life
grown by inches: the fat
little fingers of buds bursting;
ugly ducklings; the slow war

of day against night.
As I pin the swelling sheets
with clothespins damp and too
narrow at the mouth, I wonder how

flies know to come out
to feed the birds, and feast themselves
on the new stillborn, this stubborn
great chain of being.

Sapphic Fragment, by Eliza Griswold

I never longed for my virginity.
I heard it on the radio after the hurricane.

There, in the aftermath, was the voice of a man—
once the sweet, screwed-up boy whose hooded,

jessed spirit I tried to possess with the ruthlessness
I mistook for power. Here he was on NPR,

so gentle, so familiar with devastation,
his timbre woke the teenage falconer in me

who once saw his kindness as weakness,
saw a boy as an unfledged goshawk—

a creature to trap and be trapped with
in darkened mews. I knew the rules:

neither of us could sleep until the molting bird
grew ravenous enough to take the raw mouse

from my hand. Breaking the falcon
broke us both, left us scared

and less aware of love than fear.

Knot iii.VII, by Stacy Doris

If people could feed on themselves which they can, whether in despair or

Pride, time becomes a circulation, reduced and expanded to that, imitating

Digestion. Ingesting decomposes any scrap into functions, whereas eating

Something other than yourself disprove wholeness. What rewards

Rewording might be justice. Then does response outrun responsibility,

Overthrow it, so all government’s automatic, total, a model of control based

On nature? If retribution’s normal, rule’s always enforcing, twisted and

Abstract: flexed. Then days are contaminated by law, and life’s a code,

Dead yet lethal. Even putrefaction would be saturated thus: the severed

Hand molder on schedule.

Perhaps in this way all living’s starvation, programmed to regurgitate itself,

So cutting off supplies would free, while goods stifle. Thus the excuse

That oneness means bodiless, that what has parts is too bulky for unity.

Indivisible then implies a corpus subtracted, or, origin in amputation. Any

Bomb curls back on its unleashing, so mirrors cause and denies effect.

So repeats; is a refrain. Like all waves, destruction won’t break. If so,

Nobody needs to be alive to go on. State equals machine, but runs only

By crashing. Each project attacks what may be in place with the corrosive

Burn of potential. Passivity’s the only order: ordains. But breathing counts

Down. Each movement of respiration encodes terror, which flourishes in

Everyone thus, in the midst of hunger and abundance, in the speed of love.

No tourniquet dispels it.

Don Juan [If from great nature’s or our own abyss], by George Gordon Byron

If from great nature’s or our own abyss
Of thought we could but snatch a certainty,
Perhaps mankind might find the path they miss—
But then ‘t would spoil much good philosophy.
One system eats another up, and this
Much as old Saturn ate his progeny;
For when his pious consort gave him stones
In lieu of sons, of these he made no bones.

But System doth reverse the Titan’s breakfast,
And eats her parents, albeit the digestion
Is difficult. Pray tell me, can you make fast,
After due search, your faith to any question?
Look back o’er ages, ere unto the stake fast
You bind yourself, and call some mode the best one.
Nothing more true than not to trust your senses;
And yet what are your other evidences?

For me, I know nought; nothing I deny,
Admit, reject, contemn; and what know you,
Except perhaps that you were born to die?
And both may after all turn out untrue.
An age may come, Font of Eternity,
When nothing shall be either old or new.
Death, so call’d, is a thing which makes men weep,
And yet a third of life is pass’d in sleep.

A sleep without dreams, after a rough day
Of toil, is what we covet most; and yet
How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay!
The very Suicide that pays his debt
At once without instalments (an old way
Of paying debts, which creditors regret)
Lets out impatiently his rushing breath,
Less from disgust of life than dread of death.

‘T is round him, near him, here, there, every where;
And there ‘s a courage which grows out of fear,
Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare
The worst to know it:—when the mountains rear
Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there
You look down o’er the precipice, and drear
The gulf of rock yawns,—you can’t gaze a minute
Without an awful wish to plunge within it.

‘T is true, you don’t—but, pale and struck with terror,
Retire: but look into your past impression!
And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror
Of your own thoughts, in all their self-confession,
The lurking bias, be it truth or error,
To the unknown; a secret prepossession,
To plunge with all your fears—but where? You know not,
And that’s the reason why you do—or do not.

But what ‘s this to the purpose? you will say.
Gent. reader, nothing; a mere speculation,
For which my sole excuse is—’t is my way;
Sometimes with and sometimes without occasion
I write what ‘s uppermost, without delay:
This narrative is not meant for narration,
But a mere airy and fantastic basis,
To build up common things with common places.

