To love these books, and harmless tea,Has always been my foible,Yet will I ne’er forgetful beTo read my Psalms and Bible.Travels I like, and history too,Or entertaining fiction;Novels and plays I’d have a few,If sense and proper diction.I love a natural harmless song,But I cannot sing like Handel;Deprived of such resource, the tongueIs sure employed — in scandal.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Christian Milne (1773-1816) was a working class Scottish woman who attended school for only six months. She worked as a maid before marrying and raising eight children. At age 32, Christian published her sole book of poetry. She earned £100 for the book, a considerable sum for her family.
by Charles Simic
There’s a book called
"A Dictionary of Angels."
No one has opened it in fifty years,
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered
The angels were once as plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be thick with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.
Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place.
Angels and gods huddled
In dark unopened books.
The great secret lies
On some shelf Miss Jones
Passes every day on her rounds.
She’s very tall, so she keeps
Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.
I hear nothing, but she does.
Photo: “Collecting books for readers in the reserve stacks, 1964" from LSE Library on Flickr.
These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it
The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world
—Naomi Shihab Nye
(from The Words Under the Words), With graitiude to Beyond the Fields We Know.
Photograph: Imogen Cunningham, Eiko’s Hands, 1971
Tonight, upon the river,
A black barge came, slow-drifting
Where golden lights, with ruby rays,
Were in the water shifting.
The dock was black and silent,
All on our boat were sleeping
When o’er the side, down in the tide,
I saw a mermaid peeping.
At least, a side of silver
Shone beneath the moon,
And something splashed the water,
Bright as a silver spoon.
Perhaps ‘twas but my fancy,
Perhaps ‘twas but my wish,
And gliding form and silvery fin,
Were but a passing fish.
But, as the years drift onward,
This tho’t I’ll be a’keeping,
"I saw a mermaid swimming by,
When all the world was sleeping!”
― The Mermaid, by Louisa Cooke Don-Carlos.
by Mary Szybist
I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel
to a kitchen stool and watch it turn.
I had the happy idea to suspend some blue globes in the air
and watch them pop.
I had the happy idea to put my little copper horse on the shelf so we could stare at each other
I had the happy idea to create a void in myself.
Then to call it natural.
Then to call it supernatural.
I had the happy idea to wrap a blue scarf around my head and spin.
I had the happy idea that somewhere a child was being born who was nothing like Helen or
Jesus except in the sense of changing everything.
I had the happy idea that someday I would find both pleasure and punishment, that I would
know them and feel them,
and that, until I did, it would be almost as good to pretend.
I had the happy idea to call myself happy.
I had the happy idea that the dog digging a hole in the yard in the twilight had his nose deep in
I had the happy idea that what I do not understand is more real than what I do,
and then the happier idea to buckle myself
into two blue velvet shoes.
I had the happy idea to polish the reflecting glass and say
hello to my own blue soul. Hello, blue soul. Hello.
It was my happiest idea.