Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith, from Collected Poems of Stevie Smith. Copyright © 1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
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He Prefers Her Earthly – Thomas Hardy

This after-sunset is a sight for seeing,
Cliff-heads of craggy cloud surrounding it.
—And dwell you in that glory-show?
You may; for there are strange strange things in being,
Stranger than I know.

Yet if that chasm of splendour claim your presence
Which glows between the ash cloud and the dun,
How changed must be your mortal mould!
Changed to a firmament-riding earthless essence
From what you were of old:

All too unlike the fond and fragile creature
Then known to me….Well, shall I say it plain?
I would not have you thus and there,
But still would grieve on, missing you, still feature
You as the one you were.

 

Christmas at Spring Harbor

late December
    locked up tight
    like a cloister door
a splinter of light
    opens the sky
    a crack before 

the nurse with red hair
    is there with your
    meds saying
for God’s sake
    close the door and
    put on your clothes

I wake to doze while
   beyond the walls
   it’s Christmas

 
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Saint Judas – James Wright

When I went out to kill myself, I caught
A pack of hoodlums beating up a man.
Running to spare his suffering, I forgot
My name, my number, how my day began,
How soldiers milled around the garden stone
And sang amusing songs; how all that day
Their javelins measured crowds; how I alone
Bargained the proper coins, and slipped away.

Banished from heaven, I found this victim beaten,
Stripped, kneed, and left to cry. Dropping my rope
Aside, I ran, ignored the uniforms:
Then I remembered bread my flesh had eaten,
The kiss that ate my flesh. Flayed without hope,
I held the man for nothing in my arms.

Let Evening Come – Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Jane Kenyon, “Let Evening Come” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005