You know, or don’t know, that great Bacon saith,
‘Fling up a straw, ‘t will show the way the wind blows;’
And such a straw, borne on by human breath,
Is poesy, according as the mind glows;
A paper kite which flies ‘twixt life and death,
A shadow which the onward soul behind throws:
And mine ‘s a bubble, not blown up for praise,
But just to play with, as an infant plays.

The world is all before me—or behind;
For I have seen a portion of that same,
And quite enough for me to keep in mind;—
Of passions, too, I have proved enough to blame,
To the great pleasure of our friends, mankind,
Who like to mix some slight alloy with fame;
For I was rather famous in my time,
Until I fairly knock’d it up with rhyme.

I have brought this world about my ears, and eke
The other; that ‘s to say, the clergy, who
Upon my head have bid their thunders break
In pious libels by no means a few.
And yet I can’t help scribbling once a week,
Tiring old readers, nor discovering new.
In youth I wrote because my mind was full,
And now because I feel it growing dull.

But ‘why then publish?’—There are no rewards
Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
I ask in turn,—Why do you play at cards?
Why drink? Why read?—To make some hour less dreary.
It occupies me to turn back regards
On what I ‘ve seen or ponder’d, sad or cheery;
And what I write I cast upon the stream,
To swim or sink—I have had at least my dream.

I think that were I certain of success,
I hardly could compose another line:
So long I ‘ve battled either more or less,
That no defeat can drive me from the Nine.
This feeling ‘t is not easy to express,
And yet ‘t is not affected, I opine.
In play, there are two pleasures for your choosing—
The one is winning, and the other losing.

Besides, my Muse by no means deals in fiction:
She gathers a repertory of facts,
Of course with some reserve and slight restriction,
But mostly sings of human things and acts—
And that ‘s one cause she meets with contradiction;
For too much truth, at first sight, ne’er attracts;
And were her object only what ‘s call’d glory,
With more ease too she ‘d tell a different story.

Love, war, a tempest—surely there ‘s variety;
Also a seasoning slight of lucubration;
A bird’s-eye view, too, of that wild, Society;
A slight glance thrown on men of every station.
If you have nought else, here ‘s at least satiety
Both in performance and in preparation;
And though these lines should only line portmanteaus,
Trade will be all the better for these Cantos.

The portion of this world which I at present
Have taken up to fill the following sermon,
Is one of which there ‘s no description recent.
The reason why is easy to determine:
Although it seems both prominent and pleasant,
There is a sameness in its gems and ermine,
A dull and family likeness through all ages,
Of no great promise for poetic pages.

With much to excite, there ‘s little to exalt;
Nothing that speaks to all men and all times;
A sort of varnish over every fault;
A kind of common-place, even in their crimes;
Factitious passions, wit without much salt,
A want of that true nature which sublimes
Whate’er it shows with truth; a smooth monotony
Of character, in those at least who have got any.

Sometimes, indeed, like soldiers off parade,
They break their ranks and gladly leave the drill;
But then the roll-call draws them back afraid,
And they must be or seem what they were: still
Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
But when of the first sight you have had your fill,
It palls—at least it did so upon me,
This paradise of pleasure and ennui.

When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
Drest, voted, shone, and, may be, something more;
With dandies dined; heard senators declaiming;
Seen beauties brought to market by the score,
Sad rakes to sadder husbands chastely taming;
There ‘s little left but to be bored or bore.
Witness those ‘ci-devant jeunes hommes’ who stem
The stream, nor leave the world which leaveth them.

‘T is said—indeed a general complaint—
That no one has succeeded in describing
The monde, exactly as they ought to paint:
Some say, that authors only snatch, by bribing
The porter, some slight scandals strange and quaint,
To furnish matter for their moral gibing;
And that their books have but one style in common—
My lady’s prattle, filter’d through her woman.

But this can’t well be true, just now; for writers
Are grown of the beau monde a part potential:
I ‘ve seen them balance even the scale with fighters,
Especially when young, for that ‘s essential.
Why do their sketches fail them as inditers
Of what they deem themselves most consequential,
The real portrait of the highest tribe?
‘T is that, in fact, there ‘s little to describe.

‘Haud ignara loquor;’ these are Nugae, ‘quarum
Pars parva fui,’ but still art and part.
Now I could much more easily sketch a harem,
A battle, wreck, or history of the heart,
Than these things; and besides, I wish to spare ‘em,
For reasons which I choose to keep apart.
‘Vetabo Cereris sacrum qui vulgarit—’
Which means that vulgar people must not share it.

And therefore what I throw off is ideal—
Lower’d, leaven’d, like a history of freemasons;
Which bears the same relation to the real,
As Captain Parry’s voyage may do to Jason’s.
The grand arcanum ‘s not for men to see all;
My music has some mystic diapasons;
And there is much which could not be appreciated
In any manner by the uninitiated.

Alas! worlds fall—and woman, since she fell’d
The world (as, since that history less polite
Than true, hath been a creed so strictly held)
Has not yet given up the practice quite.
Poor thing of usages! coerced, compell’d,
Victim when wrong, and martyr oft when right,
Condemn’d to child-bed, as men for their sins
Have shaving too entail’d upon their chins,—

A daily plague, which in the aggregate
May average on the whole with parturition.
But as to women, who can penetrate
The real sufferings of their she condition?
Man’s very sympathy with their estate
Has much of selfishness, and more suspicion.
Their love, their virtue, beauty, education,
But form good housekeepers, to breed a nation.

All this were very well, and can’t be better;
But even this is difficult, Heaven knows,
So many troubles from her birth beset her,
Such small distinction between friends and foes,
The gilding wears so soon from off her fetter,
That—but ask any woman if she’d choose
(Take her at thirty, that is) to have been
Female or male? a schoolboy or a queen?

‘Petticoat influence’ is a great reproach,
Which even those who obey would fain be thought
To fly from, as from hungry pikes a roach;
But since beneath it upon earth we are brought,
By various joltings of life’s hackney coach,
I for one venerate a petticoat—
A garment of a mystical sublimity,
No matter whether russet, silk, or dimity.

Much I respect, and much I have adored,
In my young days, that chaste and goodly veil,
Which holds a treasure, like a miser’s hoard,
And more attracts by all it doth conceal—
A golden scabbard on a Damasque sword,
A loving letter with a mystic seal,
A cure for grief—for what can ever rankle
Before a petticoat and peeping ankle?

And when upon a silent, sullen day,
With a sirocco, for example, blowing,
When even the sea looks dim with all its spray,
And sulkily the river’s ripple ‘s flowing,
And the sky shows that very ancient gray,
The sober, sad antithesis to glowing,—
‘T is pleasant, if then any thing is pleasant,
To catch a glimpse even of a pretty peasant.

We left our heroes and our heroines
In that fair clime which don’t depend on climate,
Quite independent of the Zodiac’s signs,
Though certainly more difficult to rhyme at,
Because the sun, and stars, and aught that shines,
Mountains, and all we can be most sublime at,
Are there oft dull and dreary as a dun—
Whether a sky’s or tradesman’s is all one.

An in-door life is less poetical;
And out of door hath showers, and mists, and sleet,
With which I could not brew a pastoral.
But be it as it may, a bard must meet
All difficulties, whether great or small,
To spoil his undertaking or complete,
And work away like spirit upon matter,
Embarrass’d somewhat both with fire and water.

Directions for Lines that will Remain Unfinished, by Sarah Messer

Line to be sewn into a skirt hem
held in my mouth ever since the  unraveling

Line beneath a bridge
for years without hope I stretched my arms into the river searching for you

Line to be sent to the cornfield
history is a hallway of leaves.

Line written for electric wires
your voice inside the no history, sitting still

Line for future people
inside the work, only my empty teeth

Line from Maharaj
Presently you are in quietude. Is it on this side of sleep or on the other side?

Line that cannot be read because of its darkness
impossible walk under weight of honey
away from your hands that break me in half

Line addressing President Lincoln
when the handle and blade are gone, what remains
of your axe?

Line to be run over by a lawn mower
afraid of everything and to be of no use.

Line for a distant midnight dog-pack
because I can never speak it

Line to be sewn into a shirt collar
the streak of your finger across the hood of the car

Line for a stone growing old
a sunburst that lands inside a flower

Line written only with your mouth
desire is a trick ghost

Line for the garden weeds
slowly I am nearer to you

Line describing the better qualities of monsters
are we afraid of what we wished for?

Three lines written for bears
inside cells, water, trees, I am meaningless
darkness and light wind like breath on fur
I carry the circling cities inside me

Line for a leaf blown into the hair of the Master
seeing you, I want no other life

Line for a mouse
to die like that, held in your hands